March 24, 2019

Labour MPs back government over Syria action

Labour MPs have backed the government over the airstrikes in Syria, rather than side with their own leadership, with Theresa May claiming Jeremy Corbyn's approach would mean "a Russian veto on our foreign policy".

MPs listened in silence as the Prime Minister explained her reasoning for the "limited, targeted and effective" airstrikes on Friday night. She detailed the three locations, which included chemicals weapons storage facilities, a research centre and a chemicals weapon bunker and command post.

She claimed that the Assad regime and Russia were trying to conceal the attack and she felt the need to act "rapidly" to try and stop further attacks. Diplomatic efforts had been "repeatedly thwarted", she added, and pointed to Russia's veto of an investigation in the UN Security Council last week.

May noted that Corbyn has said he would only take action in Syria if UN endorsed it but that would mean "a Russian veto on our foreign policy".

Her position was backed by attorney general Dominic Grieve, who said: “Any tyrant or megalomaniac, if they have support of an amoral state on the UN Security Council, could act with impunity, far from upholding the international rules based system, it would be dead.”

But Corbyn countered this by claiming she was following orders from US President Trump, and argued that the decision on humanitarian grounds was "legally questionable", asking whether she was planning to intervene in the ongoing crisis in Yemen by blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

He also used the opportunity to reiterate his call for a new War Powers Act to be brought to parliament, while claiming there was footage of "both journalists and local people in the rubble without any protective clothing."

However, Corbyn seemed out of kilter with the majority of his fellow MPs once again.

Many, including the Father of the House Ken Clarke, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and Labour big hitters Yvette Cooper, Ben Bradshaw and Hilary Benn, took May to task for not having come to parliament prior to acting, but the mood among MPs was supportive.

Clarke said: "We can all debate these matters but it takes a real Prime Minister to actually face up to them".

Labour's Chris Leslie added: "Those who would turn a blind eye, who would do nothing in pursuit of some moral high ground, should also be held accountable, for once, today as well."

Benn asked the Prime Minister to come to parliament before any further action. May said she recognised the importance of consulting parliament, but stresses there will always be circumstances where the government might need to acts first.

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