A vicious behind-the-scenes spat has seen the Labour leader accused of “flipping and flopping” and Downing Street accused of dishing out personal insults which have undermined its claims that it wants to secure a consensus.
Asked if Labour’s stance had given succour to Assad at a briefing in Westminster, reporters were told: “Yes. A lot of the arguments over this could give succour to the regime.
“It’s fair to say that I think the Prime Minister feels Ed Miliband has been playing politics on this. Very, very late in the day the goalposts changed dramatically and significantly yesterday when certainly the indications were that with the UN process that we were happy to follow that he was OK. I think he feels he is playing politics with that.
“I think what we have also seen today is Ed Miliband’s expressions of what his motion is supposed to be about and why he is there have been pretty incoherent.”
Labour furiously rejected suggestions it was giving succour to the Assad regime as “frankly insulting”.
Labour sources condemned the string of “personal insults” from Government sources levelled at the party in the run-up to this afternoon’s debate.
According to The Times, a Government source said: “No 10 and the Foreign Office think Miliband is a f****** c*** and a copper-bottomed s***. The French hate him now and he’s got no chance of building an alliance with the US Democratic Party.”
The Labour source said: “It is uncalled for, it is deeming to the debate. There will be families up and down this country who are listening to this debate, thinking that if there is military action it could be my son involved, it could be my father involved.
“Downing Street should not lower itself to the level of personal abuse.
“David Cameron said he wants a consensual approach. His representatives are lowering themselves to a level which I think is uncalled for.”
The source said it was “categorically untrue” that Mr Miliband had given any signal of support when he met the Prime Minister in Downing Street for talks yesterday.
“We listened to what they had to say, we said we would reflect on it. We came and reflected on it and we made our position,” they said.
“We think our motion provides more clarity, is more logical, is more sensible than theirs. Certainly the briefing we have seen overnight and today has not helped.
“We think it is more sensible for the House to come together behind our motion but my short answer is that it is the Government’s fault that there has not been a more sensible, consensual approach.”
Labour insisted its decisions had been driven by “what’s the right thing to do”.