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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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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