MP leads backlash to intervention
A Westcountry Conservative MP has warned ordering backbenchers to back the Government over Syria is an "abuse of power" as parliamentary support for action last night appeared fragile.
David Cameron will today ask MPs to vote on the UK's proposed response to the Syrian chemical weapons attack, with a limited military strike the most likely proposal put before the Commons.
But with Labour's early support for intervention shifting, which could encourage Tory and Liberal Democrat rebels to oppose their party leaders, parliamentary support is far from assured.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, led the Tory backlash against intervention – adding it was "disgraceful" that backbenchers could be whipped to back the Government rather than be given a free vote.
In an open letter to constituents, she said: "Our outrage at their use by a vile regime does not, however, justify unilateral action without a realistic appraisal of the wider risks and costs of escalation."
Meanwhile, Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter and a minister under Tony Blair during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, said "doing nothing" after chemical weapons were deployed sets "a very dangerous precedent".
Labour, the Opposition, said it will table an amendment to today's Commons motion and will not back the Government unless UN weapons inspectors produce "compelling evidence" the Assad regime used chemical weapons.
The Lib Dems will demonstrate the "unity" of the Coalition with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg making the closing speech after Mr Cameron makes the opening address.
But some Lib Dems oppose intervention. Andrew George, the party's MP for St Ives, said: "Military action will change the problem, not solve it."
Dr Wollaston, a former Dartmoor GP, took to social media amid reports Tory backbenchers will be told by party whips "to ensure that they back the Government position".
She wrote: "Parliament is the only opportunity for people to have say on Syria. A whipped vote undermines democracy and is an abuse of power."
In the letter the MP added: "The first duty of Government is to protect our own national interest; exploding a proxy war into global conflict is in no-one's interest, least of all the people of Syria."
Mr Bradshaw said: "There should have been a no-fly-zone and safe havens in Syria two years ago. I shall want to see the motion and hear the case made in Parliament, but doing nothing about the use of chemical weapons would set a very dangerous precedent indeed.
"Ultimately, if it does come to action of some kind, the responsibility will lie squarely with the Assad dictatorship and the Russian Government, which has consistently blocked moves at the United Nations aimed at resolving the Syrian crisis."