Socialist Worker

Cameron's defeat is proof of protest power

Issue No. 2368

Up to a thousand people blocked Whitehall, in London, this week in a protest against plans to bomb Syria

Up to a thousand people blocked Whitehall, in London, this week in a protest against plans to bomb Syria (Pic: Guy Smallman)


David Cameron was humiliated last night, Thursday, when he suffered a historic Commons defeat on plans to bomb Syria.

He asked MPs to back military action but in an unprecedented blow, they voted by 285 to 272 against air strikes.

The vote reflects the overwhelming anti-war feeling among people in Britain – and the fear that missile strikes against Syria would be the start of yet another failed attempt by the West to control the Middle East.

Cameron, who had made a passionate plea for support for his proposals to launch attacks on Damascus after a chemical weapons attack last week, was forced to issue an embarrassing climbdown.

The shaken leader admitted it was clear that parliament “does not want to see British military action”. He added, “I get that. The government will act accordingly.”

Opposition MPs responded by shouting, “Resign”.

The last time a prime minister was defeated over an issue of war and peace was in 1782. As the scale of the historic defeat became clear Conservative MPs turned on each other. Education secretary Michael Gove barked, “You’re a disgrace, you’re a disgrace” at government rebels.

The result was also a blow to Nick Clegg who had ditched his party’s soft anti-war stance to side with the Conservatives.

“This marks a sea change in British politics. The government no longer has a blank cheque to go to war,” Labour MP and chair of the Stop the War Coalition, Jeremy Corbyn, told Socialist Worker.

The Coalition organised the two million-strong march against the Iraq war in 2003 – and hundreds of smaller protests and meetings all over Britain since.

At the time, commentators said such demonstrations were futile, despite their size, becauseTony Blair’s government continued with its war plans.

Now, even the right wing press acknowledge the popular feeling that opponents of the Iraq war were right all along – and that most people are against an attack on Syria.

The vote against bombing, rather than showing that parliament is “in tune with the people”, is proof that mass protest works.

“This victory isn’t just a result of the last few days, but the last ten years. It’s a vindication of all those who have marched to stop war,” says Corbyn.

The ruling class is riven by splits over how to drive forward its plans for more austerity and war. And, with Cameron’s clique shaken to the core, there is a great opportunity for everyone who is sick of the Tories to step up action against them.

Those fighting for decent pay, services and pensions can stand taller. Those battling against benefit cuts can shout louder. And, everyone who has resisted racism, imperialism and war can be sure that fighting back gets results.

Plans by the West to bomb Syria are in trouble, but the threat remains. There is a grave danger that the US will launch missiles against Damascus regardless of whether or not it has global support .

That’s why protests against them, planned for this weekend, are as vital as ever.

Let’s give the warmongers a taste of the anger that will hit them if they try to plough on with their bombing raid plans.

National demonstration: No attack on Syria
Saturday 31 August, assemble 12 noon, Temple Place (nearest tube Temple), London WC2R for march to Trafalgar Square via Parliament.
Called by Stop the War and CND

Visit stopwar.org.uk for details


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