MPs to vote on air strikes af­ter Cor­byn caves in to rebels

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By James Slack and Ja­son Groves

BRI­TAIN was last night pre­par­ing to start bomb­ing Is­lamic State in Syria within 48 hours. Af­ter a day of huge drama at West­min­ster, the Prime Min­is­ter an­nounced MPs will vote on mil­i­tary ac­tion to­mor­row.

The RAF is now ready­ing Tor­nado fighter jets and Typhoon Eurofight­ers to launch the first strikes against IS fa­nat­ics within hours if – as now seems al­most cer­tain – Par­lia­ment votes in favour.

David Cameron said he be­lieved there was grow­ing sup­port among MPs ‘ to an­swer the call from our al­lies to act against Isil in Syria and Iraq’.

He added: ‘It is in the na­tional in­ter­est, it is the right thing to do. We will be care­ful and re­spon­si­ble as we do so – but in my view it’s the right thing to do this to keep our coun­try safe.’

Mr Cameron said the de­ci­sion to take mil­i­tary ac­tion was ‘one of the most se­ri­ous a Prime Min­is­ter can make’ but – in the wake of the Paris at­tacks – it was clear IS ‘poses a very di­rect threat to the United King­dom’.

He took the de­ci­sion to hold the vote fol­low­ing a day of bed­lam in the Labour

Party which left Jeremy Cor­byn hu­mil­i­ated and Tory whips fi­nally con­fi­dent of suc­cess.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, the Labour leader’s al­lies had warned that – if he gave his MPs a free vote – it would be hand­ing cer­tain vic­tory to Mr Cameron.

Ini­tially it ap­peared as if Mr Cor­byn would stick to his prin­ci­ples and de­mand Labour MPs vote against mil­i­tary ac­tion. The lead­er­ship even re­leased an un­sci­en­tific poll of party mem­bers claim­ing 75 per cent were against bomb­ing raids.

But, amid open re­volt and threats of mass res­ig­na­tions, Mr Cor­byn even­tu­ally caved in at a shadow cabi­net meet­ing yes­ter­day af­ter­noon and of­fered the free vote. He is now fac­ing re­crim­i­na­tions from both the hard-Left – which wanted him to make a stand – and the mod­er­ates in his party for his botched han­dling of the de­bate.

Labour sources said he was ‘given a kick­ing’ in the meet­ing. Up to 100 Labour rebels could vote in favour of mil­i­tary ac­tion. Last night, there were in­di­ca­tions that the Lib­eral Democrats might also sup­port bomb­ing.

The free vote means Labour MPs will not now be or­dered to vote with the lead­er­ship.

But, far­ci­cally, Mr Cor­byn will be­gin to­mor­row’s crunch de­bate by mak­ing clear his own per­sonal po­si­tion is to still fiercely op­pose air strikes.

Be­fore her leader’s ca­pit­u­la­tion, Diane Ab­bott had said: ‘The prob­lem about a free vote is that it hands vic-

tory to Cameron on a plate.’ Last night, some se­nior Tory MPs were still voic­ing grave con­cerns about the mil­i­tary ac­tion.

Huge doubt has been cast on Mr Cameron’s claims there are 70,000 Syr­ian rebels who would be pre­pared to take the fight to IS.

An­drew Turner said Is­lamic State would be re­placed by another group of ‘crim­i­nals’ if the sup­pos­edly 70,000 mod­er­ate troops are not prop­erly or­gan­ised.

The Isle of Wight MP said: ‘ We can­not re­peat what hap­pened in Libya. It’s not clear whether these fac­tions which the 70,000 Syr­ian fight­ers are com­posed of are or­gan­ised and pre­pared to act.’

Fel­low Con­ser­va­tive Daniel Kawczyn­ski said there must be co-op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia to sta­bilise Syria. He warned: ‘Un­less there is a com­pe­tent strat­egy, it will be a “bat the rat” sit­u­a­tion where we de­feat them some­where and they pop up again only too quickly.’

Tory MP Adam Afriyie added that Bri­tain could end up in an un­wanted con­flict with Rus­sia un­less the re­la­tion­ship is man­aged care­fully.

But For­eign Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond said: ‘I am con­fi­dent that when we bring this mat­ter to a vote in Par­lia­ment we will now see a ma­jor­ity of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans sup­port­ing the ac­tion.’ Mr Cameron added: ‘It will take time, this whole strat­egy will take time, but it’s the right thing to do to make sure we go af­ter the ter­ror­ists who threaten peo­ple in our coun­try just as they at­tacked and killed those peo­ple on the streets of Paris, on the streets on Ankara, on the streets of Beirut and in­deed Bri­tish peo­ple on the beaches of Tu­nisia.’

Last night, se­nior Labour fig­ures said that – while sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of its MPs might still vote for mil­i­tary ac­tion – Mr Cameron had made a ‘huge tac­ti­cal mis­take’.

The party lead­er­ship had called for a two- day de­bate to give all MPs a chance to have their say – and press the PM on what plan he has to de­feat Is­lamic State on the ground. Labour sources hinted that, with­out the op­por­tu­nity for a two- day de­bate, some MPs who sup­ported the prin­ci­ple of air strikes might now vote against or ab­stain.

Mr Cameron said: ‘We will make sure that we have a very long and full de­bate on Wed­nes­day and we will take the ac­tion nec­es­sary to make sure we have, in many ways, the equiv­a­lent num­ber of ques­tions we would of­ten have across a two­day de­bate in one day.

’I want MPs to be able to have full con­sid­er­a­tion, to make speeches, to make points, to ask me ques­tions, to ex­am­ine the Govern­ment’s case.’

A state­ment from Mr Cor­byn’s of­fice said the shadow cabi­net had ‘de­cided to sup­port the call for David Cameron to step back from the rush to war and hold a full two- day de­bate in the House of Com­mons on such a cru­cial na­tional de­ci­sion’. Labour ‘agreed to call David Cameron to ac­count on the unan­swered ques­tions raised by his case for bomb­ing’, in­clud­ing how it would bring about a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment in Syria and which ground troops would seize ter­ri­tory va­cated by IS.

Last night, Jeremy Cor­byn claimed the Prime Min­is­ter was en­gaged in a ‘rush to war’.

A spokesman said: ‘By re­fus­ing a full two- day de­bate, David Cameron is demon­strat­ing he knows the de­bate is run­ning away from him, and that the case he made last week is fall­ing apart.

‘The Prime Min­is­ter should stop the rush to war to al­low for a full dis­cus­sion of the is­sues.’

‘Very long and full de­bate’

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