MPs give overwhelming backing to Syrian air strikes

Handout photo dated 30/09/14 issued by the Ministry of Defence of a RAF Tornado GR4 returning to RAF

Handout photo dated 30/09/14 issued by the Ministry of Defence of a RAF Tornado GR4 returning to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus after an armed mission in support of OP SHADER, after British jets hit more Islamic State (IS) targets in Iraq amid growing calls for the action to be extended into the group's strongholds in Syria. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday October 1, 2014. The Ministry of Defence said two RAF Tornados fired Brimstone missiles against an armed pick-up truck and transport vehicle west of Baghdad. See PA story POLITICS Iraq. Photo credit should read: Cpl Neil Bryden/RAF/Mod/Crown Copyright/PA WireNOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder. - Credit: PA

RAF Marham Tornados could conduct their first sorties into Syria this morning after MPs gave the extension of air strikes their backing.

The prime minister won support for his motion with a clear majority of 174, after dozens of Labour MPs defied their leader Jeremy Corbyn in backing David Cameron.

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, who is at odds with his leader over the course of action, was cheered and applauded by MPs from across the house in a dramatic finale to the 10-and-a-half hour debate after he directed his speech to Labour MPs telling them his party had always been defined by its internationalism.

'We are here faced by fascists; not just their calculated brutality, but their belief they are superior to every single one of us. They hold us in contempt, they hold our values in contempt, they hold our democracy, the means by which we make our decision tonight, in contempt.'

But critics of David Cameron's plan disputed claims that 70,000 moderate fighters would be able to take on Isis/Daesh on the ground and Mr Corbyn warned against an 'ill-thought-out rush to war'.

News the motion seeking authorisation to order air strikes against the so-called Isis/Daesh passed by 397 votes to 223, a majority of 174 was greeted in near silence in the House of Commons, but there were noisy anti-war protests outside the Palace of Westminster.

A rebel amendment was seen off by 179 votes paving the way for Tornado jets, already carrying out missions in Iraq to fly over the border today.

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Two more Tornado jets from RAF Marham in Norfolk will also make their way to the RAF's Cyprus base to bolster the operation this morning.

During the day-long debate, in which 104 backbenchers spoke, MPs were told by Mr Cameron the 'woman-raping, Muslim-murdering, medieval monsters' of IS are 'plotting to kill us and to radicalise our children right now'.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond conceded the moderates were not a homogeneous group but insisted they were 'all pointing their guns in the same direction'.

The UK and Russia are 'partners' in the fight against IS but Vladimir Putin could end the 'madness' of the Syrian civil war at the hands of Bashar Assad by calling the brutal dictator and telling him to go, he said.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb defied his party whip voting against the strikes, claiming he was far from convinced that the proposed action would confront the dreadful threat.

During a heated and emotive build-up to the vote Norwich South MP Clive Lewis was forced to apologise to colleague John Woodcock after he swore at him during a heated confrontation.

The prime minister repeatedly refused to apologise for branding anti-war Labour MPs 'terrorist sympathisers' but insisted that he respects those who voted against military action.

In a separate debate in the House of Lords Norfolk-based former chief of the general staff and independent crossbencher Lord Dannatt said defeat of Isil would not come about through diplomatic pressure or economic sanctions but through 'military reverse' on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, involving coordinated air and ground operations. The immediate challenge was to create a diplomatic framework in which military operations could be conducted, including a 'constructive dialogue' with the Russians, Iranians and other key interested parties in the region. He said the UK needed to work with the Syrian armed forces against Isil rather than see them fighting against their own citizens. 'The bottom line is that if we don't want to see western international boots on the ground, yet accept that the defeat of Isil-Daesh will only come through successful action on the ground, albeit supported from the air, we have to find enough ground forces, who are well enough led, equipped and trained to be successful.'