Britain must decide whether to take on the “evil” of so-called Islamic State in its Syrian heartlands or “wait for them to attack us”, Prime Minister David Cameron has told MPs as he made the case for air strikes.
The Commons is due to vote on military action at 10pm tonight with more than 150 MPs wishing to speak in a marathon debate.
Starting that debate Mr Cameron insisted he had “respect” for those who will vote ‘no’ as he sought to play down a row over comments he made to Tory backbenchers last night, when he reportedly urged them not to vote with a “bunch of terrorist sympathisers”
But he warned MPs: “Isil have brutally murdered British hostages. They have inspired the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7 on the beaches of Tunisia.
“And they have plotted atrocity after atrocity on the streets here at home.
“Since November last year, our security services have foiled no fewer than seven different plots against our people. So this threat is very real.
“The question is this: do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands, from where they are plotting to kill British people.
“Or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us.”
Seeking to head off complaints about his attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Cameron told MPs: “The question before the House today is how we keep the British people safe from the threat posed by Isil.
“Let me be clear from the outset. This is not about whether we want to fight terrorism, it’s about how best we do that. I respect governments of all political colours in this country have had to fight terrorism and had to take the people with them as they do so.
“I respect people have come to a different view from the Government than the one I will set out today and those who vote accordingly.”
Former Labour minister Caroline Flint, the Don Valley MP, was the first to call on Mr Cameron to retract his remark, intervening to say: “Will you apologise for the remarks made?”
Mr Cameron said he could “not have been clearer” in his opening remarks.