South Yorkshire MPs split over bombing Syria as first missiles dropped

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RAF Tornado jets have carried out the first British bombing runs over Syria, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The air strikes were carried out within hours of a vote by MPs in the Commons yesterday to back extending operations against Islamic State (IS) from neighbouring Iraq.

Four RAF Tornado jets, which carry a range of munitions including guided bombs and missiles, took off from the Akrotiri base in Cyprus but defence officials refused to be drawn on the targets of their mission.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said MPs took the ‘right decision to keep the UK safe’ after they overwhelmingly backed air strikes.

MPs voted by 397 to 223 last night in favour of extending British action to quash IS, also known as Isis, Isil and Daesh, from Iraq into its Syrian strongholds - a majority of 174.

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn was lauded by MPs from across the House for making a powerful speech warning his party that ‘we never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road’.

He was among 66 Labour MPs who voted with the Government while seven Conservatives opposed the plans for military action.

Mr Cameron said: “I believe the House has taken the right decision to keep the UK safe - military action in Syria as one part of a broader strategy.”

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain was ‘safer’ following the decision to back air strikes.

Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis, who voted for military action, admitted there was ‘never a perfect solution’ but said it was misguided to think IS would leave Britain alone if they were not attacked.

The former soldier highlighted comments from the socialist French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who said Britain’s capabilities would put ‘additional and extreme pressure’ on IS, as he highlighted a Labour argument for action.

Mr Jarvis said: “The Labour Party has a proud and long tradition of standing up for the national interest when our country is under threat.

“When the War Cabinet met in 1940, it was the Labour ministers Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood that tipped the balance in favour of resisting Nazism.

“Daesh are the fascists of our time and I believe there is still a dignity in uniting with our allies in common cause against a common enemy in defence of our common humanity and that is what I hope we will do.”

Mr Jarvis said there was no logic in fighting IS in Iraq, but not Syria, and stressed that Britain does not have the ‘luxury’ of waiting for an agreement on political transition in Syria.

The Barnsley Central MP said: “The diplomacy to broker the end of the Syrian civil war must play an essential role.

“In an ideal world we would perhaps wait for the transition timetable agreed at the Vienna conference to be concluded.

“But I don’t believe that the scale of the threat we face affords us that luxury.

“I understand the voices cautioning against our broader engagement but the test for all of us however must be the hastening of the defeat of Daesh and there is no realistic strategy for bringing about Daesh’s defeat without degrading their command and control structures in Raqqa.”

Doncaster MP and former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who voted against action, said: “I do not think the case has been adequately made that extending British air strikes will either defeat Isil or make us safer here at home.

“A strategy for the defeat of Isil depends crucially on ground troops and a political settlement, or the path towards a political settlement. That is because Isil cannot be defeated from the air alone, as even supporters of air strikes acknowledge, and because Isil’s success depends on the vacuum created from a multi-sided civil war.

“Neither an explanation of who the ground troops will be, nor the political settlement we are seeking in Syria, or how we get there, has been provided by the Government. We would be going ahead without an adequate road-map or a clear strategy.

“The other case made for extending air strikes is that it will make us safer here at home. But I do not believe this case has been adequately made either.

“Isil is a network, not simply an organisation with a headquarters. What is more, nearly 3,000 coalition air strikes have already been aimed at Syria and the case for what British air strikes will add is weak.

“Isil can only be defeated in Syria with an effective and comprehensive plan. That is what is required and the proposition fails to meet that test. That is why I will be voting against the motion.”