Syria air strikes vote as-it-happened

Adam Bienkov By

22.38 - Final thoughts before I crawl off to bed. This has been a remarkable day in Parliament. There were some impressive speeches on both sides of the argument, but it was Benn's eleventh hour speech backing the government that is likely to be remembered. The contrast between Benn's speech and its reception in the House, with Corbyn's rather faltering performance will not go unnoticed by Labour MPs. Ultimately Labour's role in this has proven to be irrelevant, with Cameron easily having enough votes to get through without Labour MPs. However, the whole episode has been disastrous for Corbyn's authority. His aides and supporters may suggest that it's all part of the "new politics" but the look on Corbyn's face as he sat through Benn's speech suggests that he's not as comfortable with today's events as he would like to suggest.

As for what difference the vote will make to events in Syria, that remains to be seen. Britain's proposed involvment is relatively minor as things stand, with even government figures admitting that it is largely symbolic. However, it could spell the beginning of a much bigger involvment for Britain, if as expected, the air strikes fail to significantly damage Isis' presence in Syria. Could we all be back here in a year or so's time debating deploying ground forces in Syria? It's looking increasingly likely tonight.

22.33 - The government wins the Syria vote by 397 to 223, which suggests around 70 Labour MPs voted with Cameron. Britain now expected to launch air strikes in Syria within days, if not hours.

22.23 - There's been a fair amount of expectation management going on about the number of Labour MPs set to vote with the government. Labour have been briefing that there will be around 60, which suggests it will be lower, but Benn's powerful speech may have swung things further in the government's direction. Technically it was a free vote, but big Labour opposition to Corbyn's position will be damaging for him, especially after days in which they have been briefing that MPs are moving in Corbyn's direction. We'll see which way it's going to go in a few minutes time. 

22.19 - MPs are now voting on the main motion. Division expected in about 15 minutes time.

22.03 - MPs now voting on an amendment by the anti-war Conservative MP John Barron. Amendment is lost by 390 - 211. Much higher support than expected though.

22.00 - Hammond claims that "binging British discipline and precision to bear will save lives" and suggests that inaction will put British lives at risk. ""Do we strike them in Syria or wait for them to strike us on the streets of London?"

21.50 - Foreign secretary Philip Hammond praises Benn for "one of the truly great speeches made in this House," before immediately attempting to score party political points against Labour. 

21.45 - Benn appeals to Labour MPs to support the government: "As a party we have always been defined by our internationalism. We never have and never should walk on the other side of the road... What we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated." Standing ovation and shouts of "more" from the Tory benches and elsewhere in the house. Remarkable scenes.

21.42 - Benn says questioning Cameron's 70,000 moderate forces figure misses the point, which is that the longer Isis are allowed to fight on, the lower that figure will fall.

21.37 - Corbyn not looking entirely comfortable as Benn delivers passionate argument in favour of air strikes.

21.32 - Big cheers for Hilary Benn as he stands to close Labour's response. He tells the House that while he disagrees with his party leader on Syria, he is "proud" to speak from the same side. He joins long list of MPs attacking Cameron's comments about Corbyn last night: "My honourable friend is not a terrorist sympathiser. He is an honest and decent man," he says.

19.30 - The debate keeps coming. The Speaker, who has been in his seat since 11.30 this morning without so much as a toilet break, has now limited backbench contributions to three minutes and most of the speeches are covering quite similar ground. I'm going to dip out for a bit. I'll be back to cover the final speeches and the vote which is expected between 10 and 10.30 tonight.

18.47 - There have been lots of contributions from former soldiers in the House today.  Unsurprisingly most have spoken in favour of intervention. Tory MP Tom Tugendhat has delivered a particularly powerful case for acting in Syria. He told MPs that we have no choice but to take on Isis militarily:

"They have defined us clearly in their ideology as people who must die or convert. I will do neither Sir. I will fight"

17.48 - Labour MP John Woodcock has just delivered a withering attack on both Corbyn and his supporters for their "angry intolerant pacifism" 

"I will do everything I can to stop my party becoming essentially a cheerleader, a vanguard for a sort of angry intolerant pacifism which sets a myriad of preconditions which they know will never be met and and will ultimately say no to any military intervention. I think some of the people on the front bench need to think very carefully about how they have conducted themselves and they need to do better than this to be a credible opposition."

Woodcock's comments seem partly in reference to a sweary altercation last night with Labour MP Clive Lewis, which is now the subject of an internal complaint.

16.59 - Former Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham has been speaking to the BBC about why he has decided to oppose the UK taking military action in Syria. He said the intervention would lead to the "radicalisation" of Muslims in the region and at home and suggested that the prime minister had not made a convincing case for action. However, as ever with Burnham, he left himself open to changing his mind in future.

"I have come down against which is not to say that I won't at some point in the future back air strikes against Da'esh in Syria. But on this occasion for the case has not been made," he said

4.40 - Green Party MP Caroline Lucas says the strikes will increase the risk of terror attacks in Brtiain.

"I share the horror and revulsion at recent atrocities... but I'm not convinced air strikes will increase our security in Brtiain... On the contrary the evidence suggests it will make matters worse... the attacks are an incredibly effective recruiting agent [for Isis]"

4.25 - Labour MP and former soldier Dan Jarvis is receiving extremely warm responses for his speech backing action in Syria, both from Labour and Tory supporters and MPs.

3.48 - Divisions in the shadow cabinet over Syria could not be any clearer this afternoon. A very public row is developing following comments from Jeremy Corbyn and his spokesman suggesting the Syrian air strikes will lead to terrorist attacks in Britain.

Benn is due to give Labour's closing response to the debate later on, despite being strongly in favour of the intervention, in contrast to Corbyn. There had been attempts by Corbyn and those around him to prevent Benn from doing so, which were foiled after he thretened to resign. 

3.30 - Tory MP Mark Pritchard says the Syria air strikes are justified on self-defence grounds alone. "It is a case of kill or be killed," he says.

3.27 - Labour's Yasmin Qureshi says there is no point in launching airstrikes in Syria given the "massive" ground troops that would be required even to just take back Raqqa from IS, never mind the rest of the country.

3.13 - Tim Farron explainign why he and his fellow Lib Dems are backing the intervention. He says he is "insitinctively" anti-war but believes his doubts have been reassured by the government. "Today has been one of the toughest, if not the toughest decision I have had to take in this place," he says. He also calls on the government to take in more refugees. A Labour MP intervenes to ask why he is backing bombs against Syria if he is so concerned about refugees. "This is a tough call,"  Farron replies.

2.37 - Tory MP Julian Lewis delivering a forensic case against intervention, highlighting the severe doubts about the nature of the forces the coalition would need to ally with in order for air strikes to be successful.  He suggests Cameron's claim about 70,000 moderate Syrian forces is "bogus" and suggests West must reluctantly accept Assad. "It is a question of choosing the lesser of two evils, not fooling ourselves that there is a cosy third option," he says.

2.25 - Alan Johnson takes a swipe at Corbyn and his supporters for what many Labour MPs claim are intimidatory tactics being used against them. He says he has found the decision about whether to support intervention in Syria difficult, but adds:

"I wish I had the self-righteous certitude of our finger-jabbing representatives of our new and kinder type of politics, who no doubt will soon be contacting those of us who support this motion tonight."

2.20 - Former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson says he will vote in favour of intervention because Isis "presents a real and present danger to Britain". He says if Britain fails to act "we will be expressing indignation, while doing nothing."

2.15 - Conservative MP John Barron, who led the revolt against Cameron's previous plans to intervene in Syria in 2013, is setting out his case against intervention now. The former soldier says he is no pacifist but is not convinced by the government's case. "What I don't see in this plan is a carefully laid out strategy," he says. He suggests the prime minister's claim that there are 70,000 moderate ground forces in Syria are "mythical". "There are very few moderates left in Syria after a five year war," he says. "We should not repeat our errors and set out on the same tragic misguiided path once more."

2.03 - Former Labour foreign office minister Margaret Beckett is setting out her case in favour of intervention in Syria. She attacks those who say such interventions never work, citing the examples of Kosovo and Sierra Leone and suggests that failure to act will put more lives at risk than acting. "Inaction that way too, leads to death and destruction." she says.

1.50 - Labour have released the full text of Corbyn's speech to the House. Here are the key excerpts:

Corbyn directly attacked Cameron's "terrorist sympathiser" comments:

"For all members, taking a decision that will put British service men and women in harm’s way and almost inevitably lead to the deaths of innocents is a heavy responsibility. It must be treated with the utmost seriousness - and respect given to those who make a different judgement about the right course of action to take. Which is why the Prime Minister’s attempt to brand those who plan to vote against the government as “terrorist sympathisers” both demeans the office of the Prime Minister and undermines the seriousness of the deliberations we are having today."

He also suggested intervention will make Britain less, rather than more, safe:

"After the despicable and horrific attacks in Paris last month, the question of whether the government’s proposal for military action in Syria  strengthens - or undermines – our own national security must be at the centre of our deliberations. There is no doubt that the so-called Islamic state group has imposed a reign of sectarian and inhuman terror in Iraq, Syria and Libya. And there is no question that it also poses a threat to our own people. The issue is now whether extending UK bombing from Iraq to Syria is likely to reduce, or increase, that threat in Britain - and whether it will counter, or spread, the terror campaign Isil is waging across the Middle East. The answers don’t make the case for the government’s motion. On the contrary, they are a warning to step back and vote against yet another ill-fated twist in the never-ending war on terror."

He said the military campaign won't work on it's own terms:

"The claim that superior British missiles will make the difference is hard to credit when the US and other states are struggling to find suitable targets. In other words, extending UK bombing is highly unlikely to work. Second, the Prime Minister has failed to convince almost anyone that - even if British participation in the air campaign were to tip the balance - there are credible ground forces able to take back territory now held by Isil. In fact, it’s quite clear there are no such forces."

Corbyn also believes it will inevitably lead to Britain becoming involved in a ground war:

"The only ground forces able to take advantage of a successful anti-Isil air campaign are much stronger jihadist and Salafist groups close to Isil-controlled areas.
That’s what the Prime Minister’s bombing campaign could well lead to. It’s why the logic of an extended air campaign is mission creep and western boots on the ground – whatever the Prime Minister may say now …. about keeping British combat troops out of the fight."

He said the intervenition will increase the risks of domestic terror attacks:

"The Prime Minister has avoided spelling out to the British people the warnings he has surely been given about the likely impact of UK air strikes in Syria on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK. That is something all those backing the government’s motion should weigh heavily when they vote to send RAF pilots into action over Syria. It is critically important, Mr Speaker, that we are honest with the British people about the potential consequences of the action the Prime Minister is proposing today. I’m aware that there are those with military experience, including members on the benches opposite, who have argued that extending UK bombing will – and I quote – “increase the short-term risks of terrorist attacks in Britain.”

Corbyn also suggested the attacks would increase the risk of Islamophic attacks in Britain:

"We should also remember the impact on communities here in Britain. Since the Paris attacks there has been a sharp increase in Islamophobic incidents and physical attacks. The message must go out from all of us in the House: we will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or racism in our country.

He suggested civilian casualties made it impossible to support intervention:

"Yesterday I was sent this message from a Syrian constituent of mine. “I’m a Syrian from Manbij city, which is now controlled by Isil”, he writes. “Members of my family still live there and Isil didn’t kill them. My question to David Cameron is: ‘Can you guarantee the safety of my family when your air forces bomb my city?’” And there is no EU-wide strategy to provide humanitarian assistance to those victims. You can’t back more bombing without a plan to pick up the pieces.

He delivered a rebuke to Labour MPs supporting intervention in Syria:                             

"The government’s proposal for military action in Syria is not backed by clear and unambiguous authorisation by the UN. It does not meet the seven tests set by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. And it does not fulfil three out of four conditions laid down in Labour’s conference resolution passed two months ago. In the past week, we have given a voice to the growing opposition to the government’s bombing plans – across the country, in parliament and the Labour party. And the rejection of fourteen years of disastrous wars in the wider Middle East was a central pillar of the platform on which I was elected Labour leader."

And he called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria:

"The Prime Minister said he was looking to build a consensus around the military action he wants to take. He has achieved nothing of the kind. He has failed to make the case for another bombing campaign. All our efforts should instead go into bringing the Syrian civil war to an end. After Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, members thinking of voting for bombing should keep in mind how terrible the consequences can be. Only a negotiated peace settlement can overcome the Isil threat in Syria. And that should be our overriding goal."

1.40 - Labour's spokesperson has been briefing journalists about the vote. Labour acknowledge that MPs are likely to vote in favour of air strikes but insists that "government will win the vote but they have lost the argument". This is a novel interpretation of what it means to lose.

1.37 - After a brief lunch break, I'm back watching the debate. The SNP's Angus Robertson has just wrapped up his speech arguing the case against intervention in Syria. Liam Fox bnow arguing the case in favour. Fox and other Tory MPs have picked up on Corbyn's apparent reluctance to answer whether he's in favour of the UK's existing air campaign against Isis in Iraq. He suggests it shows the Labour leader is against any attacks on Da'esh. A terrorist sympathiser in other words...

12.05 - Corbyn brings his speech to a close with further complaints about heckling from Conservative MPs and a rather stumbling conclusion against the intervention. Not his finest hour.

12.54 - Corbyn faicng growing heckles from the Tory benches and appears to be struggling with the process of taking and answering interventions from MPs. A second ago he took two interventions in a row and appeared to forget to answer the second question asked by the Conservative MP. He's now refusing further interventions: "I'm not giving way. I'm not okay?" Today is a big moment for the Labour leader and one of the first chances for the public to see him in a prime ministerial position. So far his performance has not been particularly fluid.

12.47 - Corbyn suggests Syrian intervention will increase "short term risk of terrorist attacks" in Britain and also suggests action will increase Islamophobic attacks against British Muslims.

12.42 - Corbyn is setting out his case against intervention in Syria while flanked by two members of his shadow cabinet (Hillary Benn and Tom Watson) who are strongly in favour of that intervention. 

12.33 - Jeremy Corbyn now stands up and calls on Cameron to apologise for his "terrorist sympathisers" comments about both himself and Labour opponents of the Syrian interventiosn. He says the comments "demeans the office of the prime minister" and offers to give way to Cameron so he can apologise. Cameron declines. 

12.31 - Lib Dem leader Tim Farron says its right for Britain to "stand with our allies" but calls on him to also stand with our allies when it comes to "taking our fair share" of refugees from Syria. 

12.27 - Cameron denies that Britain has responsibility for the rise of Isis in the Middle East: "They attack us because of who we are, not what we do"

12.20 -  Cameron delivers a passionate defence of intervention in Syria and denies that it will radicalise British Muslims: 

"I know there are some who say our intervention could radicalise British muslims are appaled by Da-esh. These women-raping, Muslim murdering, medieval monsters they are highjacking the peaceful religion of Islam for their warped ends. As the King of Jordan says, these people are not Muslims they are outlaws against Islam. and we must stand with our Muslim frineds as they reclaim their religion from these terrorists... Far from an attack on Isam we are engaged in a defence of Islam... Failing to act would betray Islam in it's hour of need."

12.10 - Cameron repeats his controversial claim that there are 70,000 Syrian ground troops ready to join the fight against Da'esh in Syria. This claim has come under question from all sides in recent days, However he insists it is accurate but suggests he cannot go into too much detail about hte source of the claim for security reasons. "There are limits of what I can say about these troops for their safety" he says. He also admits that some of them may actually be pro-Assad forces.

12.03 - Tory MP Rehman Chishti uses the debate to attack the BBC for refusing to use the term "Da'esh" to describe Jihadi fighters in Iraq and Syria. He claims they told him to do so would be to breach impartiality guidelines. Cameron, who has used 'Da'esh' throughout the debate so far, urges the BBC to follow suit.

11.56 - One of the arguments from those opposing intervention in Syria is that it will inevitably end with Britain being involved in a lenghty ground war. Cameron is seeking to downplay that. He tells MPs the UK will not commit ground troops because: "The presence of ground troops can be radicalizing,"

11.51 - Lib Dems, who are supporting the intervention, join calls for Cameron to apologise. Not looking likely at this stage.

11.46 - Start to the debate is so far being dominated by Cameron's "terrorist" comments last night. The SNP's Alex salmond asks him to "apologise for his deeply insulting remark"

11.44 - Labour's John Woodcock, who supports intervention, attacks "threats" and intimidation by "online activists" and others seeking to influence MP's decision on whether to intervene in Syria.

11.41 - Cameron begins by apparently wheeling back on his "terrorist sympathisers" comment. "I respect people who come to a different view" he says. Labour's Caroline Flint urges him to apologise for his comment. He declines the opportunity and refuses to take further interventions from angry Labour MPs.

11.40 - The debate is getting underway in the Commons now. Both Labour's Chris Bryant and the SNP's Pete Wishart are protesting the decision by Cameron to only stage a one day debate, despite over 150 MPs wanting to speak. responding to the protests, Chris Grayling says they should just get on with the debate.

11.30 - There has been a photo doing the rounds on social media this morning, suggesting that anti-war protesters held a vigil outside Labour MP Stella Creasy's house last night.

If true it would be a remarkable story. Creasy, who is associated with the right of the party, has not yet decided her position on Syria and is reportedly under pressure from local activists and even facing possible deselection over the issue. Reactions to the photo have been understandably condemnatory. However, there's a problem with the story. As Jim Waterson from Buzzfeed has pointed out, the photo actually shows a vigil outside a mosque in Creasy's constituency.

Those who organised the vigil also deny that they went to Creasy's house, although they did visit her (closed) constituency office. As I write, the story of Creasy's house being held siege by protesters, is trending on Twitter and being picked up by other journalists and media outlets. Unfortunately, based on available evidence, it doesn't appear to have actually happened.

11.05 - MPs will today vote on whether Britain should launch air strikes against IS in Syria. The vote is the culmination of a debate that has been ongoing for over two years now. In 2013 David Cameron was forced by Parliament to back down on his attempt to launch strikes against President Assad's regime. Back then he only narrowly lost by 285 to 272 votes. Two years on and both the target and parliamentary mathematics have changed dramatically. The prime minister is now asking MPs to support strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and it looks like he will have the numbers. The best estimates are that there will only be a handful of Conservative MPs willing to vote against the government's position while there will be significantly more Labour MPs willing to defy Jeremy Corbyn's position and vote for action in Syria. This combined with the Lib Dems now supporting action along with some Northern Ireland MPs, means his position looks fairly secure. However the situation is fluid. The prime minister's comments last night, urging his own MPs not to vote with Corbyn and the "terrorist sympathisers" have angered many Labour MPs who had previously been sympathetic to the government's position. Many pro-war Labour MPs are also facing serious pressure from local activists and party members to oppose air strikes in Syria. There could also be a number of abstentions on all sides of the house which could complicate matters. Either way, it should be a day of fascinating debate on an issue that deeply divides both MPs and the public. The debate is expected to extend well into the evening. We'll be covering it all here live on Politics.co.uk

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