Syria air strikes: Did MPs back May?

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

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media captionMay: We have not done this because President Trump asked us to

MPs are still talking. And they will talk again tomorrow.

There are, after all, hugely important principles for them to talk about. They will not, however, have votes that make a difference to anything other than the political atmosphere at Westminster, unless something very unexpected happens.

Labour will lead a debate on Tuesday about Parliament's right to approve military action, or not. But the RAF pilots who flew sorties from Cyprus in the early hours of Saturday won't be told by Parliament through a vote that their actions are considered by MPs to be right or wrong.

That's despite the convention, and it is only a convention not a firm rule, that governments ask Parliament for its consent before taking military action. Those who oppose the air strikes, like the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, expressed their anger that MPs were bypassed.

And many of those who say they would have backed the action if they had been given a say, did express irritation that they had not been given a voice, even though in some cases that came alongside support for the attacks themselves.

The prime minister certainly did not endear herself to any MPs by signing up to action alongside America and France without consulting them.

She did face strong criticism and scepticism from MPs. But there was no more political trouble than she would have been able to predict. There were complaints from only a sprinkling of her own side. And enough Labour MPs, many of them regular critics of Jeremy Corbyn, were keen to express support - even if qualified - for the government's controversial decision.

Indeed at one point Tory MPs expected the government might in fact call its own debate on Tuesday, including a so-called 'meaningful vote', that could have given official - if retrospective - backing to the strikes themselves, and it was expected that Theresa May would have won it.

media captionCorbyn: PM accountable to Parliament not the whims of US president

One former minister expressed frustration that the government "bottled it". But in the end despite a bumpy day, Theresa May's risk of approving the strikes without getting MPs first on board seems, so far, not to have resulted in hefty political damage.

But has she unravelled the principle that MPs have to give permission for action? Remember in the last couple of days she and her colleagues have been agonisingly careful to emphasise again and again that the strikes were tightly limited and specific in purpose.

She has got round Parliament, without too much strife, to go that far. But it is almost impossible to imagine that a government in future would be able to do the same if longer-term military action, requiring troops and a commitment with no obvious end, was on the table.

Seventy two hours has not wiped away a convention of more than a decade. And if Theresa May wants to take similar action again if more horrendous events take place - when MPs are not away - she might not be able to do the same again without their backing.