There is simply no word to describe the decision by Jeremy Corbyn to allow Labour MPs a free vote on bombing Syria other than disastrous. He had a massive mandate for imposing a whipped vote, and in so doing would have stayed Cameron’s hand, given that the Prime Minister had indicated that he would not call a vote unless he was certain of winning. Just as importantly, imposing the whip would have drawn a line in the sand against the relentless and ongoing campaign within both the PLP and Labour shadow cabinet to undermine his leadership.
The Labour leader buckled under pressure, allowed himself to be bullied by Hilary Benn annd Tom Watson et al., and now faces the humiliating and ignominous experience of opening the debate for the opposition with an argument against bombing Syria, while his shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, sitting alongside him on the front bench, will close the debate for the opposition with an argument in favour of bombing Syria. It is absolutely untenable and ensures that a leadership which began with such hope and inspiration will go down in history as yet another glorious failure by the left to make substantive and lasting change to politics in this country.
Rather than maintain party unity, Jeremy has merely set a precedent of being jostled aside by Blairites and others who no matter how much he gives them, how hard he tries to placate or reach out, will not be satisfied until he and McDonnell are gone.
Syria is a sovereign country whose government has been fighting for its survival as a non sectarian state against the forces of hell over the past four years and more. Britain flying bombing sorties in the country without respecting that sovereignty, given the struggle its people and army have been engaged in, will go down as a grievous injustice. It will also be futile, given the universal agreement among all military experts than only troops on the ground can possibly defeat Daesh. The Americans have been bombing ISIS for the best part of a year in Syria (at least so they tell us) to little or no effect, so what makes Cameron and his Labour supporters think Britain can do the same with different results? Andy Newman, on this blog, has clearly and eloquently defined the role the Government can play in impacting Daesh and its ability to operate so effectively; tackling its funding and the support it receives from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Western allies whose relationship to this sectarian death cult can no longer be denied.
It is nothing more than an empty gesture, engaged in not so much in order to defeat ISIS but to ensure British/Western influence over what comes later when the conflict ends. It is as transparent and egregious an act of imperial opportunism we have seen, up there with Sykes Picot and Suez.
Just as worrying is the fact it may well put Britain on a collision course with Russia. After one of its jets was shot down by Turkish F16s recently, and one of its pilot murdered by anti Assad rebels as he parachuted to the ground, Russia will not be minded to take any chances should British jets come too close to one of theirs in such a congested airspace.
On all levels nothing can come good of this decision by Jeremy, only bad. While I would not, pace Tallyerand, go so far as to describe it as a crime, it is most certainly a blunder.