UK Politics

Syria vote: Political reaction

Politicians and commentators are reacting to Parliament's decision to rule out UK involvement in military action against Syria and pondering what it means for British foreign policy.

Prime Minister David Cameron

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Media captionFull interviews with David Cameron and Ed Miliband

"We have great strengths as a country and we should continue to use those.

"But on this specific issue, because of the huge concerns about this appalling Syrian conflict and people worrying about how we might get sucked into it, on the specific issue, that trumped the sense of outrage about the chemical weapons.

"I understand that, I get that - we will not be taking part in military action."

Labour leader Ed Miliband

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Media captionEd Miliband: "I think we have done the right thing by the British people"

"If Britain had engaged in a rush to war on an ill-thought through basis, not working with the international community, not going through the UN, that would have been bad for our country and for the people of Syria as well.

"We must learn the lessons of Iraq about any action we take. Military action is off the agenda for Britain but what we must not do is abandon the people of Syria and we must step up the efforts we make to put pressure on President Assad through non-military means."

Former Tory leadership contender David Davis

"I am not an anti-interventionist but interventions have to have a clear purpose, have a decent chance of succeeding, and you have to be able to calculate what the risks of it all going wrong are.

None of those criteria were met in the debate yesterday.

"What he (David Cameron) said was they could not prove it outright. He used the word 'a matter of judgement' several times.

"That is really quite a shaky argument when you are going to kill people. Of course it is a setback for David and that's unfortunate and I wish that were not so.

"He will recover from it. We will have forgotten this in a few weeks time in those terms."

Foreign Office Minister Alastair Burt

"David Cameron has not brought this defeat upon himself.

"In answer to those who wanted to see Parliament have a voice on issues like this, he rightly returned to Parliament to consult them a week or so after a dreadful incident for which the (Assad) regime was responsible.

"We have lost this particular vote but the wider policy in relation to Syria to try and encourage negotiations to end the conflict will continue and so will the narrower policy of trying to ensure the rest of the world understands how serious a breach of international convention this chemical attack has been and the world must say something about it."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage

"I think we stand taller in the world today. We are not going to join the US and go on being the world's bully, a tactic that has frankly failed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"What happened over there (in Parliament) was remarkable. It will be looked at by democracies the world over. The House of Commons stood up against the executive and stood up for the majority opinion in this country. It was a great victory for democracy last night...

"What I want us to do is to engage globally, through trade and diplomacy, many of the things we have not done over the course of the last few years. Let's think globally but let's not when America says jump ask how high.

Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown

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Media captionLord Ashdown: "President Assad is cheering"

"People invented all sorts of reasons not to get involved with an international coalition led by a Democrat President of the United States to stand up for international law...I think that has a profound implication for our country.

"I think it diminishes our country hugely.

"Let's be clear, there were lots of MPs - chiefly Labour ones but Tories too - who were cheering last night [Thursday].

"We should all understand who is cheering this morning. President Assad is cheering this morning, President Putin is cheering. I suspect [UKIP leader] Nigel Farage is cheering as he sees this country teetering on the edge of isolationism."

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston

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Media captionDr Wollaston MP: humanitarian aid should not come in the form of cruise missiles

"Parliament was at its best yesterday [Thursday], applying the brakes to a headlong rush into western military intervention.

"The country was overwhelmingly opposed to such action, not because we are a nation of apologists or appeasers but because people weighed up the moral arguments and risks and concluded that it would be wrong to risk igniting a wider war."

Conservative MP John Baron

"We have to try and act within international law, in order words through the UN, when taking action.

"We cannot just pick and choose when it comes to international law depending on whether the countries involved are friends or not.

"Parliament spoke last night - many concerns, many questions left unanswered - and I am pleased the prime minister listened."

Former Conservative leader Lord Howard

"We have seen the decision of Parliament being welcomed in Moscow as I am sure it is welcome in Damascus and being received with something like dismay in Washington and other places where we have our friends.

"I think it is a setback for us. I think we will have less influence as a result of this. I hope we can recover from this. There will be opportunities for us to prove our value in international affairs in the future."

Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans

"I think it (the vote) is unfortunate. It is rather throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

"I think it is important there should be considerable unanimity in the international response to this and Britain's engagement would have been an important part of that.

"Clearly the whole question of whether there is a legal foundation for military action really needs an enormous amount of debate...Unless you do get Security Council authority, you just do not have that legal foundation. But that is not the end of the argument. There is a very strong moral case to be made."