Syria crisis: Cameron loses Commons vote on Syria action


David Cameron: "It is clear to me that the British parliament... does not want to see British military action"

MPs have rejected possible UK military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to deter the use of chemical weapons.

David Cameron said he would respect the defeat of a government motion by 285-272, ruling out joining US-led strikes.

The US said it would "continue to consult" with the UK, "one of our closest allies and friends".

France said the UK's vote does not change its resolve on the need to act in Syria.

Russia - which has close ties with the Assad government - welcomed Britain's rejection of a military strike.

The prime minister's call for a military response in Syria followed a suspected chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on 21 August, in which hundreds of people are reported to have died.

The US and UK say the Assad government was behind the attack - a claim denied by Damascus, which blames the rebels.

Assad said Syria would defend itself against any aggression.

'Harm relationship'

The UK government's motion was in support of military action in Syria if it was backed up by evidence from United Nations weapons inspectors, who are investigating the attack.

They are due to finish their work on Friday and give their preliminary findings to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the weekend.

After the vote Prime Minster David Cameron said it was clear Parliament did not want action and "the government will act accordingly".

Chancellor George Osborne told Radio 4's Today programme there would now be "national soul searching about our role in the world".

He added: "I hope this doesn't become a moment when we turn our back on all of the world's problems."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond had told BBC's Newsnight programme that he and the prime minister were "disappointed" with the result, saying it would harm Britain's "special relationship" with Washington.

But he said he did not expect Britain's decision to "stop any action" by other countries.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said on Friday that the House of Commons had spoken "for the people of Britain".

"People are deeply concerned about the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, but they want us to learn the lessons of Iraq," he said.

"They don't want a rush to war. They want things done in the right way, working with the international community."

He said Britain "doesn't need reckless and impulsive leadership, it needs calm and measured leadership".

Ian Pannell: The victims "arrived like the walking dead"

Mr Miliband said Britain's relationship with the US "remains strong" despite the vote. He said there is a lesson that Britain must do what is in its national interest, even if that means doing something different to America.

He also said that Mr Cameron must "find other ways" to put pressure on Mr Assad.

The result of the vote was condemned by former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown, who tweeted that in "50 years trying to serve my country I have never felt so depressed [or] ashamed".

He later told the BBC that by doing nothing President Assad will use chemical weapons more "those weapons will become more commonplace in the Middle East battlefield" and "we will feel the effects of that as well".

PM 'diminished'

Thirty Conservative and nine Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the government's motion.

The defeat comes as a potential blow to the authority of Mr Cameron, who had already watered down a government motion proposing military action, in response to Labour's demands for more evidence of President Assad's guilt.

Britain will not be involved in any military action that takes place in Syria, the chancellor has confirmed

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said the prime minister had now lost control of his own foreign and defence policy, and as a result he will cut a diminished figure on the international stage.

He added that some strong advocates of the transatlantic relationship were worried that America may now question the value and reliability of Britain as an ally.

During the debate, Labour had seen its own amendment - calling for "compelling" evidence that the regime was responsible for chemical attacks - rejected by MPs by 114 votes.

But, unexpectedly, MPs also rejected the government's motion.

Labour's shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said the government defeat was down to the "fatally flawed" case put to MPs by Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, claiming the pair's credibility was now diminished.

'The system works'

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said so many of Mr Cameron's own MPs had voted with Labour because they were now "unwilling to take him at his word".

Conservative rebel Crispin Blunt said he hoped the vote would "relieve ourselves of some of this imperial pretension that a country of our size can seek to be involved in every conceivable conflict that's going on around the world".

In other developments:

  • The BBC witnessed the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a school playground which left scores of children with napalm-like burns over their bodies
  • The US said it would act in its "best interests" in dealing with the Syria crisis, following the British rejection of military intervention
  • The Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Lebanon because of a "heightened risk of anti-Western sentiment" linked to the possibility of military action in Syria. The BBC understands that the families of British diplomats are being evacuated

In a statement, the White House said President Obama believed "that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable".

Men search for survivors amid rubbles of collapsed building after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria"s President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo"s Fardous neighborhood August 26, 2013 The war inside Syria has continued to inflict huge damage

Obama administration officials on Thursday told a group of US lawmakers in a conference call that it was "beyond a doubt that chemical weapons were used, and used intentionally by the Assad regime," said Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US would "continue to work with Britain and consult with Britain as we are with all our allies".

On Friday French President Francois Hollande told the newspaper Le Monde that he would still be willing to take action without Britain's involvement.

He said he supported taking "firm" punitive action over an attack he said had caused "irreparable" harm to the Syrian people.

Germany, however, has ruled out taking part. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper that "such participation has not been sought nor is it being considered by us".

Meanwhile, Mr Assad told a group of Yemeni MPs on Thursday that Syria would defend itself against any aggression, according to Syria's Sana news agency.

"Syria, with its steadfast people and brave army, will continue eliminating terrorism, which is utilised by Israel and Western countries to serve their interests in fragmenting the region," he said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1188.

    Paddy Ashdown is depressed is he!! I get depressed every time one of our service people lose their lives in an Arab war.
    Get off your high horse Ashdown and go to the Arab League and tell them to sort it. It is an Arab problem with Arab solutions needed. Western intervention does not work. If you can't see that then you are a bigger idiot then I thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1187.

    David Cameron got this completely wrong. He thought a bit of militaristic posturing would gain him credibility & votes.

    Now this is a huge embarrassment for him. It seems there are many politicians on both sides of the house that share the same doubts as the general public.

    If the US want to aid sectarian forces that have used CW themselves gain power, they will without us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1186.

    We should not in any way be worrying what the US thinks of this - they clearly don't give a t*ss what about us. All they want from the UK is to use us as a gun platform to launch strikes into former communist states, as they have redeployed their gun platforms to surround China - so nations that provide these bases such as Australia - will become "special" friends - like we were

  • rate this

    Comment number 1185.

    Why US want to attack on Syria.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1184.


    Learn to spell please!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1183.

    Well done Cameron at last a government who listens to the
    People of Great Britian. my heart goes out to the people of Syria but there must be another way to help prevent the terrible things that are happening

  • rate this

    Comment number 1182.

    nu:Labour's political points scoring will now lead to the blood on their hands of thousands of innocent children. History will come to reflect the cowardness of our MP's who are backing the Syrian Government. Shame on all who allow the deaths of the Syrian people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1181.

    @573 craig c
    The U.N. security council actually has no credibility. It can never make any important decision because the permanent members are forever opposed, and each with the power of veto. This is sometimes seen as good, sometimes bad, depending on your point of view. Even U.N. peacekeepers cannot enforce a ceasefire, they can only monitor it. It is therefore ignored by the major powers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1180.

    For once sense has prevailed. What would it achieve to become involved in a Shia/Sunni civil war? The suffering of the Syrian people is horrendous, but adding to the violence won't help stop it. Saudi Arabia (pro rebels) and Iran (pro Assad) are both busy pouring fuel onto the fire. Perhaps the international community should consider putting considerably more pressure on them as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1179.

    Dose anyone seriously think the missiles and drones won't fly now?

    Obama has committed himself.
    Israel is getting nervous, so he has to reassure them.
    The President is gung-ho because he must have been told that his latest toys will defeat the Syrian/Russian air defence batteries.

    As for the latest images, I remember Phan Thi Kim Phuc; that was US napalm. Same incendiary outrage, different war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1178.

    Prove its Assad, Get China and Russia to step up, agree funding for conflict out of a levy on Syrian oil and then control military action as we are the best at it for the good of those who need protecting -

  • rate this

    Comment number 1177.

    By Dave.

    I'd like to say it's been a pleasure, but it hasn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1176.

    @Phil Dawson

    Yeah, but the PM who got is all wrong was Blair, not Cameron.

    Moving on, Nigel Farage said it all very succinctly (AGAIN!) on the Beeb yesterday. What on earth are we, here in the UK, going to achieve by bombing unspecified targets, potentially putting a bunch of Jihadist Muppets in control, and with no guarantee of actually saving more lives.

    Good decision parliament.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1175.

    The last time we supported America - over half a million Iraquis were killed

    According to one estimate criticised for counting excess deaths over a seriously underestimated pre-war mortality rate. Half a dozen other independent bodies produced their own estimates, which all broady agree on a figure far lower - indeed significantly lower than Saddam had killed and was still killing

  • rate this

    Comment number 1174.

    I wonder the when the media will start proffering headlines such as, "UK will still take action" You can see it coming a mile off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1173.

    The UKs position and influence in the world will be damaged by this result. What kind of country stands by and watches innocent people being attacked with chemical weapons? Apparently this one. I hope one day we dont need any help, beacuse maybe nobody will come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1172.

    Editors Pick

    I would have voted with David ... but I 100% respect that he demonstrated great bravery in putting the question out there


  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    What a victory. We now won't get involved in others problems ever again as
    a yes vote in future situations will probably go the same way.

    victory 2. We now with a change in foreign policy in the ME and North Africa wont be a target for terrorists.

    victory 3. Because of the points above we can now radically reduce our military spending as we don't need it anymore

  • rate this

    Comment number 1170.

    I re-learnt a word today. Democracy. If just one of those MPs voting against read the various comments sections on this website then our voice has been heard.
    But please DO NOT think that this is over. I for one will continue to voice my opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1169.

    1132, Blair put his leadership on the line with a vote on Iraq in 2003.
    Only 10 years ago and you don't even know that.
    Maybe you should check before ranting and looking very silly.


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