Syria: MP warns of 'spectre of third world war'

John Hess
Political editor, East Midlands

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
David Cameron recalled Parliament to debate the UK's response to a suspected chemical weapon attack in Syria

If Downing Street is rowing back from taking immediate military action against Syria, the reason is simple.

MPs - many of them from the East Midlands, whether Labour or Conservative - have been voicing deep misgivings.

Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen has been blitzing the airwaves urging David Cameron to hold fire.

The North West Leicestershire MP demanded the Commons be recalled before any decision was taken on military action. He secured that and more.

Downing Street has been getting feedback that the parliamentary numbers for a military strike were not adding up.

"The evidence I've had from my constituency is that people don't want British involvement in another Middle East war," he told me.

"I'm really pleased the prime minister has listened to the concerns of backbench MPs.

"There'll be no military action straight away. That will now need a second vote of MPs."

Image caption,
East Midlands MPs say they have concerns over potential military action against Syria

Among East Midlands Labour MPs, there's also disquiet.

Bassetlaw's John Mann says he's yet to meet anyone in his Nottinghamshire constituency who wants British military action against Syria.

Nottingham North's parliamentary constitutionalist Graham Allen said the Commons wouldn't tolerate British involvement in another conflict, without a proper debate and vote.

"The necessity of consulting Parliament still isn't enshrined in law," he said.

"It is a matter of some urgency that it should be."

For Derby North's Chris Williamson, he fears a western attack could easily escalate out of control.

"That could drag Russia and Iran into a wider conflict," he told me.

"Syria is so close to the continent of Europe and Israel. There is the spectre of a third world war."

Mr Williamson, a Labour front bencher, said official backing for war by his party's leadership would be considered a resignation issue for him.

He added: "I can't conceive of any circumstances… any…. where it would be appropriate for Britain to be launching a military strike."

I spotted a tweet that brought back a reminder of past conflicts.

The former Labour MP for Loughborough Andy Reed was a parliamentary private secretary during Tony Blair's days in Downing Street.

A committed Christian, he was the first to resign from the New Labour government in protest at the decision to invade Iraq.

"Parallels with 2003 - too many similarities," he tweeted.

Prime Minister Cameron may be getting similar messages from his own backbenchers.