POLITICS

Alan Johnson Hits Out At 'Finger Jabbing' Corbynites During Syria Debate As Margaret Beckett Delivers Powerful Speech

02/12/2015 16:23 GMT | Updated 02/12/2015 17:59 GMT

Labour grandees in favour of bombing Daesh in Syria hit out at the “self-righteous certitude” of their “finger jabbing” colleagues against such action this afternoon.

Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson told the Commons he would be backing the Government’s plan, claiming it was “just cause” and Daesh poses “a real threat to British citizens.”

“I find this decision as difficult as anyone to make - I wish I had the self-righteous certitude of our finger jabbing representatives of our new and kinder type of politics who will no doubt soon be contacting those of use who support this motion tonight.”

Yvette Cooper, a former Labour leadership candidate, also spoke in favour of extending the strikes from Iraq into Syria, but said nobody would have “blood on their hands” regardless of how they voted.

“The blood has been drawn by Isil/Daesh in Paris and across the world.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is opposing extending the bombing, but has allowed his MPs a free vote on the issue.

However, both he and his allies in the party have been exerting pressure on those in favour of the plan by using increasingly aggressive rhetoric in the run up to today’s vote.

Ed Miliband, who intends to vote against military strikes, said attempts to "demonise" MPs who intended to vote in favour was "intolerable".

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said earlier this week: “If there are members of the PLP that want to bomb in Syria and vote with the Tories, then on their heads be it.

“They’ve made that decision, I respect that decision in the sense that they have come to the conclusion they have. But if the war in Syria extends, there is a conflagration, there are more terrorist atrocities and the war extends with no end then obviously we will be looking at who voted for this and when the blame is apportioned step forward.”

Mr Corbyn told MPs voting for action there would be “no hiding place” as he urged them to think again.

Labour MP for Hove Peter Kyle, who plans to support the bombing, was sent a photo of a dead baby through the post amid complaints about abuse from anti-war Labour activists.

In the Commons today both Mr Johnson and Ms Cooper set out why they believed extending air strikes was the right course of action.

Mr Johnson said: “There is no argument against our involvement in attacking Daesh in Syria, that cannot be made against our action in Iraq.

“I believe it meets the standards that many members would have set for endorsing military action…is it a just cause, it is the last resort, it is proportionate, there is a reasonable prospect of success, it has regional support, there is a legal base – I think it meets all of those criteria.”

Ms Cooper was critical of the way Prime Minister David Cameron had put forward the case, and hit back at him for referring to those opposed to the action as “terrorist sympathisers”.

She said: “I do not believe that the PM has made the most effective case so I understand why so many in this House say they are not convinced.

“If France has asked for our help, I do not think we can say no.

“I will vote with the Government on this motion tonight, even though I recognise how difficult that is for so many of us.”

Former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett delivered one of the most well-received speeches in favour of extending the bombing.

Addressing a hushed chamber, she said: “Should we take no further action against ISIL/Daesh, who are themselves killing innocent people, and striving to kill more, every day of the week, or should we simply leave it to others?

“Would we make ourselves a bigger target for ISIL attack? We are a target. We will remain a target. There is no need to wonder about it. ISIL/Daesh has told us so, and continues to tell us so, with every day that passes.

We may as well take them at their word and, indeed, at their deeds. They have sought out Britons to kill, including aid workers and other innocents, and whatever we decide today there is no doubt they will do so again.”

In a thinly-veiled dig at her own leader, who has consistently opposed UK military action overseas throughout his 32 years in Parliament, Dame Margaret said: Quite separately there are those not opposed in principle to action who doubt the efficacy of what is proposed.

“A coalition action which rests on bombing alone, they say, does not work.

“Well, tell that to the Kosovans and while you’re at it, remember that if there had been no bombing in Kosovo around a million Albanian Muslim refugees would have sought refuge in Europe.

“Tell that to the Kurds in Kobane, who if memory serves, pleaded for international air support, without which they felt that they were losing control to ISIL/Daesh.

“Tell them in Sierra Leone that military action should be avoided because there would be casualties. Their State and their peace were almost destroyed.

“British military action brought them back from the brink.”

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One of the most articulate arguments against the bombing came from Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis, chairman of the Defence Select Committee.

He is opposing the action because of a lack of credible ground troops, and questioned Mr Cameron's claim that there are 70,000 moderate Syrian rebels in the country who would turn their guns on Daesh.

He said: "Instead of having dodgy dossiers, we now have bogus battalions of moderate fighters."