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Exclusive interview: Jim Fitzpatrick quit Labour front bench over fear of UK being ‘bounced’ into military action in Syria

PUBLISHED: 15:24 30 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:24 30 August 2013

Jim Fitzpatrick quit the Labour front bench in protest at the prospect of UK military intervention in Syria

Jim Fitzpatrick quit the Labour front bench in protest at the prospect of UK military intervention in Syria

Archant

Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick has said his sensational decision to quit the shadow cabinet before a crunch vote on Syria was down to fears the UK was being “bounced into military action”.

Mr Fitzpatrick spectacularly quit his role as shadow transport minister on the Labour front bench last night in protest at the prospect of UK military intervention in the Syrian conflict.

In an exclusive interview he told the East London Advertiser the government would be “foolish” not to learn from Iraq – an invasion he backed at the time.

“Straight-forwardly I didn’t think that military intervention would resolve the situation in Syria, I thought it would only make it worse”, he explained.

“Having seen how difficult it is to extricate yourself, it would be foolish not to learn some lessons from that.

“Iraq was after 10 years of Saddam Hussain playing cat and mouse with UN inspectors. The situation in Syria was enormously different. We were being bounced into military action in a matter of days.”

Prime minister David Cameron was defeated in a vote in the Commons last night, just hours after the Labour MP’s resignation - with dozens of Tory and Lib Dem MPs rebelling.

“The prime minister has been badly damaged,” said Mr Fitzpatrick. “He thought he was going to bounce the country into military action.”

He added that his decision to quit was a difficult one, having occupied front bench positions for the majority of his time as an MP since he was elected in 1997.

He said: “To give that up wasn’t something I would do lightly. It was difficult to arrive at the conclusion.

“I didn’t think that it was appropriate to undertake military action, so I told Ed Miliband I couldn’t support the amendment, and I had no choice.”

And he said it was “unlikely” he would return to front bench politics under Mr Miliband’s leadership, adding: “If there’s one thing a party leader has to do, they have to maintain discipline, and when someone breaks rules it’s very difficult for them to return.

“I have lots of very talented colleagues who have been really keen to get an opportunity to show what they can do. I will have to spend quite some time on the back benches and see.”

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