The controversial vote on whether to begin a Syrian bombing campaign against ISIS, also now known as Daesh, divided Southwark’s MPs yesterday.
Following a full-day debate in Parliament, Harriet Harman joined Neil Coyle in backing the decision to extend British military action beyond Iraq into Syria, while Helen Hayes voted against the proposal.
The three Labour MPs were allowed a free vote on the issue after leader Jeremy Corbyn, brother to Southwark activist Piers Corbyn, chose not to enforce a block party vote.
Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, battled with the decision on whether to vote in favour of bombing before ultimately voting yes. Before voting, he told the News he was 90% sure he would support the bombing, despite a “terrible” approach from the Tories.
He said: “First of all, I think the government’s approach has been terrible. There is not enough information about how it would all take place and at the moment I’m apprehensive because they have not given anyone enough information.”
However on the day of the vote, he stated that doing nothing would be “immoral.”
He explained: “This has been a very tough decision to reach and I am glad many members and constituents have also said they will respect my conclusion. Whilst it makes me upset to conclude military action is required, I also believe it would be immoral to choose doing nothing over voting to support limited UK military involvement at this stage.
“However, we only have one, limited government option before us today. If the option is this one, limited proposal or doing nothing to help those at risk of attack by Daesh, then I fundamentally do not accept that people in the areas controlled by Daesh, or my constituents, wider London or the UK are safer by doing nothing.”
Helen Hayes, who was elected along with Mr Coyle at last May’s general election, however, joined her party leader in voting against the proposal.
She said: “There will be consequences if Parliament votes for airstrikes, but there will also be important consequences for Syria if the international community fails to take effective action to tackle Daesh and to stop the fighting.
“The current choice is being presented by many as a choice between action or inaction. I believe that there is a pressing need for action, but it must be the right course of action.”
Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, voted in favour of the decision to vote. The News contacted her office this morning and is waiting for a response.