Defence secretary Michael Fallon insisted the UK would only use air strikes after former foreign secretary William Hague said military action should not rule out the use of “small specialist ground forces in the future from western nations if that helps tip the balance on the ground”.
The air bombardment was hailed by France as a response to the call for “European solidarity” issued by President Francois Hollande in the aftermath of last month’s Paris terror attacks. Mr Hollande’s call was echoed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, who said opponents of IS must come together “in one strong fist”.
However, there were bitter recriminations in the Labour Party after Wednesday’s vote exposed the depths of the divisions within its ranks.
The 66 Labour MPs who voted with the government included shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, whose powerful appeal for actions against IS “fascists” drew a round of applause from MPs on both sides of the House.
However, shadow chancellor John McDonnell — leader Jeremy Corbyn’s closest ally — poured cold water on his speech, saying it reminded him of Tony Blair’s speech taking the country into the Iraq War.