Corbyn’s decision to allow a free vote

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.

 

95 comments on “Corbyn’s decision to allow a free vote

  1. P Spence on said:

    I tend to agree. All this stuff about MPs making a decision determined by their “conscience” is simply seek to depoliticise (but doesn’t) the most political of decisions: the use of lethal force upon a sovereign state. I have however to put JCs position down to playing the long game: those MPs who vote for war will now have their card marked particularly when the Syrian adventure goes sour as it surely will. I just hope Russia and the SAA can close off the borders and take back territory as quickly as possible; good progress so far on that front.

  2. John Grimshaw on said:

    Would the 60ish Labour MPs who are going to vote for further violence have done so if the vote had been whipped? Would the whips be those who wanted to vote for the extension of violence?

  3. John Edwards on said:

    I am a bit more optimistic. This is a setback but JC has to play a long game. He has avoided damaging shadow cabinet resignations in the short term but can change the composition of the shadow cabinet over the longer term at a time of his choosing by promoting some of the 2015 intake of MPs. The aim must be to have a new foreign and defence policy following the review co-convened by Ken Livingstone. The Blairites will fight this of course but they can still be outmanoeuvred and ultimately eliminated (to use war-speak) in more favourable circumstances.

  4. It is a very poor decision, that is for sure. It increases the rebellion rather than suppresses it; makes it more likely rather than less likely that Cameron will get his vote for war; opens the door to endless votes being called by the Tories on issues of ‘national security’ knowing that Corbyn has already conceded that he cannot impose a line on this question; and provides a ‘conscience’ basis for the right-wing to organise in complete defiance of the views of the party.

    John McDonnell’s arguments in favour of this were completely clueless and will be deeply damaging. The question of war is absolutely not “above party politics” and it is utterly ridiculous to hand this argument to the right to use.

    That said, I don’t agree with the essential point of this article which is that this “ensures that a leadership which began with such hope and inspiration will go down in history as yet another glorious failure by the left”. That strikes me as unnecessarily (even dangerously) defeatist.

    The struggle to impose the views of the majority of the party at every level, up to and including the PLP, has only just begun. Mistakes of this character certainly make it more likely that the struggle will end in defeat but the pro-war faction in the PLP is on shaky ground – out of touch with the party membership, wedded to a Tory military strategy based on complete lies and falsehoods, and susceptible to pressure from anti-war opinion in a country in which the disasters of Iraq and Libya still weigh very heavily.

    There is still a great deal of ground remaining on which to fight. And, despite this error, the leader of the Labour Party will still rise in parliament tomorrow to speak on behalf of the anti-war majority in the Labour Party, and on behalf of the anti-war movement of whom he is a part.

  5. John Grimshaw on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    The reason why I asked was because it strikes me that whilst this decision is not a good one, if the “rebel” MPs were going to vote for war anyway, then this might have been the best way to do damage limitation. If on the other hand they would have been bound by party discipline then it’s a totally wrong decision. Having listened to Hilary Benn this AM on the radio he seemed to be saying he would vote for air strikes whatever Corbyn did or said, and was most effusive in his support for NATO. My point being that if he’s so determined I’m sure many other PLP members were also. They probably don’t care too much about the miniscule amount of bombing the RAF is going to do but they do care about getting rid of Corbyn.

  6. John Edwards: This is a setback but JC has to play a long game.

    Agreed.

    Let us also get a sense of perspective. The bombing of Raqqa continues every day from the USA, France and indeed Russia.

    The UK’s potential involvement will not actually increase the number of planes bombing, just give the air forces of the other nations longer gaps between their sorties.

    Let us see what happens. Corbyn has established a coherent opposition to UK military action, that will stay in the public mind.

  7. John Grimshaw on said:

    The Germans have just announced that they are getting involved in Syria at the request of the French.

  8. Andy Newman: Corbyn has established a coherent opposition to UK military action, that will stay in the public mind.

    I have to disagree with you on this Andy. He has only established an incoherent leadership. If he’d imposed a three line whip then, yes, it would have been ignored by some of the rebels. However there is a marked difference between drawing a distinction between his position and theirs from a position of strength and leadership than a position of weakness.

    This will have grievous consequences going forward for his leadership. It proves he can be bullied and thrown off course, and gives succour to the right and Blairites. This is the last thing he should be doing.

    He’s going to have to confront them sooner or later. Better sooner on an issue he is meant to be strong on.

  9. John: Better sooner on an issue he is meant to be strong on.

    But that is the rub, this is an issue where the mass of party members may back Corbyn, but a considerable part of the PLP do not.

    It may be an issue where Corbyn is strong in the relatively narrow pool of the politically committed but foreign policy is not regarded by most people as all that important.

    Few of the electorate will actually think it is a bad thing if the RAF drop bombs on iSIL, as they are already doing in Iraq .

    Within that, the concerns that you and I have about British involvement in Syria without the agreement of the sovereign government is a minority position within the minority.

    The issues where Corbyn will have to stand and fight are around the economy.

  10. Andy Newman: Few of the electorate will actually think it is a bad thing if the RAF drop bombs on iSIL, as they are already doing in Iraq .

    This is where leadership is required to awaken them to the fact it is a bad thing and on a number of levels.

    You mistakenly underplay the risks of clashing with Russia in Syria. Russia has beefed up its fighter aircraft operating in the country to 100. They’re not playing.

  11. jock mctrousers on said:

    My hope is that it’ll turn out that Corbyn has given the Blairites rope to hang themselves with. But given my real fear that if anyone can pull a real disaster out of this, Cameron can… well, I hope he doesn’t hang the rest of us as well.

    Who can see inside Corbyn’s head? But we can’t expect miracles from him – we’ve already had the miracle of his election – he’s one old man against the entire international capitalist class. His main priority must be to hang on, try to stop the Blairites changing the rules, and hold the fort until the constituency parties can send him some reinforcements. I hope that’s something to do with it…

  12. jock mctrousers: His main priority must be to hang on, try to stop the Blairites changing the rules, and hold the fort until the constituency parties can send him some reinforcements. I hope that’s something to do with it…

    Yes, this is the best we can hope for. On a personal level I’m sure the pressure he’s been under is something that Corbyn could well do without. However, and unfortunately, he’s judged on what he does not what he feels.

    I want him to succeed as much as anyone, but I just don’t see how he can unless he fights.

  13. John Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers: hold the fort until the constituency parties can send him some reinforcements.

    From what I’ve been told this is what he is attempting to do.

  14. A week is a long time in politics… If the proverbial does hit the fan all those blairite war blunderers will have nowhere to hide. Have they learned nothing?

  15. Mike Phipps on said:

    I don’t agree with this analysis at all. Had Jeremy Corbyn opposed a whip on the PLP, there would have been a number of resignations from the Shadow Cabinet and a serious coup attempt against him – in conditions where the Party”s rules are unclear as to whether he automatically gets on the ballot in a leadership re-election. However, it might have been worth risking all this, if there was a realistic chance of winning the vote. There was not. In fact there are some who are so intent on bringing Corbyn down that they would vote against him on this just to do so. Do the maths; how many Conservative will vote against Cameron? Not many. Plus he will pick up support from the odd Lib Dem and Ulster Unionist. Even a small handful of Labour rebels would give Cameron victory. Instead, Corbyn opted for a less worse scenario – probably more Labour MPs voting with Cameron, giving Cameron the victory he would have got anyway, but Corbyn survives, does not drive those who support bombing into the arms of those determined to bring him down and can pick a more favourable time and topic for a showdown with those determined to oust him. Yes, it’s frustrating that he is surrounded by these people – but we need to mobilise the grassroots against them if he is to survive, not slag him off for taking the only realistic decision he could.

  16. George Hallam on said:

    Mike Phipps: Had Jeremy Corbyn opposed a whip on the PLP, there would have been a number of resignations from the Shadow Cabinet and a serious coup attempt against him – in conditions where the Party”s rules are unclear as to whether he automatically gets on the ballot in a leadership re-election.

    An interesting point.

    Mike Phipps: However, it might have been worth risking all this, if there was a realistic chance of winning the vote. There was not. In fact there are some who are so intent on bringing Corbyn down that they would vote against him on this just to do so.

    This sounds possible.

    So what you are saying is that both sides in the Labour Party are willing to subordinate decisions about British foreign policy to their inner-party interests.

    I’m a complete outsider. but if Corbyn really was playing a ‘long game’ then wouldn’t it have made sense to force a confrontation – resignations from the Shadow Cabinet, a coup, etc.

    In the event that MPs refused to nominate him – so excluding him from the ballot in a leadership re-election – this would bring into the open the gap between the PLP and the membership.

    As I said, I’m on the outside (I think that political change can only come through mass involvement rather than back-room manoeuvring) so perhaps I’m missing something.

  17. Mike Phipps on said:

    George Hallam,

    BTW I should have said “imposed ” not “opposed”.

    I don’t accept that Corbyn subordinated his principled opposition to bombing Syria to internal party dynamics. Whip or no whip, we don’t have enough MPs to stop Cameron bombing and there’s not much he can do about that. We have to build a movement that forces MPs to get in line with public opinion on this issue.

  18. Andy H on said:

    I thought before when he was standing for the leadership that Jeremy Corbyn was probably the wrong man for the job, and this confirmed it.

    This has nothing to do with policy, it is all about his leadership skills and his ability to convince the British public to vote him in to power in the next election. How can he ask people to support him when on the most important area for a government, war and security, he is unable to come up with a party position to argue for? This must look terrible to the very people that he has to bring over to his side. They will look and think that if Labour resort to a free vote for this, how will they ever manage to do anything if in power?

    There will be rebels – there always are – his job as a leader is to manage them effectively and set out a coherent Labour position. He has failed. Miserably. He just does not have the capability to do the job that he desperately needs to do.

    Could I do better? No. His task is a mammoth one with huge opposition in the PLP but he has come up seriously short. I can’t see this getting better particularly when his key supporters like John McDonnall shows a huge lack of political nous (Mao’s red book – what the chuffing hell was he thinking!) and add to the problems.

  19. George Hallam on said:

    Mike Phipps: I don’t accept that Corbyn subordinated his principled opposition to bombing Syria to internal party dynamics.

    If that is the case then you should not have mentioned the internal party implications of Corbyn imposing a whip.

    Mike Phipps: Whip or no whip, we don’t have enough MPs to stop Cameron bombing and there’s not much he can do about that.

    Yes, the General Election saw to that. Barring a major backbench revolt the PM can win every vote.

    I seem to remember the Government’s majority was used by some Labour MPs as an argument for not turning up to vote against the Health and Social Care Bill.

  20. red mole on said:

    Could hardly disagree more with this article. In by far the sternest test of his leadership Corbyn has shown tremendous mettle. He himself has argued a clear and principled position which he put across effectively on the Andrew Marr programme. He’s shown real boldness and intent by inviting members to put forward their views, and also through Momentum by urging members to email their MPs. This tactic has been successful : a lot of Labour MPs are feeling the heat, and shying away from voting for action. Despite the orchestrated attacks from the Blairites and the media, it looks as though a clear majority of Labour MPs will oppose airstrikes. That won’t be a bad result. Corbyn will have done enough to show that the Labour Party respects his leadership and isn’t about to split apart, and as a result of his stance the alternative to war will be given a proper public airing. I can’t believe that anyone’s arguing that Corbyn should have imposed a 3 line whip. It would have been disastrous. There would have been Shadow Cabinet resignations, the story would have become the Labour Party split, and centrist MPs whose support Corbyn needs would have been alienated. Besides which, as Mike’s pointed out, it would have made no difference to the vote given the numbers of Tory and DUP MPs who’ll be voting for airstrikes.

  21. Mike Phipps: Had Jeremy Corbyn opposed a whip on the PLP, there would have been a number of resignations from the Shadow Cabinet and a serious coup attempt against him

    This gets to the crux of the matter in terms of Labour politics. The right have no qualms whatsoever about splitting the party. In fact, everything the Blairites in his shadow cabinet do is consciously designed to undermine Corbyn. Splits away from the party in the past have been led by the right – the SDP helped keep the Tories in power throughout the ’80s. They are much bolder in their tactics.

    The Labour left, on the other hand, contrary to the way the media portrays these things, are desperate to keep these opportunistic, warmongering scumbags on board. Personally, I wouldn’t even want to sit in the same room as Hilary Benn, Tom Watson or Lord whatshisname, let alone go to sleep at night knowing I’m in the same political organisation with them.

    Corbyn’s tactical reasoning in this can be picked over until the cows come home, but the point is that his only strength is the grassroots support he enjoys, which propelled him into the job in the first place. Every concession like this, particularly when it will have such deadly consequences, demoralises that support that little bit more, weakening himself for when the inevitable showdown comes.

  22. George Hallam: I seem to remember the Government’s majority was used by some Labour MPs as an argument for not turning up to vote against the Health and Social Care Bill.

    But I don’t think anyone amongst Corbyn’s supporters (and particularly not Corbyn himself) is saying that it’s irrelevant how Labour MP’s vote because Cameron will win anyway. Corbyn has made it clear that he wants everyone to vote against, and nor has he said that there should be no political consequences. He’s merely been a little circumspect about what those consequences should be.

    Like you I believe in the primacy of mass political action.

    However, the decision will be made by MP’s walking out of one door or another in the glorified museum called Parliament, as it was in 2003 when there were vastly more people on the streets.

  23. Some comrades on here are disappointingly naive about Jeremy Corbyn’s options. Yes, he could have imposed a three-line whip against war but that would have risked throwing away all the incredible gains of recent months.

    The Blairites have, due to a series of miscalculations, allowed the Labour Party to fall into the hands of genuine socialists. They now recognise the enormity of their error – and are using every dirty trick in the book to undermine, destabilise and oust Corbyn. The PLP majority and their allies in the Tory press know that they are running out of time. Soon the rank and file, full of socialists, will take control of every institution in the Party – and the Blairites and their ‘soft left’ allies will be finished.

    They know that their only hope is to force Corbyn out before the rules are changed – hence the hysterical level of attacks mounted daily on the leadership.

    A three-line whip would have given them the critical mass to go for the kill. Any interpretation of the current – highly ambiguous – rules for triggering a leadership contest would ultimately be settled in the courts. Good luck with that!

    We have to hold out until the left’s position is strengthened – more socialists on the NEC, good people elected to represent CLPs at Conference, rule changes pushed through, bad MPs not being reselected under the new boundaries, etc.

    After that, any personal shortcomings on Corbyn’s part won’t matter because even if he falls, he’ll be replaced by a fellow socialist.

    But until then, the Labour Party’s transformation is precarious, contingent and reversible. Ultra left idealism, as expressed by John Wight (who normally I have a lot of time for), risks throwing away everything – and for a vote we would almost certainly lose anyway.

  24. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: But I don’t think anyone amongst Corbyn’s supporters (and particularly not Corbyn himself) is saying that it’s irrelevant how Labour MP’s vote because Cameron will win anyway.

    I was intrigued by the suggestion that in the event of a re-run of the leadership election there wouldn’t be enough MPs to get Corbyn on the ballot paper.

    Mike Phipps argued that this was a danger if Corbyn had imposed a whip.

    Mike Phipps: Had Jeremy Corbyn opposed a whip on the PLP, there would have been a number of resignations from the Shadow Cabinet and a serious coup attempt against him

    He then justified not taking this risk on the grounds that the Government would win anyway.

    Mike Phipps: However, it might have been worth risking all this, if there was a realistic chance of winning the vote. .. Do the maths; how many Conservative will vote against Cameron? Not many. …
    Even a small handful of Labour rebels would give Cameron victory. Instead, Corbyn opted for a less worse scenario – probably more Labour MPs voting with Cameron, giving Cameron the victory he would have got anyway,

    To me this sounds very like saying that it’s irrelevant how Labour MP’s vote because Cameron will win anyway.

  25. red mole,

    I think this is right. The Telegraph editorial was already written that Cornyn was a poor leader because he whipped the vote / did not whip the vote (delete as appropriate)

    The willingness of the Blairites to use the Syria vote for a coup against Corbyn could not be overcome by will power.

    Sometimes you have to bend so you don’t break.

    If the Labour rebellion is around the 50 or 60 Mark, then Corbyn will have done enough. And bizarrely Cameron helped him.with the terrorist sympathisers quip. There will be bad feeling in the PLP especially against those like Chukka who have made it clear they car e more about toppling Cornyn than Al Baghdadi

  26. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya: Like you I believe in the primacy of mass political action.

    George Hallam: To me this sounds very like saying that it’s irrelevant how Labour MP’s vote because Cameron will win anyway.

    If we want to try to put some iron in their feeble souls then Vanya and George are absolutely right. Apart from the Central London demonstration last night which did go to LP HQ I understand there was quite a big one outside the LP Waltham Forest (none round here in BG – strange). There was a smaller one in Coventry. Maybe more I don’t have the contacts. Anyway we should use “mass political action” to put a marker down with the Labour-Tories that they don’t speak for us and that more importantly they may lose their sinecures. This is also why activists, for those who can, should join Labour and try to replace their reactionary MPs. But I agree with Vanya mass action is the most crucial thing.

  27. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Sometimes you have to bend so you don’t break.

    This isn’t the same as Tony Cliff’s famous “bending stick” is it? 🙂

  28. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: And bizarrely Cameron helped him.with the terrorist sympathisers quip. There will be bad feeling in the PLP especially against those like Chukka who have made it clear they car e more about toppling Cornyn than Al Baghdadi

    I think you might be right here.

  29. John Grimshaw on said:

    So on Newsnight last night there were two Tories debating against Aaronovitch and some Blairite Labour woman (can’t remember her name sorry) about why their is no case to for British bombing in Syria. Maybe George is right? Incidentally does this mean they are “terrorist sympathisers” as well? Including David Davis and the air vice marshal I listened to being interviewed on the wireless this morning who sounded distinctly dubious.

  30. brianthedog on said:

    #31 That would be the new Labour clone Mary Creagh who briefly stood as a candidate for the Labour leadership this summer. Last night she came across as clueless but ruthless in her determination to drop bombs. I say clueless as she appeared she was reading off autocue or a script furnished by the foreign office.

    It comes to something when you have two Tories and especially the ex army one giving a rational, honest and intelligent critique of the situation in Syria and criticising the shallowness and dangers of Cameron’s drive to war.

    The ex army Tory MP was saying the reality is that we must engage with the Syrian Army to take on IS as a bit of light bombing will do very little and talked about dealing with those that are funding and supporting IS – ie Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

    The other Tory questioned the warmongers description that the UK will only do ‘targeted’ bombing and stated that bombs always go astray and kill innocent civilians. He also questioned Mary Creagh statement that the UK would hit IS command and control centres and asked where are they and if they are still there why hadn’t the US and French hit them before.

    The programme left my with the feeling of how craven, pro imperialist, unquestioning and morally bankrupt new Labour is.

  31. Roger: Ultra left idealism, as expressed by John Wight

    No, the idealism here is in giving a free vote on spurious grounds of unity with people determined to bury your leadership at every turn.

    What I find most disappointing about this debate is the reductionist view of it as an intra party issue. We’re talking about Britain embarking on yet another imperialist military intervention against a third Arab country since 9/11. It increases our enmity with Russia and Iran at a time when we should clearly be joining with them in an alliance.

    This, as I write in the article, has little to do with Daesh and everything to do with British imperialists maintaining influence in a region where their presence has been a scourge for 100 years.

    Jeremy surrendered to the right on an issue where he should have drawn the line. Idealism has nothing to do with it. It is about leadership.

  32. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: Incidentally does this mean they are “terrorist sympathisers” as well? Including David Davis and the air vice marshal I listened to being interviewed on the wireless this morning who sounded distinctly dubious.

    Surely an air vice marshal is a terrorist rather than a mere ‘terrorist sympathiser’, that’s his job.

    But perhaps I’m being pedantic.

  33. John: Jeremy surrendered to the right on an issue where he should have drawn the line. Idealism has nothing to do with it. It is about leadership.

    Kamikaze tactics are not leadership. Corbyn’s responsibility to history is to keep hold of the Labour Party until reinforcements percolate through the ranks and render any Blairite fightback impossible.

    Once the Labour Party is securely in the hands of progressives, it will oppose all imperialist wars. That is the prize and to place it at risk would be undisciplined.

  34. Why suppose that the ‘free vote or not free vote’ is such a game changer? We spend decades decrying the farce of the House of Commons, we get one of ‘ours’ in there for a bit, and suddenly the micro-cocking around of the H of C transfixes some of us.

    Forget it, It’s just fucking procedure. If he had ‘whipped’, loads of the Blairite shits et al would have rebelled and the press would have had yet another story about splits (not shits). And how Corbyn has ‘no authority’.

    Ultimately it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Corbyn and the anti-war lobby have spoken in parliament and out. And instead of getting 2 minutes talking from that spot right up at the back, they’re face to face with Cameron and his Crosby-style smears. He’s already had to wobble about the 70,000 and ‘not ideal partners’.

    We will lose the vote. But we knew that. But it’s the first time since — jeezus since when – when the anti-war voice has been spoken so loud and clear from in there.

    Don’t worry about the procedure.

  35. Important Speech on why we should go to war, just released.

    “We can drop bombs through the eye of a needle.
    We can’t always find the needle.
    But we drop the bombs anyway.
    And they land very accurately.
    On..er…whatever’s there.
    Which is good, isn’t it?

    “There will be civilian casualties.
    That’s true.
    But these will be less important than our civilian casualties
    …er…yes.
    I think we’re all agreed on that.

    “Every time a bomb falls out of one of our planes
    onto the people of the Middle East,
    our credibility with the people of the Middle East
    goes up…er….yes.
    We will strain every tissue to bring people
    together to discuss how to bring an end
    to the killing
    apart from the killing we’re doing.
    And the people of the Middle East
    are with us on this.
    They’re always very grateful to us.
    They love us.
    And always have done.
    All the way back to..er…Kitchener..
    and Gordon.
    Great men. Much loved.

    “We are very sympathetic to the er…
    plight of the refugees.
    Yes, there will be refugees
    as a result of our bombing action
    we know that,
    but you can rely on us
    to…er…send them back,
    where we will bomb them.
    You can rely on us to do that.

    I would like to make a point about Russia.
    We don’t trust Russia.
    They say they’re killing ISL people.
    If they are, they’re doing it in the wrong way.
    If they’re not, they should be.
    Yes.

    And Assad.
    Assad is the most evil person to have ever
    walked the earth.
    He kills innocent civilians.
    Can you imagine that?
    We are doing all we can to
    remove his enemies from the face of the earth.
    That’s what we’re doing
    and we know why we’re doing it.
    And none of us want the Russians in there
    instead of us.

    A quick point about Jeremy Corbyn.
    He may look like a weak, useless, pacifist.
    And he is.
    He is very, very weak.
    Very, very useless.
    And very, very pacifist.
    He’s also a crazed killer.
    Incredibly dangerous.
    And with the potential to bring Britain to its knees
    in the blink of an eye.

    He and his evil marxist henchmen
    sympathise with terrorists.
    I can put my hand on my heart
    and say we on this side of the argument
    have never ever sympathised
    with terrorists anywhere.
    You will know for example
    that we have never in anyway
    ever ever had anything to do with
    Northern Irish Protestant paramilitaries
    directly, indirectly, through intermediaries
    or secretly through our secret services.
    Never. Ever. Not ever. Or ever.

    Nor any terrorists in Libya.
    Or in Syria.
    Oh, no Syria is different.
    Sorry, as you were.
    In Syria we sympathise with moderate terrorists.
    Who do their terrorism moderately.
    There are about 70,000 of them.
    The moment we bomb ISL
    the 70,000 moderate terrorists will come
    rushing out of their houses and
    head for Assad and get him.
    There may be some Russians in the way.
    Yes.
    We have figured that out.
    But…er…we haven’t figured out what to do
    about that yet.
    But the 70,000 moderate terrorists
    will get that sorted.
    Russia isn’t the big bear it once was.
    No, really it’s just an old threadbare teddy.
    A threadbear.
    Sorry, for that levity in a moment of deep, deep seriousness.

    Which reminds me:

    “No government takes the decision lightly to go to war…
    that’s why we keep doing it again and again
    …er…not lightly.
    So, I would like to plead with you
    to stay united with us on this.
    After all, there’s no one else out there who’s united.
    Thank you.
    Vote for war.
    We’ve got to keep this economy going somehow.
    Keynes wasn’t right.
    But Keynes for killing makes sense.
    Pump prime the arms economy, stimulated growth.
    You see, everything connects.
    When they don’t there’s trouble.
    And when there’s trouble we pour oil on troubled waters.
    Oil? Who mentioned oil?
    Not me.
    You must be thinking of someone else.
    Thank you.
    Bombs away!
    Chin chin.

  36. This is one of the most unfortunate articles I have read on this site since the days of the “Arab Spring”.

    The current situation in British politics is one we could not have imagined in our most wildly optimistic dreams at the beginning of this year. Jeremy is continuing to provide brilliant leadership in a struggle to transform the political landscape in a progressive direction. If you think he has made a mistake (which, incidentally, is not clear either way – but that’s another issue), there are ways of saying so without resorting to this kind of language.

    Referring to a “capitulation” or saying “a leadership which began with such hope and inspiration will go down in history as yet another glorious failure” or saying it is not quite a “crime” (how gracious of you!), merely a “blunder” plays into the hands of the right. Our opponents, if they see this article, will be encouraged that they are managing to cause rifts between Jeremy and the Left.

    This is a living struggle with the potential to bring about real advances for socialist politics. We all have a responsibility to express disagreements in a good-tempered, measured way – not by hysterical denunciations every time Jeremy makes a different tactical judgement.

    Incidentally, if parliament votes for war, the Oxford Stop the War Coalition has called a candlelit protest vigil for tomorrow in the town centre. There will be speakers from Oxford Stop the War Coalition, CND, etc. If you live in Oxford or know anybody who does, please pass the information on. The details are:

    Event: candlelit protest vigil
    Date: Thursday 3 December
    Time: 6pm–7pm
    Place: Cornmarket St (Carfax end)

    Bring candles, signs, placards etc

  37. Michael Rosen: Why suppose that the ‘free vote or not free vote’ is such a game changer?

    I believe I explained why in the article. ‘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.’

  38. Michael Rosen: and suddenly the micro-cocking around of the H of C transfixes some of us.

    No matter how much we try to deny it the Commons is where power resides. It doesn’t reside at STW meetings, no matter how much we may wish it did, nor does it reside with the few thousands who were marching around central London last night waving placards, as much as you or I may wish it did.

    Ignoring the centrality of Parliament and electoral politics to events both domestic and foreign is on a par with ignoring the weather when deciding what to wear in the morning.

    I recommend this article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/Jeremy_Corbyn/12027680/Jeremy-Corbyn-could-have-stopped-this-war.-Now-it-will-be-his-epitaph.html

  39. George Hallam on said:

    Roger: Corbyn’s responsibility to history is to keep hold of the Labour Party until reinforcements percolate through the ranks and render any Blairite fightback impossible.
    Once the Labour Party is securely in the hands of progressives, it will oppose all imperialist wars. That is the prize and to place it at risk would be undisciplined.

    This is line of reasoning, valid in itself, rests on a false conception of the nature of the Labour Party, i.e. that the leadership LP rests of the party organisation like figures on top of a wedding cake. In this model the grass-roots membership derives its energy from a close (‘organic’ in the non-foodie sense) relationship with the mass of ordinary people.

    In reality the Labour Party is more like a chandelier, with each level of the party deriving its authority from above. At the top the leadership itself depends on its links with the British political establishment. In return for loyalty the political establishment legitimises the Labour Party. It is only because the Labour Party has the imprimatur of the establishment that the mass media puts it ‘on the menu’ of “credible” choices in an election.

    Since the vast majority of people get their political information from the media, rather than from political activists, this media support is decisive in determining the outcomes of elections.

    There is no way of finessing ones way out of this difficulty. If, as you hope, new members who support Corby “percolate” through the Labour Party and come to control it then the immediate result will be to delegitimise it in the media. The election consequences are entirely predictable.

    Of course all this has happened before.

    As Ken MacLeod.would say:
    Nescire autem quid antequam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum.

    The only solution is to build genuine grass-roots organisations that mobiles the mass of ordinary people. That requires mass campaigning not inner-party manoeuvring, packing meetings, stacking agendas and all the rest of standard practices of Labour Party political practice.

  40. jock mctrousers on said:

    Well, if Corbyn was wrong, he’s not disastrously wrong. Stay behind him. He’s the best we’ve had for a long time.

    If anyone has time on their hands, I really recommend reading these 2 articles for a recapitulation and corrective to some of the myths about Syria many on the left still seem to believe:

    Daraa 2011: Syria’s Islamist Insurrection in Disguise
    By Prof. Tim Anderson Global Research, July 05, 2015
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/daraa-2011-syrias-islamist-insurrection-in-disguise/5460547

    Britain’s Socialist Workers Party covers for imperialist regime change in Syria
    By Chris Marsden 15 February 2012
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/02/bswp-f15.html

  41. jock mctrousers on said:

    George Hallam: The only solution is to build genuine grass-roots organisations that mobiles the mass of ordinary people. That requires mass campaigning

    Excuse me for pointing out that those 200,000 odd new recruits to the Labour party seem to be the best current candidate for that ‘mass organisation’?

  42. George Hallam on said:

    Good speech by Julian Lewis.

    Instead of a ‘doggy dossier ’ be have “bogus battalions” of moderates

  43. George Hallam on said:

    jock mctrousers: Excuse me for pointing out that those 200,000 odd new recruits to the Labour party seem to be the best current candidate for that ‘mass organisation’?

    You are excused. They might be, if there are enough real, campaigning activists amongst them. The danger is that even the best of them will get bogged down in the political equivalent of trench warfare within the labour Party apparatus.

  44. jock mctrousers on said:

    Remarkably little attention has been drawn to the fact that bombing Syria is completely illegal, so I can’t resist linking to this excellent piece from today’s Morning Star:

    There are thousands of reasons why we shouldn’t bomb Syria… Here are a few
    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-2d2e-There-are-thousands-of-reasons-why-we-shouldnt-bomb-Syria-Here-are-a-few

    ” … Nor is it, as he claims, a “civil war,” the whole sorry mess having been engineered by William Roebuck from inside the US embassy in Damascus back in 2006. This was because, according to Roebuck, President Bashar al-Assad was too popular, not just in Syria but in “the region” — all fully documented in the leaked cables between Damascus and Washington.

    Then there are legal reasons why Britain should not bomb Syria. Cameron has repeatedly insisted that “Assad must be removed.” But Assad is the democratically elected leader. Despite the difficulties, an election was held last year and delegates from more than 30 countries said the election was “free, fair and transparent” (he had been voted in for a second term back in 2007).

    … Cameron is also relying heavily on the UN Resolution recently passed that “urges UN member states to take all necessary measures to combat Isil/Daesh in Iraq and Syria because of the unprecedented threat it represents to international peace and security.”

    However, “all necessary measures” does not automatically authorise military force; that needs a Chapter VII resolution. It would not make British air strikes legal. “

  45. jock mctrousers on said:

    John,

    Very good piece, John. I could weep at the sliminess or plain ignorance of the MPs I’ve listened to in the so-called debate.

  46. I thought Benn made some good points about ISIS though. Ones that Corbyn and stop the war miss. That ISIS represent a strain of fascism and they have to be stopped. That a parallel with the international brigades was drawn.

    Of course I don’t agree with the chosen course they were voting on tonight, but as you have said yourself John an international approach to crushing them (albeit holding our nose and working with Assad) is required.

    John:
    Benn’s speech was a transparent and cynical bid for the leadership of the Labour Party.

  47. Andy H: but as you have said yourself John an international approach to crushing them (albeit holding our nose and working with Assad) is required.

    British airstrikes are being undertaken less with the objective of crushing Daesh and more with the objective of regime change in Damascus. They are about establishing an overt military presence in Syria with this goal in mind.

    The crushing of Daesh is already underway courtesy of the Russian Air Force in conjunction with the SAA and their allies on the ground.

  48. Michael Rosen: Ultimately it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Corbyn and the anti-war lobby have spoken in parliament and out.

    So, the anti-war movement protested outside and Jeremy made a good speech inside. Just like before he was ‘leader’, but this time he was a bit closer to Cameron. All’s well, then.

    Actually, I think a lot of people expected a bit more than that when they campaigned and voted for Corbyn. Now some are, inevitably and understandably, trying to make the best of it. “Jeremy’s playing the long game”, “What could he do?”. “It doesn’t matter anyway, because parliamentary politics are rubbish”.

    Corbyn was forced to back down, completely and humiliatingly, by people who despise everything he stands for. That’s what happened. The only difference between Corbyn as a backbencher and Corbyn as leader is that these days we won’t even show his face at a Stop the War protest.

  49. All of us are enraged that the UK is joining the US-led intervention in Syria. All of us accept that the focus on ISIL is a pretext to gain consent to enter the theatre of war – and that regime change is the West’s ultimate objective.

    But to somehow blame Corbyn for not stopping this is at best naive and at worst downright perverse. After Paris, there was always going to be a Parliamentary majority for military action. Corbyn has shown guts and principle in opposing that shift, using his authority and grassroots support to keep the pro-war rebellion inside the PLP to a bare minimum of 66. A three-line whip would not have reduced it much further and – please understand this – would have imperiled his leadership of the Party.

    I am very disappointed in John’s position. Some of the other anti-Corbyn comments may come from those who are heavily invested in sects. For them, Corbyn’s success threatens their narrow party-building imperatives. But John has shown real bottle in the Scottish context by resisting the pseudo-left blandishments of the SNP and making the case for Labour, albeit critically. Why turn on Corbyn now, given the prize on offer? Does he really imagine that a staunch anti-imperialist like Seamus Milne would stick around if Corbyn was selling out? Or that other life-long socialists would junk their principles?

    If you don’t think that solid, irreversible control of the Labour Party by progressive forces is possible or desirable, then fine – argue for a position of total purity. But if you share that aspiration, then accept that Corbyn made the best case for peace that circumstances allowed. He and his comrades are the ones in the engine room. They are in the best position to judge which Leninist compromises are required to safeguard the revolution. They have made a stunning strategic advance from a pretty unpromising starting position. Instead of sniping from the sidelines, surely the task of socialists is to support and reinforce the transformation of the Labour Party, not imperil it by making impossiblist demands.

    John – if you could be persuaded that to impose a three-line whip would have risked Corbyn’s leadership, would that lead you to change your stance?

  50. jack: Corbyn was forced to back down, completely and humiliatingly

    Ridiculous hyperbole. The man argued passionately against war, insisted that opposition to war was official Labour policy and led the anti-war forces through the No lobby.

  51. Roger,

    Agreeing with Roger.

    I notice that the word ‘fascist’ is being thrown around as if that describes ISL etc. I think Benn used it in order to deliberately evoke WW2 and the Nazis and not in order to accurately describe ISL. We have done the same by calling fascist groups ‘Nazis’, so Im not claiming purity on this. However, ISL are clearly not ‘fascist’ in the usual modern historical sense. Aren’t their ideas ‘theocratic’, aren’t they a ‘death cult’? And aren’t their ideas essentially anti-modern where fascism was and is ultra-modern? What I mean is that the moment people here the word ‘fascist’ said solemnly and convincingly ‘we’ think, D-Day, let’s do it. The sad farce is that ISL can, I suspect go guerrilla if they want to, which of course no true fascist would do, they are all about the nation state.

    But we lost.

    So, the issue is immediately, what next?

  52. Roger: John – if you could be persuaded that to impose a three-line whip would have risked Corbyn’s leadership, would that lead you to change your stance?

    I accept I am being very harsh on Jeremy, perhaps even too harsh. He is a principled man who has the weight of the world on his shoulders, which for someone of any age never mind 66 is an awful thing to endure. I admire him as much as anyone, and I acknowledge that there is nobody on the left in the UK who could have achieved what he has this year.

    Everything Jeremy does and has done is motivated by the best of socialist principles. He made a judgement call on this, based on the balance of forces that exist within the shadow cabinet, and I think it was the wrong one. Benn has played a malign role from the outset and watching his speech last night with Jeremy sitting behind him looking on, I sensed a seminal moment not just for Syria but Jeremy’s leadership.

    I hope that I am wrong.

  53. John Edwards on said:

    Some thoughts on the way forward.

    It is clearly a critical moment in JC’s leadership and it could get worse with the result from Oldham. However, the mobilisation of the membership kept a majority of MPs and the Shadow Cabinet onside.
    That needs to be translated into policy changes, conference decisions etc

    It is unlikely that the RAF is going to make much real difference. There may be some drone strikes on British jihadis which generate favourable headlines in the tabloids for a few days but the bogus battalions are still mythical. Cameron’s real objective remains regime change not ISIL.

    Therefore we have to press for a ceasefire and political settlement of the civil war in Syria. Plus exposure of the role of Turkey and the Saudis in backing ISIL and other jihadi groups as well as following the money trail to its source. There is still a lot of scope for campaigning effectively.

    I am old enough to remember Michael Foot’s highly praised speech in Parliament in 1982 following the Argentine invasion of the Falklands. It did him no good. There was a lot of talk of “fascism” then. We don’t know how events will turn out in Syria but I would put my money on JC being proved right rather than Hilary Benn

  54. John Grimshaw on said:

    John:
    Benn’s speech was a transparent and cynical bid for the leadership of the Labour Party.

    This is transparently the truth. The Daily Mail, for example, is already hailing him as such. Frank Field is already calling for a joint leader as a new strategy. Some kind of job share with Corbyn and Benn I assume.

  55. John Grimshaw on said:

    Michael Rosen: I notice that the word ‘fascist’ is being thrown around as if that describes ISL etc. I think Benn used it in order to deliberately evoke WW2 and the Nazis and not in order to accurately describe ISL.

    Absolutely. And if we on the left are not clear about what we mean by fascism then we contribute to allowing the likes of Benn etc. to manipulate opinions.

  56. John Grimshaw on said:

    Roger: If you don’t think that solid, irreversible control of the Labour Party by progressive forces is possible or desirable, then fine – argue for a position of total purity.

    I think this is a bit harsh. Is John actually saying he doesn’t want the LP to be taken over by your “progressive forces”? I presume he’s concerned about what’s happening with the Corbyn regime and sharing his frustrations with us about what may or may not be happening. I also share some of his concerns whilst supporting Corbyn, critically if necessary, whilst also being barred from joining the Labour Party by McNicholl.

    We live in complicated times. Your comment about “total purity” is curious. I presume it’s a coded attack on the left outside of the LP that you don’t agree with? If it is this doesn’t really stand up. If you read the stuff coming out of the Trots and the Stalinists, irrespective of whether they are for joining/re-joining the LP (if they can get away with it) or remaining outside they are all fairly supportive of Corbyn. It is their right to be critical if they want to. On the other hand they’d be foolish to ignore the unprecedented shift in leadership and more importantly the increase in membership of the LP. The complicated question is how to relate to it. Corbyn maybe the most radical leader Labour has ever had in an organisation that’s lets face it is hardly known for radicalism. The attacks he is facing by both his own organisation and the establishment (sorry a lot his MPs are the establishment) mean we don’t know how this going to turn out. I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t some kind of leadership challenge very shortly. Or maybe the LP will split? Who knows? Whatever those of us who are activists should maintain an independent position with regards to the LP, whilst as I say being supportive of Corbyn. You don’t wanna put all your eggs in one basket do you.

  57. George Hallam on said:

    Roger: All of us are enraged that the UK is joining the US-led intervention in Syria.

    I’m not enraged. Initially I was bemused by what seemed to be a vanity project (playing the Great Power, getting a seat at the conference table, etc.) combined with a very visible way of addressing public concerns. Then it occurred to me that Cameron et al were playing a deeper game.

    This is not just about “doing something” it is also about NOT doing something else.

    The real problem in Syria is foreign intervention by Turkey Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Turkey’s role has been decisive, for geographical reasons alone. Without Turkey the insurrection against the government would have fizzled out years ago. If Turkey really does seal its border with Syria then Daesh’s position would be untenable.

    Roger: But to somehow blame Corbyn for not stopping this is at best naive and at worst downright perverse.

    I don’t blame Corbyn for not stopping Cameron getting his mandate from the House of Commons, as you say it was beyond his power.

    My criticism of Corbyn is that he failed to do something that he was in a position to do, that is, to expose Turkey’s role in propping up Daesh.

    Given the material released by the Russians be could have delivered a devastating expose of what Turkey is doing to an audience of millions.

    I can’t pretend to be disappointed because I never though that Corbyn would ever go beyond making moral gestures.

  58. John Grimshaw on said:

    John Edwards: Therefore we have to press for a ceasefire and political settlement of the civil war in Syria. Plus exposure of the role of Turkey and the Saudis in backing ISIL and other jihadi groups as well as following the money trail to its source. There is still a lot of scope for campaigning effectively.

    Michael Fallon was incredibly slippery today on the Radio as you would expect. To me he seemed to be saying that the British are having a conference with the Saudis to discuss the way forwards, whatever that means, but when pressed on the issue of Assad he also seemed to concede that working with him was not impossible and that his removal was negotiable.

  59. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: to expose Turkey’s role in propping up Daesh.

    He could’ve called for some kind of international debate on the independence question for the Kurds. That would’ve really pissed some people off. It’s not that radical is it? After all Woodrow Wilson did.

  60. Some people are asking what can be done, both to help the Syrian people and to save Corbyn’s leadership.

    One thing that would assist both objectives is for each and every one of us, whether as a Labour member or as an ordinary member of the public, to apply relentless pressure on those Labour MPs who backed war.

    Cameron would never have risked a vote without the support of the fifth column in Labour’s ranks. The vast majority of the 66 rebels wouldn’t hold their seats without the Labour brand. That is their vulnerability. A few Blairite MPs are so militant that no amount of lobbying, moves to deselect, etc would sway them but many other rebels can be shifted, either towards an anti-war stance or out of their constituencies.

    In London especially, there is a radical disjuncture between a highly networked and numerous left and the current out-of-touch representatives of the Labour Party. In Southwark, there is pro-war Neil Coyle MP and right wing council leader Peter John. In Tower Hamlets, pro-war Jim Fitzpatrick MP and right wing council leader Sir Robin Wales. In Waltham Forest, pro-war Stella Creasy MP and right wing council leader Chris Robbins. In Tower Hamlets, pro-war Jim Fitzpatrick MP and right wing council leader John Biggs. In Lewisham, pro-war Jim Dowd MP and right wing council leader Sir Steve Bullock. I could cite others.

    Corbynite Labour MPs and council leaders, cooperating together at the heart of the capital, could transform British politics and form a solid anti-war bloc. All it requires is local activists to work with Labour’s national leadership to oust the self-serving charlatans and cuckoos currently masquerading in red rosettes. They have no genuine bases of support in the communities they represent. They rely entirely on the Labour Party label to keep them in office. Clearing them out is a task any serious socialist should be proud to undertake.

  61. Forgive my confusion between Robin Wales in Newham and Biggs/Fitzpatrick in TH – I think you get the point!

  62. George Hallam on said:

    Roger: In Lewisham, pro-war Jim Dowd MP and right wing council leader Sir Steve Bullock. I could cite others.

    Don’t forget Heidi Alexander MP for Lewisham East and Corbyn’s Shadow Secretary of State for Health.

    Alexander was elected as a Lewisham councillor in 2004, and was Steve Bullock’s chief hench-person (Deputy Mayor of Lewisham and Cabinet Member for regeneration) from 2006 until her apotheosis up to Westminster in 2010.

    While Alexander was Cabinet Member for regeneration Lewisham waived through a number of horrendous property development projects and ruinous PFI schemes.

    Note: Steve Bullock used to be a consultant and trainer for Capita – the UK leader in business process management and outsourcing see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capita

  63. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: He could’ve called for some kind of international debate on the independence question for the Kurds. That would’ve really pissed some people off. It’s not that radical is it? After all Woodrow Wilson did.

    Yes, but this would violate the KISS principle.

    1. The question of a Kurdish state involves four countries so it’s very complicated.

    2. An “international debate” would be a complete diversion when the issue of Turkey requires action – e.g. ban on arms sales, financial sanctions, expulsion from NATO, etc.

  64. George Hallam on said:

    Roger: The vast majority of the 66 rebels wouldn’t hold their seats without the Labour brand.

    I don’t think any of the 66 rebels would hold their seats without the “Labour brand”. But then neither would any of the ‘loyal’ Labour MPs.

    The way British politics is at the moment it is extremely difficult for individuals or small parties to win votes, let alone parliamentary seats. George Galloway has done, as has Caroline Lucas, but these are exceptions that proves the rule.

    However, it’s not just the ‘brand’ that is decisive: it’s the imprimatur of the political establishment for the brand that puts it ‘on the menu’ of “credible” choices.

  65. George Hallam on said:

    Andy H: I thought Benn made some good points about ISIS though. Ones that Corbyn and stop the war miss. That ISIS represent a strain of fascism and they have to be stopped. That a parallel with the international brigades was drawn.

    In Major Barbara Undershaft paises alcohol on the grounds that it enables Parliament to do things at eleven at night that no sane person would do at eleven in the morning.

    Surely, the plentiful provision of cheap booze in the Houses of Parliament can be the only explanation for the rapturous applause that greeted Benn’s speech because he was talking nonsense.

    “Benn’s Spanish analogy missed its mark. Labour Party members in the 1930s had to volunteer as private citizens to join the ranks of the anti-Franco militias. That was precisely because the British government proposed no direct military action itself. A non-intervention pact prevented Britain from propping up the democratic government in Spain.

    The decision of individual Labour Party members to join a proxy war in Spain in the 1930s stood in stark contrast to the ability of the Parliamentary Labour Party to foment any direct military intervention.”

    http://theconversation.com/full-marks-for-oratory-but-hilary-benn-gets-a-c-in-history-for-syria-speech-51760

  66. Roger: Ridiculous hyperbole. The man argued passionately against war, insisted that opposition to war was official Labour policy and led the anti-war forces through the No lobby.

    Read the account of the shadow cabinet meeting in the New Statesman –

    http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2015/11/how-shadow-cabinet-forced-jeremy-corbyn-not-change-labour-policy-syria-air

    Corbyn is desperate, above any other consideration, to hold the Labour machine together. The right don’t give a fuck what mayhem they cause. They are at this very moment desperately hoping for a catastrophic result in Oldham. That’s why they’ll win and Corbyn will lose. The capacity for self-delusion amongst the Labour left is extraordinary.

  67. jack,

    …and the ‘disastrous’ result didn’t happen. The Left moaning about procedural crap in the House of Commons might pause in their tracks for a moment following the ‘expert’ analysis of why and how Corbyn assassinated the left and himself with this moment he did or didn’t impose the bit of nonsense called ‘the whip’. I like the description of ‘armchair generals’. Now the non-Labour left are getting to be ‘armchair parliamentarians’. O for a bit of bloody scepticism here.

  68. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: KISS

    FM?

    George Hallam: four countries so it’s very complicated.

    Well blow me down with a feather!

    George Hallam: be a complete diversion when the issue

    Ask the Kurds since no-one since Wilson has at all raised the issue of independence apart from the usual rag bag of lefties and the Kurds themselves. My point was that if Corbyn et al were to raise this as some kind of policy issue let a lone actually get it to happen it would then inevitably dovetail with your righteous demand for the something to be done about Turkish nefariousness.

  69. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: In Major Barbara Undershaft paises alcohol on the grounds that it enables Parliament to do things at eleven at night that no sane person would do at eleven in the morning.

    I would’ve thought amphetamines would be better…no?

  70. Zaid: …if parliament votes for war, the Oxford Stop the War Coalition has called a candlelit protest vigil for tomorrow in the town centre…

    I recall somebody posted a snide comment about this event, which seems subsequently to have been taken down. In fact, it went pretty well

    http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/14123041.Protesters_gather_in_Oxford_for_demonstration_against_bombing_Syria/

    On the subject of whether or not the vote should have been whipped, it wasn’t obvious to me at the time whether or not Jeremy had made the right decision. Even if I thought he hadn’t though, I wouldn’t have denounced him in the tone of this article.

    However, with hindsight, it is looking more and more as if he made the right call. If all the Labour MPs who voted to bomb had voted the other way, it would not have made any difference to the result.However, the free vote has resulted in the right-wingers looking completely exposed. On a crucial issue, the majority of the PLP have sided with Jeremy, as well as the majority of the Shadow Cabinet. As the majority of the membership already support him, his position has been strengthened.

    The stunning success in Oldham yesterday – where Labour increased it’s share of the vote – is a big blow to all those who said Labour had become “unelectable” under Corbyn. Benn’s leadership bid is now dead in the water.

  71. Zaid: I recall somebody posted a snide comment about this event, which seems subsequently to have been taken down. In fact, it went pretty well

    I took it down because I decided it did not serve to enlighten the discussion, even though your original comment was OTT.

    But here’s where you elicit the low expectations that colonise the collective thinking of the left and progressive forces in this country. Despite the British bombs that are currently crashing into Syria in a clear violation of its sovereignty you try to maintain that Jeremy’s refusal to fight was tantamount to a victory. it wasn’t, it was a resounding defeat which has only bolstered the right within the PLP. Oldham was won by a Liz Kendall-supporting Labour candidate on the right of the party. How can this possibly be viewed as a victory or endorsement of Corbyn. It was won in a safe Labour seat with a reduced majority though increased share of the vote.

    It cannot conceivably be described as a ‘stunning success’.

    And make no mistake, when it comes to these airstrikes the primary objective is not to defeat or crush Daesh. That objective was already well underway courtesy of the Russians, Syrians, Iranians, Kurds and Hezbollah. The primary objective of British airstrikes is the establishment of an overt British military presence in Syria with regime change in Damascus in mind.

  72. Zaid: However, with hindsight, it is looking more and more as if he made the right call. If all the Labour MPs who voted to bomb had voted the other way, it would not have made any difference to the result.However, the free vote has resulted in the right-wingers looking completely exposed. On a crucial issue, the majority of the PLP have sided with Jeremy, as well as the majority of the Shadow Cabinet. As the majority of the membership already support him, his position has been strengthened.

    The stunning success in Oldham yesterday – where Labour increased it’s share of the vote – is a big blow to all those who said Labour had become “unelectable” under Corbyn. Benn’s leadership bid is now dead in the water.

    As the Fonz would have said. Correctamundo.

  73. Calvin on said:

    George Hallam:
    John Grimshaw,

    KISS

    K – Keep
    I – It
    S – Simple

    Actually it’s KISS (Keep It Straight and Simple), and it’s the name of a political party (of sorts) that contested the first democratic election in South Africa following Mandela’s release.

  74. Calvin on said:

    Hilary Benn’s rhetorically brilliant (but hopelessly flawed) speech was written to be delivered from the back benches. By having a free vote, Corbyn kept him right where he wanted him: on the seat next to him on the front benches, denying him his Geoffrey Howe moment. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. And pick your battles wisely. Going to war with the PLP on what would be widely perceived (however unfairly) as an issue of conscience is probably not winnable amongst the membership.

    Oldham was presented by the right of the party and the media as a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn. Well I’m very happy to take that at face value, and I suspect Jeremy is too. It’s been a good week. We never had the numbers to stop the bombing, whip or no whip. But Jeremy’s position is strengthened, an overwhelming majority of the PLP backed his position in a free vote, Benn 15 hours of fame ended as the result of the Oldham by-election was announced, and Jezza is coming to the Morning Star Xmas party tonight. I’ll drink to that!

  75. John: Oldham was won by a Liz Kendall-supporting Labour candidate on the right of the party. How can this possibly be viewed as a victory or endorsement of Corbyn.

    In the overwhelming majority of parliamentary elections, very few votes are swung by the qualities of the individual candidates. Most people in Oldham will not have had the faintest idea what McMahon’s views are on most issues, let alone that he supported Kendall in the leadership election.

    What most of them will have heard and had drummed into them, however, is that Labour is led by the unelectable, lunatic, unpatriotic, bullying, terrorist sympathiser Jeremy Corbyn. Yet in the face of this hostile media onslaught, Labour received a higher share of the vote than at the general election. At a stroke this goes a long way to demolishing the claim that Jeremy is an electoral liability. If there are another one or two victories like that, it will be impossible even to make the claim. The negative consequences of one more right winger joining the PLP are far outweighed by the positive consequences of an excellent election result for Labour under Corbyn. You should not underestimate the importance of this.

    Or think of it another way. If UKIP had taken the seat, do you really think anybody would be saying “Oldham was lost by a Liz Kendall-supporting Labour candidate on the right of the party. How can this possibly be viewed as a rejection of Corbyn?”

  76. Michael Rosen: and the ‘disastrous’ result didn’t happen. The Left moaning about procedural crap in the House of Commons might pause in their tracks for a moment following the ‘expert’ analysis of why and how Corbyn assassinated the left and himself with this moment he did or didn’t impose the bit of nonsense called ‘the whip’. I like the description of ‘armchair generals’. Now the non-Labour left are getting to be ‘armchair parliamentarians’. O for a bit of bloody scepticism here.

    I understand the point you’re making, but it isn’t really about ‘procedural crap’, but rather Corbyn unnecessarily bending to the deliberate, orchestrated attempt to undermine him, and more importantly the effect that has on those who support him and are campaigning outside parliament.

    The flaws in the strategy of ‘keep your enemies close’ were illustrated when Hilary Been, sitting right next to Corbyn, made his ridiculous speech the other day. He was so close he could twist the knife into Corbyn, cheered to the rafters by the Tories. The result in Oldham may have clipped his wings, for the time being but they’ll be back.

    Why is Hilary Benn, who supported the bombing and invasion of Iraq and has obviously learnt nothing from the experience, shadow foreign secretary anyway? What, precisely, is the argument against sacking him?

  77. jack,

    Newly found Alice in Wonderland pages come to light

    Alice sat down on a bench.
    A very important-sounding voice said, ‘You can’t sit here.’
    Alice looked round. She couldn’t see anyone, so she went on sitting.
    ‘You’re sitting on me,’ the voice said.
    Alice looked down. She realised that it was the bench talking to her.
    ‘I am Military Bench,’ said the bench, ‘and we will fight them on the beaches.’
    ‘Who?’ said Alice.
    ‘We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again,’ he said.
    ‘Yes,’ said Alice, ‘but who?’
    ‘There’s only one word for them,’ said Military Bench, ‘because that’s what they are.’
    ‘Who though?’ said Alice.
    ‘And we will stand by our French friends,’ Military Bench went on.
    Alice looked up and saw that the scribes were there too, and they were clapping.
    ‘What a remarkable speech,’ they chorused.
    ‘One of the best speeches ever,’ they chorused.
    ‘The best leader they haven’t got,’ they chorused.

    Just then Alice heard a booming sound far off.
    ‘What’s that?’ said Alice.
    ‘That,’ said Military Bench, ‘is the sound of greatness. We have shown the world we won’t take it lying down. We will meet force with force and farce with farce. An eye for a tooth and a tooth for a leg.’

    The scribes applauded.

    ‘Oh,’ said Alice, ‘no one will be hurt, will they?’

    ‘Aha,’ said Military Bench, ‘only the bad ones.’
    ‘And we’re on the side of the good ones?’ said Alice.
    ‘Yes and no,’ said Military Bench, ‘in this particular case, the two sides, as such, are both bad. Apart from us. We’re good.’
    ‘Good,’ said Alice,’I wouldn’t want to be bad.’
    ‘And, because they’re bad, we’re getting at the bad ones.’
    ‘Which bad ones?’ said Alice.
    ‘The bad ones,’ said Military Bench.

    Another boom went off in the distance

    ‘And no good ones will be hurt?’ said Alice anxiously.

    ‘Well, we won’t actually know whether they will be or won’t be. Or if we do know, we won’t be telling you. I can swear to that on my father’s grave,’ said Military Bench.

    ‘Ah, his father,’ said one of the scribes.
    ‘Ironic!’ said another.
    That’s a funny name, thought Alice, so his full name must have been ‘Ironic Bench’.
    I would like to find out more about him, one day, she thought.

    The Bench seemed now to be puffing itself up, getting bigger and bigger, so Alice thought she’d walk on.

    And she did.

  78. jock mctrousers on said:

    jack,

    It’s as good as any argument I’ve seen against sacking Benn. Throw in (Lord) Tristram Hunt too. Just watched him on the Andrew Marr show. ” Stop the War is a seriously disreputable organisation” Tell that to the 2 million people that turned out in London that day. Oh, I forgot – the Blairites did tell them: that’s what the tanks at Heathrow was about.