David Cameron has warned Tory MPs against voting alongside “Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers” ahead of the vote on UK airstrikes in Syria.
Amid Downing Street concerns that support among backbench Labour MPs is weakening, the British prime minister told a meeting of the 1922 committee that he needed to win the vote solely on the basis of Conservative MPs’ support to achieve his goal of securing a clear consensus.
“You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers,” he reportedly told the committee.
The Guardian reports:
His remarks, echoing an attack on Corbyn at the Tory conference in October, were confirmed to the Guardian by a senior MP who attended the meeting and came as the Labour leader accused Cameron of adopting a “bomb first, talk later” approach.
In a Guardian article Corbyn asks Labour MPs to think of the “terrible consequences” of the wars in the Middle East over the last 14 years.
“David Cameron … knows that opposition to his ill-thought-out rush to war is growing,” Corbyn writes. “On planning, strategy, ground troops, diplomacy, the terrorist threat, refugees and civilian casualties, it’s become increasingly clear the prime minister’s proposal simply doesn’t stack up.
“Cameron’s approach is bomb first, talk later. But instead of adding British bombs to the others now raining down on Syria, what’s needed is an acceleration of the peace talks in Vienna.”
Labour dismissed the prime minister’s attack on Corbyn as a “contemptible and desperate slur which demeans his office”. A party spokesman said: “He clearly realises he has failed to make a convincing case for military action in Syria and opinion is shifting away from him.”
Cameron and Corbyn’s sharp exchanges occurred on the eve of a debate in the House of Commons set to last 10 and a half hours after the cabinet agreed to scrap all the day’s business to allow a vote on Syria. The cabinet agreed a 12-point motion, which incorporated all the main points in a motion passed at the Labour conference in September and would pave the way for the Royal Air Force to extend its airstrikes against Islamic State targets from Iraq to Syria.
Corbyn will respond to the prime minister after he opens the debate at 11.30am. In an unprecedented move in the modern era, the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, will contradict Corbyn by endorsing the military strikes. Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, will wind up the debate ahead of a vote at 10pm.
Earlier on Tuesday, thousands of protesters gathered in central London in an effort to stop Britain from joining air strikes in Syria.
A crowd of approximately 4,000 marched from the Houses of Parliament in Westminster to the headquarters of the ruling Conservative party and main opposition Labour party nearby, Middle East Eye reported
“We’re here to say one simple thing, don’t bomb Syria. Don’t do what you did in 2001, 2003 and 2011,” the Stop the War Coalition protest movement’s Lindsey German told the crowd, referring to British involvement in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
“Don’t go and bomb a country [and] make the war even worse.”
Parliament looks set to vote in favour of joining the bombing campaign against IS on Wednesday, paving the way for sorties by British jets to start within days.