David Cameron's claims that MPs who vote against bombing in Syria are "terrorist sympathisers" has backfired after his comments were torn apart as a "contemptible and desperate slur which demeans his office".
While thousands vented their fury at the PM's claim on social media, pushing #terroristsympathiser to the top Twitter trend in the UK on Wednesday morning, a poll in The Times also added to Cameron's embarrassment.
In addition, the YouGov survey found 31% of the public oppose the air strikes, and only 48% of the public back the air strikes that parliament will debate and vote on tonight.
Some 21% remain undecided.
The number of people supporting the airstrikes has dropped down markedly since David Cameron set out the case for war last week, when 59% of people said they were in favour.
I'm terrified!December 2, 2015
Cameron sparked outcry after telling MPs considering voting against a bombing campaign on Tuesday night: “You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers."
A Labour spokesman fired back: “It is a contemptible and desperate slur which demeans his office. He clearly realises he has failed to make a convincing case for military action in Syria and opinion is shifting away from him.”
Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn said Cameron's choice of words was "disgraceful".
It is disgraceful that the Prime Minister has described MPs voting with their consciences tonight as "terrorist sympathisers".— Hilary Benn (@hilarybennmp) December 2, 2015
However Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond insisted on Wednesday morning that Cameron was not aiming his comments at long-standing opponents of war like Corbyn, but rather at people like former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who last week said the 7/7 London bombers "gave their lives" for a cause they believed in.
His comments came too late to social media however, with people tweeting their own takes on what it means to be a "terrorist sympathiser".
Have I got this right?
Kill innocent people = #terrorist
No to killing innocent people = #terroristsympathiser
No, I've got confused somehow— Keith Mansell (@kmansell1) December 2, 2015
Others denied they were sympathetic to IS simply because they found the case for bombing.
I am not a "terrorist sympathiser." I just don't see how bombing innocent people will achieve any positive outcome. #DontBombSyria— Chantal (@ChantalPearson) December 2, 2015
Blimey, last night I went to bed thinking we shouldn't be killing innocent folk & woke this morning a 'terrorist sympathiser'— JustSomeGuy (@JohnWibbly) December 2, 2015
When somebody cannot put forward rational arguments they have to make irrational statementsDecember 2, 2015
We are not terrorist sympathisers.
We are innocent civilian sympathisers.December 2, 2015
But others admitted they were terrorist sympathisers and described how their behaviour proved it.
Dressed my son, had breakfast, cleaned my teeth, went to work to teach. Average day in the life of a #terroristsympathiser. How's you day?— Watford Boy (@BoringLovechild) December 2, 2015
Was going to have coffee this morning, but now worried it may leave me looking like a #terroristsympathiser.
So wine it is.— Aileen McGibbon (@aileen_mcgibbon) December 2, 2015
I'm taking neighbours dog for a walk today because I'm a #TerroristSympathiser— jim macred (@smokejack) December 2, 2015
i'd rather see money go into education than war, therefore i am a #terroristsympathiser— sam hinrichs (@samhinrichs_) December 2, 2015
The vote, scheduled to take place after a hefty 10-hour debate on Wednesday, is expected to be close, but only called by the prime minister because he expects he can win it.
Around 100 Labour MPs are expected to vote for the air strikes. Corbyn will speak against the motion but Benn will speak for it during the 10-hour debate that will begin later this morning.
At least four Conservative MPs have said they will join the SNP and numerous Lib Dems in opposing the government's motion, which would extend air strikes the RAF is carrying out against IS in Iraq to Syria.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told ITV1's Good Morning Britain on Wednesday Cameron had been referring to "some high profile comments that people like Ken Livingstone have recently made which, in my view, are extremely ill-advised and do betray a long strand of sympathy for people that, frankly, most of us would have no sympathy for," he told.
"I don't think the Prime Minister was intending to characterise the great majority of people who are against us in this debate as in any way holding those views.
"We know that many people on the other side of this debate will have wrestled long and hard with their consciences."
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