Jeremy Corbyn has opted to give his Labour MPs a free vote on the issue of intervention in Syria. This comes despite Corbyn’s strong opposition to the government’s plans and pressures to impose a three line whip on his MPs forcing them to vote with him. This decision has brought a mixed response with some seeing it as the only decision that he could make and others seeing it as an abdication of leadership.
Issues of war and peace are normally seen as matters of conscience. It is the most serious decision Parliament as a whole and an individual MP can make and is never taken lightly. In recent times on all such decisions there have been divisions across the House and in both the Conservative and Labour parties. This would indicate MPs will vote with their consciences regardless of what their party whips recommend and there would be no point in forcing an MP to vote a certain way.
If Jeremy Corbyn had opted to whip his MPs and force them to vote with him, there would have been consequences. A number of prominent Labour MPs have already publicly stated they disagree with him and were likely to vote with the government. This could have led to widespread resignations or sackings and would only have increased divisions. With the Labour Party already divided, it could have been seen as foolish to inflict further damage on party unity.
The Labour Party are the official opposition in this country. This carries with it a number of responsibilities and voters expect them to have an agreed position on the most pressing issues. This is now not the case when it comes to Syria and Labour at best seem confused and at worst incompetent. This situation may have been avoided if a three-line whip had been imposed and an official position agreed.
Also on issues such as these Jeremy Corbyn has been given a clear mandate from the Labour Party membership and his current position seems to reflect the overwhelming mood within the membership. It appears an official position of opposing the airstrikes would accurately represent where a lot of Labour voters are.
Regardless of the decision Corbyn made he was likely to have gained some criticism such is the public mood. Corbyn’s leadership though does appear confused presently and throughout the weekend his camp have sent out mixed messages on this. The Labour Party as the official opposition need to be clearer on their position on such important issues. The real problem here has not been the decision reached, but the confusion that has been caused in recent days and the lack of a clear strategy and sensible thinking.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – The Telegraph