PM 'did not intend to brand all air strike opponents as terrorist sympathisers'

Hammond Defends Cameron's 'Terrorist Sympathisers' Comment

David Cameron did not intend to brand all opponents of air strikes against Islamic State in Syria as "terrorist sympathisers", Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

The Prime Minister infuriated Labour after he urged Conservative MPs not to go through the division lobbies with people who he described as a "bunch of terrorist sympathisers" in tonight's crucial Commons vote on military action.

A spokesman for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn denounced his comments - made last night at a private gathering of Tory MPs - as a "desperate slur" which demeaned his office.

But Mr Hammond insisted they were not aimed at long-standing opponents of war like Mr Corbyn, whose views he said were "obviously sincerely held".

He suggested Mr Cameron was thinking of former London mayor Ken Livingstone - a close ally of Mr Corbyn - who caused outrage with his recent claim that the 7/7 London bombers "gave their lives" for a cause they believed in.

"I suspect that he was referring to some high profile comments that people like Ken Livingstone have recently made which, in my view, are extremely ill-advised and do betray a long strand of sympathy for people that, frankly, most of us would have no sympathy for," he told ITV1's Good Morning Britain.

"I don't think the Prime Minister was intending to characterise the great majority of people who are against us in this debate as in any way holding those views.

"We know that many people on the other side of this debate will have wrestled long and hard with their consciences."