Two Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against airstrikes?

It appears that the Liberal Democrats may not have a full set of MPs going through the Aye lobby tonight. The BBC’s Norman Smith tweeted a while ago:

Unfortunately, now that we can list our MPs in a single tweet, tracking down the two was not hard.

Even if John Barrett, former Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West hadn’t left this comment:

Norman Lamb was not at the meeting last night where our MPs agreed to support the Government (as he was in Oldham) and is planning to listen to the debate today before he decides how to vote.

There is still a chance that at least one Lib-Dem MP might vote against the Government’s motion.

we’d still have Norman’s Twitter feed to identify him:

And he’s been on this World Service podcast from about 48 minutes in saying that he was undecided and listening to the debate. He voted in favour of action in Syria in 2013, but although he sees the case for confronting “this mediaeval force” but he feels it is the wrong response and is not sure whether air attacks is the right way to combat force dispersed in civilian community. He remains to be convinced but will not make a decision till the end of the debate.

We know that Clegg, Carmichael, Farron, Brake, Mulholland and Pugh have all made strong statements in favour so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that that leaves Ceredigion MP Mark Williams.

We will see what happens at 10pm.

In fact we can update you now. Norman Lamb has just confirmed he will be voting against the Government.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • John Barrett 2nd Dec '15 - 8:19pm

    It would be good if we had at least one MP out of the eight who would reflect the views 72% of Scots in today’s poll who oppose air strikes, even if it not our sole Scottish Lib-dem MP

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Dec '15 - 8:23pm

    1st point: don’t do a Labour and the equivalent of “putting Corbyn on the ballot” due to pressure from activists – do what you believe is right. We never know for sure which way it will go.

    2nd and last point for now: there is no alternative military option available right now because only the government’s quasi-collectively agreed one has a chance of winning a vote in the Commons.

    I know some think tanks have got their own preferred plans, but they either don’t have diplomatic support right now or support in the Commons. It’s Cameron’s motion or nothing and I think it would be a humiliation for the country if we were to abandon calls from our allies to extend our airstrikes against Daesh over a border that almost no-longer exists. In fact, recognising this border when others don’t can increase risk to civilians and definitely cost.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Dec '15 - 8:24pm

    Norman Smith should check what Tim Farron actually said today and then revise his tweet.

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Dec '15 - 8:42pm


    I do think we could have survived humiliation from our allies quite well. People doing something pointless and rather foolish always want others to join in….

    I was extremely impressed by Alex Salmond’s statement today, which encapsulated pretty much everything I think about the issue.

    One issue that has not been raised much is the effect on community relations in Britain. I walk through a multiethnic housing estate near Leeds University every morning. Someone pasted a notice on the wall a week or so ago saying “Please stop killing children in Syria”. With a load of photos of the aftermath of bombing pasted into it. So while, like you I worry a little about the feelings of the French, I worry that what we are about to do will set back our already fractured relationship with British muslims still further, and for no material change in the military position in Syria.

  • Daily Mail reporter stating 2 Lib Dems MPs to “rebel”.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 2nd Dec '15 - 9:16pm

    Yes, I’m hearing 6-2. I think it’s good that the view of a significant party of the party is being represented. I’m inclined to think that these decisions should be based on conscience and principle. I may disagree with Tim Farron on this, but I am incredibly proud of the principled way that he has stood up for what he believes. His speech in the Commons was very good. But if I’d been an MP I’d be voting against.

  • There are strong, Liberal arguments for either side of this debate. I respect whichever way the vote as I don’t doubt the serious consideration and the intent behind how they chose to vote. We may have 8 MPs, but I remain proud to belong to the same party – they have shown great, substantive quality.

  • Is Tim whipping the vote? Does this mean Norman will have to step down from his position as spokesperson for health? I hope Tim basically treats this as a free vote.

  • Agree with, William.

  • Liberal Neil 2nd Dec '15 - 9:43pm

    I don’t think there will be any pressure on any of our MPs to vote a particular way.

    There certainly won’t be any comeback on them.

  • Graham Evans 2nd Dec '15 - 10:02pm

    @ATF “There are strong, Liberal arguments for either side of this debate”. I fail to see what is liberal about supporting a futile bombing campaign. Had the argument been put simply in terms of “We have a duty to support our allies, particularly the USA and France” then I could have respected the decision to vote for bombing, even if I disagreed with it. However, the supporters of bombing, starting with David Cameron, and ending evidently with most Liberal Democrats MPs, have sought cloak the decision as some sort of strategic plan. And this it plainly is not. I cannot respect those who resort to this sort of sophistry.

  • Roger Billins 2nd Dec '15 - 10:10pm

    If I was an M.P and had doubts how to vote, my decision would have been made by the powerful speech made by Hilary Benn. Powerful, brilliant and comprehensive. Why isn’t he leader of Labour instead of the present clown.

  • @Graham Evans

    There is no attempt to cloak anything. Liberalism is a univeral idea. The desire for all to live in a free society is one we will both share, I just happen to think air strikes may play a role as part of wider international cooperation in securing that for others as per Kosovo and Bosnia. I perfectly respect that others may think the action will be futile (such a view is also a strategic view), but to say that position is sophistry is to cast a view on the conscience of others without a full idea of what someone else may think of the basis of their intention.

  • Graham Evans 2nd Dec '15 - 10:27pm

    @ATF You have evidently come to a judgement based on your own analysis of the situation, and that I can respect. However, that it not what was being put forward by David Cameron, who recognised that simply arguing for our involvement on the basis of solidarity with our allies, the US and France, would not wash with the British public. Instead he gave the impression that he had answers to all the reservations expressed by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. The arguments which he put forward were however full of holes. As for Tim Farron, he too sought to give the impression that Liberal Democrat support for bombing would be on the basis of five well thought out tests. Even given the vagueness, and questionableness, of some of his tests, the Government has failed to fulfil them, and yet Tim now claims that what is on offer is as good as fulfilling the tests. This is pure sophistry.

  • Tony Greaves 2nd Dec '15 - 10:28pm

    Here is what I said in the Lords today:

    Lord Greaves (LD):
    My Lords, if we had the Motion in front of us to vote on tonight I would vote against it. In doing so, I would be voting for the views of the majority of members of my party. Last night, when the Liberal Democrat MPs said they were going to support the Government, with various caveats, a ripple of surprise and shock went through the party. Some of us spent a great deal of time last night talking to people who were angry and felt they had been let down by our MPs.

    British bombing will have little effect in practice. On its own it will not make any real difference. In that and many other respects I associate myself with the remarks that have just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. The danger of mission creep is a real problem.

    The main impact of the Government’s Motion, this debate and the debate in the past few days has not been on international politics but on British politics. I have tried to understand why the Government have brought this forward at this time but I find it difficult to do so. My noble friend Lord Taverne may have some ideas.

    Last week, the Liberal Democrats and Tim Farron, as leader, stated five conditions for supporting the Government today. He wrote to members of the party and said:

    “We are writing to outline the criteria against which we will judge our response”.

    He referred to five conditions. I emphasise the word “conditions”. The first was legal and I do not want to say anything more than my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford has said because he is an expert on these matters and I am not. The second was a wider diplomatic framework,

    “including efforts towards a no-bomb zone to protect civilians.

    I see no evidence that there has been any progress on that.

  • Tony Greaves 2nd Dec '15 - 10:28pm


    The third was the United Kingdom to lead—I underline the word “lead”—a concerted international effort to put pressure on Gulf states, specifically Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, to stop the funding of jihadi groups and to do much more to assist in the effort to defeat ISIL, establish peace in Syria and help with the refugee situation. It was added:

    “They are currently doing very little”.

    I think that was a reference to the Government. I see no progress whatever on that or any commitments given. The fifth was domestic. Among other things he said:

    “We call on the Government to step up its acceptance of Syrian refugees, and opt in to Save the Children’s proposal to rehome 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from within Europe”.

    The chances of this Government agreeing to that are close to zero. If I am wrong, I will hold my hand up and praise them to the heavens.

    We are also told that things have changed because the Vienna talks are taking place and that this means there will be co-ordinated international action, a plan for the future, plans for the regeneration of Syria, rebuilding and so on. That seems to be an argument for waiting until that is in place before taking the kind of action now being proposed.

    I do not believe that what is being put forward by the Government will work. In three or four or six months’ time we will be debating this issue again and people will want to do more. There is an old maxim: if you are in doubt about things and not completely convinced, first do no harm. Bombing at this time in Syria and Raqqa will do more harm than good.

  • Much respect to Tony Greaves.

  • John Barrett 3rd Dec '15 - 12:11am

    It was 6-2

  • Tsar Nicholas 3rd Dec '15 - 1:35am

    Well done, Mark and Norman.

  • Conor McGovern 3rd Dec '15 - 6:54am

    Well done Norman Lamb!

  • John Roffey 3rd Dec '15 - 8:35am

    Yes well done Tony Greaves and well done Norman Lamb and Mark Williams – together you have probably prevented a good number of members leaving the Party and making it possible for others to join or rejoin.

    As for those who did support the motion – I have little doubt that, apart from the most cold blooded amongst you, you will regret your decision in time and will be haunted by the images of the mangled bodies of the innocents killed in these strikes as they emerge – whilst the conflict continues without any sign of ending.

    As TG implies – the highest good is to be blameless.

  • I am glad MPs voted with their consciences and that 75% of our MPs (!) voted what I believe to be the right way.

    Tony Greaves’ claim to speak for the majority of members is a nonsense.

    UN support. Backing our allies. Targeting people who would gleefully kill everyone reading this, and me, and my wife and daughter. Trying to get this horrendous, endless and miserable conflict to stop sooner. What other reasons are needed?

  • Martin Pierce 3rd Dec '15 - 9:27am

    Wonder how Norman and Mark are feeling about Nick Clegg stating clearly on Tuesday that all 8 would support the motion when actually at least 2 were still thinking about it and eventually voted the other way. On what basis did Nick make that statement then?

  • Tony Greaves, Well said!……………..The first/only rule for our airstrikes should have been, “Will it make any difference?”

    I suggest , not…The US, with their vastly superior forces, have been bombing for ages and, as often as not, their sorties are returning without finding suitable targets….
    If it is about showing solidarity with our allies (especially France)? That smacks of Iraq/Libya. Let us remember that France didn’t show solidarity over Iraq; why? because they thought it wrong….

    Cameron, like Blair, resorted to insulting his opponents, supplying ‘dodgy’ facts, and promising to make us ‘safer’…

    Finally, having taken such a serious step, the speaker laughed and joked with the house. Such gravitas, eh?

  • John Roffey 3rd Dec '15 - 9:45am

    Mark 3rd Dec ’15 – 8:42am

    “Targeting people who would gleefully kill everyone reading this, and me, and my wife and daughter”

    Yes – but the likelihood is about a million to one of this happening – but for the innocents in Syria the chances have increased from likely to more likely.

  • Steve Comer 3rd Dec '15 - 9:58am

    Mark: Why isTony Greaves’s claim nonsense?
    None of us know the views of all party members, because we were’nt even considered….

  • Steve Coltman 3rd Dec '15 - 10:00am

    Up until a few weeks ago I would have been with Crispin Blunt and Max Hastings in opposing military action which did not have any proper political objective. I am just about swayed to support the motion to bomb ISIS but only because not doing so would be walking away from our ally France just after they had suffered a grievous attack. But there still is no proper political strategy. It is a conceit to imagine that the UK can lead anything in this horrendously complex war, we are bit-part players with Saudi, Turkey, Russia and Iran all playing a bigger role than we do, or could. We can add a bit to ISIS’s problems; that is all. We should be asking some hard questions like – do we want to try and put Iraq and Syria back together again as they were? Is this realistic or even desirable? If no, then what? Without big questions like this being addressed no solution is possible.
    Final point – we should be making more of the fact that the vast majority of ISIS’s victims are Muslims. ISIS are not just the enemy of Christians, Atheists, Hindus and Bhuddists, they are the enemy of the ‘wrong kind’ of Muslim and ‘not-good-enough (by their definition)’ Muslims. As one Muslim lad said on TV recently: “They (ISIS) set off a bomb, in a mosque, on a Friday, during Ramadan. What kind of Muslim would do that?”

  • Once again, can I remind everyone that no-one, literally no-one, is saying that DAESH should not be tackled. Some people want to do this by bombing which has been proved ineffective, and others want to do it by cutting off their funding from Saudi Arabia (as heinous a regime as the one we are bombing) and Turkey.

  • John Roffey 3rd Dec '15 - 10:51am

    Phyllis 3rd Dec ’15 – 10:02am

    There is an assumption made that all of the participants from the West do want the conflict to end, however, given the advantages Cameron & Osborne have given the global corporations from the beginning of the Coalition and since – are their motives misunderstood and this, much ignored, group being forgotten?

    “Masters Of War”

    Come you masters of war
    You that build all the guns
    You that build the death planes
    You that build all the bombs
    You that hide behind walls
    You that hide behind desks
    I just want you to know
    I can see through your masks.

    You that never done nothin’
    But build to destroy
    You play with my world
    Like it’s your little toy
    You put a gun in my hand
    And you hide from my eyes
    And you turn and run farther
    When the fast bullets fly.

  • John Roffey 3rd Dec ………

    Agreed…Although my real fear of how things will escalate,’ when our bombing alone doesn’t work, would be Pete Seeger’s “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy”..

    In almost 50 years, from Vietnam to Iraq, time and again his words have been proved true

  • John Roffey 3rd Dec '15 - 12:11pm

    expats 3rd Dec ’15 – 11:38am

    Yes -and ‘follow the money’ does seem appropriate with many of these adventures.

    For me this is particularly troubling at a time when global warming/climate change needs real investment and Osborne was so ready to transfer money earmarked for these investments to spend on weaponry.

  • Tony Dawson 3rd Dec '15 - 12:12pm

    We have had detailed ‘pitches’ from three MPs on this subject published here. I am intrigued at reports that Norman Lamb supported bombing of Assad but not ISIS. If this is correct, I would be intrigued to here his detailed arguments.

  • Nigel Jones 3rd Dec '15 - 2:56pm

    It is only in recent weeks that the debate started among the population generally; hence not enough time even for LDV to publish the results of a survey in our party. David Cameron rushed to the decision even quicker than most thought; cleverly grabbing the moment among MPs to get what he wanted. Hilary Been put it eloquently that he believes in instant reaction to terrorism, rather than considering long-term solutions and his comparisons with past wars and morality were false.
    For some strange reason, Tim started well, then rushed to a decision , even though his 5 conditions have not been met. In order to keep unity in the party, people are saying about respecting other views; in so far as people should be allowed to explain themselves without being shouted down that is fine. But it is hard to accept that our MPs have thought it through when they claim there is recognition of the 5 conditions. The government motion was unbelievably deceptive; it was woolly worded, claiming to represent a broad strategy when it does not; that is almost lying to the public and we appear to be complicit in that !!
    The only clear action to result from the motion is bombing. How can our MPs vote for that alone ?? Our 5 conditions were not there, so how can I respect those who claim they were ? The final decision was politically inept.

  • Bruce Hosie 3rd Dec '15 - 4:33pm

    I think the party just signed it’s own death warrant in Scotland, things could not get much worse, but hey there you go. I don’t agree with the decision to bomb, it adds nothing to what is already happening in Syria. This country is at war all the time, has there ever been a year when this country has not been fighting somewhere, I suspect that the fact we are constantly at war kind of shows that war does not work in the main. While I accept there are mixed views in the party overall from my own peer group here in Scotland I can count on one hand those that are for this. You can have all the principles in the world but a wrong decision is still a wrong decision and this one will haunt us for years to come. What a sad day to be a Liberal.

  • Why are people swayed by an impressive speech? Remember the other orators who led wars. Hitler anyone? Speeches are acting. Think for yourselves.

  • Steve – it’s nonsense precisely because no one knows the views of party members!

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