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
The 66 Labour MPs who voted for air strikes
Gloria De Piero
Susan Elan Jones
Dr Peter Kyle