David Cameron has just said that the Commons will debate extending air strikes against Islamic State to Syria on Wednesday. Given that Cameron has repeatedly made clear that he wouldn’t bring the issue back to the Commons unless he was confident he could win a vote with a clear majority, this must mean that he calculates that Labour granting its MPs a free vote means that he now has the numbers he needs.
Speaking from the Cabinet Room, Cameron argued that this ‘was the right thing to do’ as the UK’s allies had asked for this country’s help and because Islamic State does not respect the Iraqi / Syrian border, it makes little sense to attack it only on one side of this border. Cameron was also clear that he knew that there was no military solution to the problem of Islamic State.
I suspect that this is the tone we will see Cameron adopt in the Commons on Wednesday, stressing that he knows air strike and military force alone cannot be the answer. Instead, he’ll frame this as a question of Britain going to the aid of its allies when asked and point out that it makes little sense to bomb Islamic State in Iraq but not Syria.
The government will be hoping for a majority well into double figures to show that military action does have the clear support of the Commons.