Conservative MPs asked about military action

So, the Conservative leadership has begun asking Tory MPs for their views about the possibility of military action against Islamic State.

One Conservative MP told me he had been asked two specific questions by his whip, an MP who enforces discipline in the House of Commons for the government.

The MP was asked: what did he think about military action in Iraq and what did he think about military action in Syria?

Government sources at Westminster insisted that Tory MPs were not being consulted about any specific proposals for military action. They were simply being asked for their views about a range of issues that included the situation in the Middle East but also touched on Ukraine and domestic matters.

They said government whips were taking the chance to gauge MPs' views ahead of a big House of Commons debate on foreign affairs next Wednesday. They were also using the opportunity of the short parliamentary session to test the water before MPs leave Westminster for a month while the Scotland referendum and party conferences take place.

It is not clear yet how widespread this consultation is. The views of many MPs on military action will be well known already to the whips.

But the fact that the questions are now being asked represents the most substantial evidence yet that the government is preparing for the moment when it may consider joining US air strikes in the Middle East.

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