Yesterday was the big showdown within the Labour Party regarding what stance would be taken on bombing Syria. As a politics nerd, I was on the edge of my seat. Oh the drama! McCluskey’s intervention, Corbyn remaining resolute pre-shadow cabinet meeting (rumour has it, egged on by Milne), the meeting in question getting shoved back a whole hour….all of it set up a dramatic finish. Predicting it was a fool’s game – after McDonnell and the Mao’s Red Book stunt, anything was now possible. And then…..Patrick Wintour informed the nation by tweet that the MPs were going to be offered a free vote, but that it would be announced that official party policy was anti-strikes. Okay, Jeremy, whatever works, I guess. After all that “kerfuffle” as Andrew Neil aptly put it, there would be a free vote anyway.
Corbyn also had an idea to try and push Cameron to delay the vote. This presented the prime minister with a nice win-win situation: either hold the vote as planned on Wednesday to get it through while Labour are divided on the subject, or give into the demands to delay the vote and prolong the Labour soap opera. All things considered, it’s not surprising that Cameron went with the former to get what he wants through while he know it’s available.
One thing that caught my attention during all of the murmurings regarding the Syria vote yesterday was the one from Diane Abbott. She claimed that Labour MPs voting for the raids would be “handing Cameron victory on a plate”. One couldn’t help but think that surely the issue was whether or not bombing Syria was the right or wrong thing to do – particularly, you would think, for these past and present Stop the War types. In other, more blunt terms, who gives a shit frankly what it does or doesn’t do for Cameron – unless again, I’ve missed something key regarding the new politics. If so, I apologise for that.
Next, let us come back to the topic of Corbyn wanting a two-day debate in the Commons on the subject of Syria. Why exactly? His viewpoint, in his own words, is totally fixed on the topic. What does he hope to achieve in those two theoretical days? Is there actually an argument out there for bombing that will convince Jeremy Corbyn it’s a good idea? Unless of course it’s just a tactic to use extra time to threaten and/or blackmail Labour MPs into voting the way Corbyn wants them to. Either that or simply building up an excuse to de-select anyone who votes against Jeremy’s views. Sorry, I was thinking of the old politics again….
Seriously, I wish Corbyn had whipped the party his way. Because at least then we could have seen him standing on principle, whatever one agrees or disagrees with. I close with this: Corbyn could have sparked a genuine debate on the topic inside of the Labour Party on what Britain should do about ISIS and what western intervention or lack thereof in Syria should contain. That’s a debate that is long overdue. He could have used the shadow cabinet to push harder for what a post-civil war Syria will look like and what western resources will be used to achieve this aim. Instead we’ve had a big hoo haw within the PLP that ultimately came to nothing. And Cameron will get his “victory”, as Abbott has described it, nonetheless. As usual in the Corbyn era, parliamentary democracy is taken down yet another notch as a result.