Gung-ho Prime Minister David Cameron blitzkrieged Britain’s costly multimillion-pound involvement in the Libyan war through a tame Parliament yesterday.
Only a small band of MPs stood firm and registered their opposition during last night’s Commons debate on the military onslaught launched in the name of the United Nations.
While many MPs expressed doubts about the outcome of the operation, just 15 MPs voted against, including two tellers – 11 Labour, plus Green MP Caroline Lucas, Tory John Barron and two SDLP members.
Opposition leader Ed Miliband and the vast majority of Labour MPs supported the government, which secured a massive total of 557 votes. A number of sceptical Labour MPs abstained.
Mr Cameron tried to play down conflicting statements from within his own camp over the conduct of the war and the scale of bloodshed.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox suggested that a military strike “targeting” Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi could “potentially be a possibility.”
But the head of Britain’s armed forces Gen Sir David Richards declared that Gaddafi was “absolutely not” a target, since this was “not allowed” under UN resolution 1973.
Military chiefs admitted that well over 100 Tomahawk missiles were fired into Libya by the US and Britain in just one night at a cost of around half a million pounds each.
Left MPs Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Dennis Skinner were among those opposing military action.
Mr Corbyn said: “We seem to have managed to find a vast amount of money for a conflict that has not been prepared, considered or operated in a rational manner.”
He issued a stark warning against suggestions of a future ground offensive, adding: “They are completely ignoring the abuses of human rights and loss of life in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.”
Mr Skinner protested: “For the past 10 months this Tory-led government has been complaining about Britain’s debts. What they are doing in Libya is piling up even more.”
Mr Skinner cautioned against the mention in the UN resolution of “all necessary measures.” This could lead to ground forces going in, “and then it will be like Iraq and Afghanistan all over again.”
Labour MP Paul Flynn said that “on balance” he supported Britain’s military action, since “you have a leader out of control threatening to slaughter his own people.”
Mr Flynn insisted that Libya was different from Iraq and the Helmand province of Afghanistan, where “the use of British troops was a terrible mistake.”
However, Mr McDonnell warned that this latest use of military force would “prove costly in terms of human suffering and the cuts in public expenditure that will be needed to pay for each missile fired and every war plane launched.”