Getty Images.
Show Hide image

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.

Photo:Getty
Show Hide image

Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.