Douglas Alexander warns Cameron: a vote must be held on Syria and Labour could oppose the government

Shadow foreign secretary says he is "unconvinced" of the case for an air campaign and criticises William Hague for "implying force is inevitable".

After cutting short his summer holiday in Cornwall to return to Downing Street, David Cameron is expected to decide later today whether to recall Parliament in response to the crisis in Syria. More than 60 MPs have now signed Labour MP Graham Allen's Early Day Motion demanding "a full debate before any British commitment to military action in Syria". 

But while Cameron may be willing to grant a debate, this leaves open the question of whether a vote will be held before any action is taken. Interviewed on the Today programme this morning, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander raised the stakes by arguing that there "should be a vote" after the government has set out its case for intervention. Asked whether action could still be taken if MPs refused to vote in favour, he replied: "I don't think it [the government] would have a mandate in Parliament, I can't state it more clearly than that." Significantly, he added that Labour "would whip" its MPs against military action if it was not persuaded by the government's case. Alexander said that he was "unconvinced" that an air campaign could "decisively resolve a conflict that has unfolded in the last two years in Syria." He criticised William Hague for "almost implying force is inevitable without setting out the evidence and the objectives". 

While the government has previously promised MPs a vote on Syria, this commitment was made in reference to arming the rebels, not conducting air strikes. William Hague said in June: "We have a good record on going to the House of Commons for a vote. There would be a vote one way or another. I can't see any reason why it couldn't be before any such decision was implemented. Just for the sake of clarity, we wouldn't use a parliamentary recess to say we can't consult parliament because it's the middle of August, so MPs don't have to be concerned about that." After Alexander's intervention, the government is likely to come under significant pressure from MPs of all parties to also ensure that Parliament has the final say on whether Britain participates in an air campaign against Syria. 

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander speaks at last year's Labour conference in Manchester. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tory Brexiter Daniel Hannan: Leave campaign never promised "radical decline" in immigration

The voters might not agree...

BBC Newsnight on Twitter

It was the Leave campaign's pledge to reduce EU immigration that won it the referendum. But Daniel Hannan struck a rather different tone on last night's Newsnight. "It means free movement of labour," the Conservative MEP said of the post-Brexit model he envisaged. An exasperated Evan Davis replied: “I’m sorry we’ve just been through three months of agony on the issue of immigration. The public have been led to believe that what they have voted for is an end to free movement." 

Hannan protested that EU migrants would lose "legal entitlements to live in other countries, to vote in other countries and to claim welfare and to have the same university tuition". But Davis wasn't backing down. "Why didn't you say this in the campaign? Why didn't you say in the campaign that you were wanting a scheme where we have free movement of labour? Come on, that's completely at odds with what the public think they have just voted for." 

Hannan concluded: "We never said there was going to be some radical decline ... we want a measure of control". Your Mole suspects many voters assumed otherwise. If immigration is barely changed, Hannan and others will soon be burned by the very fires they stoked. 

I'm a mole, innit.