UK Politics

Nicky Morgan defends PM's 'terrorist sympathisers' comment

Nicky Morgan

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has defended David Cameron's "terrorist sympathisers" comment about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his allies.

The PM faced calls to apologise after his comment to Tory MPs on the eve of the vote on Syria air strikes.

Ms Morgan said Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell looked like terrorist sympathisers to her, citing comments about the IRA and Hezbollah.

Labour's Diane Abbott said these were "old smears".

MPs voted in favour of extending air strikes against so-called Islamic State into Syria by 397 votes to 223.

Ahead of the vote, addressing his MPs, Mr Cameron called on them not to "sit on their hands" and side with Mr Corbyn and others he labelled "a bunch of terrorist sympathisers".

Mr Corbyn's office described this as "a contemptible slur" and Labour and SNP MPs urged him to apologise during the Commons debate on military intervention.

On the BBC's Question Time, Ms Morgan was asked why the prime minister had not apologised, and a woman in the audience - who said she was opposed to air strikes - asked her: "Do I look like a terrorist sympathiser to you?"

The education secretary replied: "No, but Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell do."

She said Mr Corbyn had referred to "friends" in Hezbollah, while Mr McDonnell had talked of "bombs and bullets and sacrifices" made by the IRA.

Ms Morgan also echoed Mr Cameron's comments during the debate, saying it was a "perfectly honourable position to vote against" air strikes.

Mr Corbyn has said he had welcomed Hezbollah representatives to a meeting in Parliament because he wanted all parties to be involved in the "wider peace process" in the Middle East.

Mr McDonnell recently apologised for saying in 2003 that IRA members should be "honoured" but has denied once saying the "ballot, the bullet and the bomb" could unite Ireland.

Ms Abbott, the shadow international development secretary who was also on the Question Time panel, said: "These are old smears and they do not detract from the fact that in my view and millions of British people the Commons made the wrong decision yesterday."