PM 'should apologise to Corbyn' for terrorist sympathiser remarks

David Cameron and the Qatari Prime Minister

A senior Conservative MP has said David Cameron should have apologised and retracted the remarks accusing Jeremy Corbyn of being a “terrorist sympathiser” that he made before last month’s Commons debate on Syria.

James Gray, a member of the Defence committee, said the prime minister “should be more careful in his use of language. If it had been me, I would have taken the earliest opportunity simply to withdraw it and to apologise for any offence caused.”

He made the comments in a letter seen by the Guardian to a constituent who had raised concerns about Cameron’s use of the phrase. Distancing himself from the prime minister’s comments, Gray added: “Of course, people [who] are opposed to the extension of the airstrikes against Daesh and Iraq into Syria are not ‘terrorist sympathisers’.”

The North Wiltshire MP voted for airstrikes in Syria last month, explaining that he had “a great deal of concern” about the conflict and admitting that “there are strong arguments from both sides”.

In a public statement outlining the reasons for his vote, Gray said: “We are not ‘going to war with Syria’. We are at war with Daesh, and it is they who have declared it.”

He added: “Any ultra-hawk who argues that this will be the decisive solution to the problem, [that it] will somehow solve the myriad and complex problems in the region, is fooling himself and his listeners. The results of the action cannot be predicted with dogmatic certainty.”

Cameron had described Corbyn as a “terrorist sympathiser” in a private meeting with senior backbenchers of the 1922 committee. John Boaler, the constituent who complained to Gray over the prime minister’s comments, said: “I was quite surprised by how strongly he worded the letter.” He said the MP had been “agonising in the local paper over both sides of the arguments over bombing Syria.”

It is a month since MPs voted in support of UK airstrikes against Islamic State. On the same night that parliament gave its approval, RAF Tornados launched their first airstrikes on the Omar oil fields.

Typhoon jets joined in the attacks two nights later, followed by a third set of strikes on the same oil fields on 6 December.

Yet the relative calm since then suggests that the mission is failing to identify key targets in Raqqa, Syria, where Isis members are indistinguishable from civilians.

Jon Lake, a military aviation expert, told the Telegraph: “Britain’s air campaign in Syria so far is basically a non-event which can have had little, if any, impact on the balance of power on the ground.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Aisha Gani, for theguardian.com on Sunday 3rd January 2016 15.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010