David Cameron’s strategy of not bringing a vote to Parliament on Syria until he was sure of a clear victory was handsomely vindicated tonight.
Unionist MPs were among backbenchers who contributed to the thumping majority of 174 (397-223) for extending the UK’s role in air strikes against Isis.
The prime minister is also retrospectively vindicated in seeking House of Commons approval for Syrian air strikes in 2013, which was narrowly defeated by MPs. But this is not to say that arguments against military action then were invalid, or indeed that the case against now is without merit.
Ultimately, however, in the aftermath of the atrocity in Paris, MPs sided with the sentiments of the Labour shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn over that of his leader Jeremy Corbyn, when the former said: “We must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria.”
They agreed with the senior Tory MP Sir Alan Duncan who said that to remain on the sidelines, “especially when there is a new and unequivocal UN resolution in place, ... would signal to the world that the UK has indeed chosen to withdraw”.
In this newspaper tomorrow (Thursday), two unionist politicians with military links – Brenda Hale and Doug Beattie – are making similar points, as did the two Ulster Unionist MPs Danny Kinahan and Tom Elliott, who said tonight: “We ask everyone to remember we did not seek this fight, but we cannot walk away from taking a stand against the slaughter of the innocent that is the tactic of those who attack us and despise our way of life.”
The eight DUP MPs threw their weight behind the motion.
But now is no time for triumphalism, as Tory MPs displayed in their ostentatious cheering of Mr Benn, partly to humiliate Mr Corbyn. The consequences of the vote are uncertain.
Mr Cameron spoke well tonight when he said: “There is honour in voting for, there is honour in voting against.”
The country can only now hope that British action will help usher in a vastly improved replacement to the wicked Isis rulers. But even if that is so, it will not be achieved swiftly.