Let Corbyn lead, do not tar Labour as the party of ...

Let Corbyn lead, do not tar Labour as the party of 'illegal and irrational war'

29 November 2015

The case for UK airstrikes in Syria has not been made and Labour MPs must not drag the party into another 'illegal and  irrational war', the general secretary of the UK’s biggest union, Unite has warned today (Sunday).

With the proposal to bomb lacking clear UN consent and a coherent purpose, RAF airstrikes will only feed the cycle of violence in an already volatile region and propel thousands of more people into statelessness.

Furthermore, says Len McCluskey, those MPs using the issue of Syria as the beginnings of a coup against Jeremy Corbyn are 'playing with fire' for they do so without the agreement of the membership.

Writing in the Huffington Post, he calls for Westminster 'bubble-dwellers' to respect Jeremy Corbyn as leader, to stop briefing a hostile media, to move on from the failed politics of old - and warns that playing 'intra-party politics' with such an important issue as going to war will repel voters.

Len McCluskey’s intervention to the debate on Syria comes as MPs prepare to the take what he describes as 'one of the most important parliamentary votes of their career' as the prime minister brings his proposal for Britain to join the bombing of Syria to the Commons.

Len McCluskey writes: “(This vote) will be vital for two reasons. The first and most important is that Labour once again risks being tarred as a party of illegal and irrational war.

“The 2003 vote to invade Iraq has haunted Labour ever since – losing millions of votes that have yet to be regained and causing around half the party’s membership to resign.  Nothing in Labour’s history has traumatised it quite so much perhaps.

“Now again Labour is being asked to support a war that lacks clear United Nations sanction – or a coherent purpose.

“The war the Tories are pushing will only add to civilian deaths in Syria, to the number of refugees fleeing the country. It will further feed the cycle of violence – terrorism/war/more terror/more war – that has brought so much suffering to the region and the world this century.”

“Everybody agrees that IS can only be defeated by a ground army which can secure some support from the people of the region itself. Not finding one, the premier has simply invented a mythical 70,000-strong opposition army – his own version of Tony Blair’s infamous “45 minute warning” over Iraq.

“The truth is that there needs to be a peace agreement between the Assad regime and its opponents leading to a transitional administration which could then take on IS. For years, the prime minister has worked against such an agreement.”

Turning to Labour MPs who are considering their position on this week’s vote, Mr McCluskey writes: “But there is a second reason why Labour MPs vote this week will be so significant – a lesser reason in the big scheme of things, but vital for the party’s future.

“It is because the issue of Syria is being used as the thin edge to stage a coup against Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s (overwhelmingly) elected leader.

“He has been denounced for writing to MPs and party members making his views on Syria clear – as if his huge mandate, which included support for his long-standing anti-war record, had simply earned him the right to be seen but not heard.

“Yet at the same time members of the shadow cabinet are making their own pro-bombing views plain, either publicly or in off-the-record briefings.

“And backbench MPs are even calling on him to quit for having the temerity to maintain his values and principles, with one even comparing him disgracefully to a “fuhrer”. That is not open debate, it is abuse and should have no place in the party.

“The thought that some Labour MPs might be prepared to play intra-party politics over an issue such as this will sicken all decent people.

“And they are playing with fire. Any attempt to force Labour’s leader out through a Westminster palace-coup will be resisted all the way by Unite and, I believe, most party members and affiliated unions.”

On the issue of a free vote on the prime minister’s proposals to bomb, he writes: “I do not know whether there will be a 'free vote' on Syria or not. That is a decision for Jeremy to make.

“But we cannot have a “free-for-all” party. If those Westminster bubble-dwellers who hanker back to the politics of the past cannot show the elected leader – and those who voted for him – more respect, then they are writing their own political obituaries.  So be it – but the price should not be paid in Syrian lives.”

The full text of the article can be read on the Huffington Post


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Pauline Doyle on 07976 832861.

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.