121 Labour members vote against war * Biggest ever revolt against a government * Tory support helps save PM
Tony Blair's Iraqi war strategy was shaken to the core last night when 121 Labour backbenchers defied a three-line whip to join a cross-party revolt and tell the prime minister that the the case for military action against Saddam Hussein is not yet made.
The vote, which came at the end of an impassioned and impressive six-hour debate in the House of Commons, dramatically reshapes the debate for the three crucial weeks ahead.
The scale of the revolt, the biggest within a governing party for more than a century, saw Mr Blair's plea for endorsement of his pro-UN approach to disarming the Iraqi regime rejected in favour of a "not yet" amendment by 198 rebels, including 121 Labour MPs, 52 Liberal Democrats, 13 Conservatives and 12 nationalists. The vote against the amendment was 393, with Iain Duncan Smith leading most Tory MPs into the Blairite lobby.
Jubilant rebels rubbed home their point when the bland main motion backing Mr Blair's position was carried by 434 to 124. Fifty-nine Labour MPs voted against.
The rebellion spread far beyond the hard core of 30 to 40 leftwing MPs who have consistently opposed western military interventions. It easily surpassed the 67 who rebelled against disability cuts in May 1999, and the 47-strong revolt over lone parents' benefit in December 1997.
The vote "demonstrates there is no public support for a war. The prime minister has failed to convince the public or the party. It's time for him to think again", said the leftwinger Jeremy Corbyn, who has been campaigning against Saddam Hussein's brutality since the 1980s when his regime was backed by the west.