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Cameron's strongest sign yet he will call for Syria airstrikes vote

Published 28/11/2015

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has sent a survey to party members asking for their views on air strikes against IS in Syria
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has sent a survey to party members asking for their views on air strikes against IS in Syria

David Cameron has given his strongest indication yet that he will call a vote on British airstrikes in Syria despite Jeremy's Corbyn's opposition to action.

The Prime Minister said all MPs would have to make their minds up "when the choice comes".

The comments, in a press conference at the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit in Malta, come with senior ministers contacting Labour MPs to try to convince them to back an extension of RAF strikes against Islamic State (IS).

"I hope that when the choice comes people will indicate that this is the right thing for Britain to do. It is and we should do it," Mr Cameron said.

Outlining his case last week for extending UK military action from Iraq into Syria, Mr Cameron stressed he would only hold a Commons vote on the issue if he was certain of securing a majority.

The depth of divisions on the Labour front bench over the issue has since become clearer.

After a tense shadow cabinet meeting on Thursday, Mr Corbyn - a vice-president of the Stop the War pressure group - made clear he would not support any bombing.

But a series of front-benchers, including shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn and deputy leader Tom Watson, broke cover to contradict his view.

Mr Corbyn has yet to decide whether he will attempt to impose a whip on his MPs if a vote is called - a step that would potentially mean senior resignations and be defied by a large proportion of the parliamentary party.

Mr Cameron confirmed Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond were calling Labour MPs this weekend to try to win their backing.

He highlighted his statement to parliament last week in which he described a "comprehensive" strategy for dealing with IS and ending the civil war in Syria, including international diplomacy to establish a "transition" from president Bashar Assad.

"All these points will be made in discussions that we will be having with members," Mr Cameron said.

Mr Corbyn will seek to face down critics and set out his position to the public in an appearance on the BBC's Andrew Marr show tomorrow.

The Labour leader had dropped other engagements this weekend as he considered how to handle a potentially disastrous rebellion.

He has also written to activists asking for their views on military action in Syria - sparking accusations that he is trying to use his grassroots powerbase to "bounce" the shadow cabinet into submission.

Mr Corbyn is due to hold another meeting of his senior team on Monday before a critical gathering of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) that evening.

Mr Fallon, one of the most vocal backers of airstrikes, will also be on the Marr programme.

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