SIX RAF Tornados were ready to go last night to begin raining bombs down on Iraq after an extraordinary session of parliament which voted 523-42 in favour of the UK joining in the US-led attacks.
Parliament was recalled three weeks early for the special session in which Tories, Liberals and Labour MPs gave the green light for the UK to join the bombing campaign against Iraq.
Amongst those voting against were 23 Labour MPs, six Tory MPs, one LibDem, one Respect, one Green, five SNP, two Plaid Cymru and three SDLP MPs.
There was one abstention. Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali, the shadow education minister, abstained from the vote and then resigned from the Labour front bench.
However, Cameron made it clear that in a situation where ‘urgent action was required’ the UK will join in the bombing of Syria without going back to Parliament for another vote.
Tory Prime Minister Cameron said: ‘Let me address very directly the issue of ISIS. I am very clear. ISIS needs to be destroyed in Syria as well as in Iraq.
‘And we support the action which the United States and five Arab states have taken in Syria and I think that there is a strong case for us to do more in Syria but I did not want to bring a motion to the House today which there was not consensus for.’
However, later in the debate, he said: ‘In this case it couldn’t be clearer that we are acting at the request of a sovereign state in collective self-defence against ISIS that threatens Iraq.
‘There is a legal basis that if you are averting a humanitarian catastrophe then you can act and let me be clear again, that if there was a moment where it looked as if there could be an urgent humanitarian need for intervention I would be prepared to order that military intervention and then come to the House and explain why.’
Cameron’s remark astonished the House of Commons and a Tory MP immediately intervened. He asked: ‘Did I hear correctly a moment or two ago? Did he say that if there was an urgent humanitarian need that he would take action, and then get subsequent support from the House; surely it should be the other way around!’
Cameron responded: ‘The right honourable gentlemen heard me first the right way around. If there was the need to prevent the massacre of a minority community or a Christian community and Britain could act to prevent that humanitarian catastrophe …
‘If I believed that we could effectively act and do that then I would order that and come straight to the House and explain afterwards.’
However, if Cameron was to do this there would be fury across Britain. It would provoke an enormous crisis not just with the Labour Party but with the trade unions and the millions of working people that do not want to see another Blair-type Iraqi war.
After the results of the vote were announced, Labour MP John McDonnell MP for Hayes and Harlington, insisted on making a point of order:
‘The Prime Minister has informed us that he will take action without Parliamentary authority if he feels it necessary.
‘Can I put on record and appeal to you, Mr Speaker, that if there is an indication of further action beyond the remit of this motion that you consider yourself to have the power to convene this House.’
The Speaker replied: ‘I am not, under the standing orders of this House, so empowered.’
Cameron’s own Party was split in supporting UK airstrikes.
Richard Bacon, Conservative from Norfolk South, told the House: ‘We intervened in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Libya and the question we have to ask ourselves is, is it making things better or worse?
‘If you look at Libya today it is very hard to say that we have made things better. In fact, it seems that we may well have made things worse. I voted against the Iraq war in 2003 because I thought that it would make things worse.’
The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) was also opposed.
Angus Robertson, SNP Moray, said: ‘Where is the plan? What next? If you actually look at the text of the motion, it reads that it gives the green light for military action but not a single word about a strategy after the bombing.
‘That is why neither me nor my right honourable friends will be voting for this motion.’
Diane Abbott, Labour, Hackney North, said: ‘Because I am aware of the history of our military interventions, I will not be supporting the motion on the agenda tonight …
‘… As this war wears on, and it drains us of millions and billions of pounds, the public will be saying what are we doing there and how are we going to get out?’
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, Islington North, said: ‘I will not be supporting the motion tonight …
‘… I do not believe that further air strikes or indeed the deepening of our involvement will solve the problem.’
However, leader of the Labour Party, Ed Milliband, rose to his feet to throw his full support behind Cameron and the UK bombing campaign.
He said: ‘I rise to support the government motion concerning military action against ISIL in Iraq.’
George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, said: ‘This will not be solved by bombing. Mr Speaker we have been bombing Iraqis for one hundred years.
‘A hundred years ago, we dropped the world’s chemical bombs on them in the 1920s.
‘We attacked them and helped to kill their king in the 1930s.’