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MPs vote for air strikes in Syria by 397 to 223

Victory for David Cameron as 66 Labour MPs back military action. 

David Cameron has the "clear majority" he wanted. MPs voted for air strikes against Isis in Syria by 397 to 223. Sixty six on the Labour side supported military action (with 152 opposed and 11 abstaining), a higher figure than expected after a remarkable speech in favour by Hilary Benn, which drew unprecedented applause from all sides of the House.

But with the support of almost all Conservative MPs (just seven of whom voted against), the DUP and most Liberal Democrats, Cameron's majority was large enough for him not to depend on Labour. Significantly, that means the Commons would have backed intervention even if Jeremy Corbyn had whipped his party against air strikes (as he had originally hoped to do). The Labour leader's team are pointing the fact that a majority of his MPs and a majority of shadow cabinet members (17:11) voted against military action as evidence that he has "demonstrated his leadership and increased his authority". The 11 who supported air strikes were Benn, deputy leader Tom Watson, shadow business secretary and shadow first secretary of state Angela Eagle, shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle, shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander, shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher, shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant, shadow mental health minister Luciana Berger, shadow minister for young people Gloria De Piero and shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker. 

It is Benn's speech that will likely be remembered as the defining moment of the debate. As MPs gathered round the shadow foreign secretary to get their order papers signed, the Labour leader awkwardly blanked him. Benn, who even frontbench opponents of air strikes say has been hugely "enhanced" by recent events, will more than ever be spoken of as a potential future leader. Though one MP in regular contact with the shadow foreign secretary told me: "I don’t think Hilary’s interested in being the leader - even in the interim."

RAF airstrikes in Syria are now expected to begin as early as tomorrow morning. 

The seven Tory MPs who voted against air strikes

John Baron

David Davis

Gordon Henderson

Philip Hollobone

Julian Lewis

Stephen McPartland

Andrew Tyrie

The 66 Labour MPs who voted for air strikes

Heidi Alexander

Ian Austin 

Adrian Bailey

Kevin Barron

Margaret Beckett

Hilary Benn

Luciana Berger

Tom Blenkinsop

Ben Bradshaw

Chris Bryant

Alan Campbell

Jenny Chapman

Vernon Coaker

Ann Coffey

Yvette Cooper

Neil Coyle

Mary Creagh

Stella Creasy

Simon Danczuk

Wayne David

Gloria De Piero

Stephen Doughty

Jim Dowd

Michael Dugher

Angela Eagle

Maria Eagle

Louise Ellman

Frank Field

Jim Fitzpatrick

Colleen Fletcher

Caroline Flint

Harriet Harman

Margaret Hodge

George Howarth

Tristram Hunt

Dan Jarvis 

Alan Johnson

Graham Jones

Helen Jones

Kevan Jones

Susan Elan Jones

Liz Kendall

Dr Peter Kyle

Chris Leslie 

Holly Lynch

Siobhain McDonagh

Pat McFadden

Conor McGinn

Alison McGovern

Bridget Phillipson

Lucy Powell

Jamie Reed

Emma Reynolds

Geoffrey Robinson

Joan Ryan

Ruth Smeeth

Angela Smith

John Spellar

Gisela Stuart

Gareth Thomas

Anna Turley

Chuka Umunna

Keith Vaz

Tom Watson

Phil Wilson

John Woodcock

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear