Blair Wins Massive Parliamentary Vote 412-149

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Blair battles on after record rebellion
Amazing that The Guardian calls this a record rebellion. It may be a record but the final result was massively in favor of war. I saw part of Tony Blair’s speech and it was fantastic. Well done, Mr. Prime Minister.

Tony Blair last night won a historic Commons mandate for the coming war with Iraq when a day of high-octane rhetoric and low political arm-twisting managed to contain the surging Labour rebellion to 139 MPs, a record revolt but not a lethal one.

After the anti-war amendment asserting that the case for war is “not yet proven” won 217 votes against a decisive cross-party government vote of 396 MPs, Downing Street appealed for a divided country to rally behind Britain’s 45,000-strong military expedition.

As whips claimed that the Labour rebels had added only 17 extra Labour votes to their 122 tally three weeks ago – when voting was 393 to 198 – loyalists breathed a collective sigh of relief. Around 20 Labour MPs abstained.

Charles Clarke, the education secretary, underlined how parliament had never previously been allowed a vote on a war. “We won a majority in parliament, a majority in the Labour party, a majority of the backbenchers,” he said.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said another minister. Some Blair allies said that around 20 MPs were persuaded to back Mr Blair in the closing hours of the 10-hour debate – and, they claimed, possibly averted his resignation if a majority of Labour’s 410 MPs had voted against him.

That was never likely, though 180 rebels would have been a crushing blow.

Anti-war MPs vowed to fight on; they are convinced that disaster awaits Mr Blair during the campaign dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom by the US yesterday.

On the main motion endorsing the Blair strategy the majority was convincing – 412 to 149 – as some rebels backed off. Eighty-four Labour MPs, one in five, joined Liberal Democrats, nationalists and up to 15 Conservatives in the No lobby.

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