A Tory MP drew outraged jeers from the House of Commons for using the debate over Iraq airstrikes to make a party political jibe about the deficit.
Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire, interjected during Ed Miliband's speech at the debate on Friday morning to suggest Labour had left a mess in Iraq, and a mess of the economy. Traditionally, MPs refrain from personal attacks on other parties during such serious debates, where the lives of military personnel are potentially at risk.
“Does he [Miliband] agree with me that this government has a moral obligation to help people in their hour of need? An obligation which — like the deficit — this government did not create but this government’s got to deal with," he said.
"If I may say so, the Honorable Gentleman does himself no credit by that intervention," Miliband replied, as his shadow cabinet colleagues Harriet Harman and Douglas Alexander shook their heads beside him.
His comments drew gasps from both sides of the House and an angry response on Twitter.
Andrew Bridgen MP - you tried to score party political points on the deficit during a debate on war and peace. - hang your head in shame— Mark Ferguson (@Markfergusonuk) September 26, 2014ADVERTISEMENT
The Tories should be ashamed of Andrew Bridgen's intervention just now. Playing disgraceful petty politics with matters of war and peace.— Jack Butler (@jackbutler92) September 26, 2014
Very good speech by Ed M, especially the reference to Robin Cook. Shamefully abysmal intervention by Andrew Bridgen "MP".— William French (@redstarbelsize) September 26, 2014
Spectacular own goal from Andrew Bridgen, saying Labour has particular responsibility re Iraq, as it does on "the deficit".— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) September 26, 2014
Earlier in his speech, Miliband acknowledged that there was "unease" about intervention following the 2003 Iraq War but said "we cannot simply stand by" against the threat of IS.
"As we debate this issue today, I understand the qualms and, for some, deep unease that there will be about this undertaking both in this House and in the country. Those who advocate military action today have to persuade members of this House not just that Isil is an evil organisation but that it is we, Britain, who should take military action in Iraq."
He said action against IS met his six criteria for intervention: there was a just cause, it was a last resort, there was a clear legal base, military action had a reasonable prospect of success, it had regional support, and was proportionate.
The Labour leader said the legacy of the Iraq War meant there was a "heightened responsibility" on the UK to support the country's government.
Quoting Robin Cook's resignation speech on the eve of the Iraq War, Miliband said the former foreign secretary and leader of the Commons had told MPs "our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules".
MPs will vote later on whether to back the Royal Air Force joining the US-led bombing campaign, but British air strikes will be limited to Iraq rather than IS strongholds in Syria.
Prior to Ed Miliband's speech, prime minister David Cameron said the shadow of the 2003 decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq "hangs heavy" over today's vote but told MPs: "We must not use past mistakes as an excuse for indifference or inaction. We will play our part in destroying these evil extremists, we will support our Muslim friends around the world as the reclaim their religion and, once again, our inspirational armed forces will put themselves in harm's way to keep our people and our country safe."