Jeremy Corbyn has decided to allow a free vote on the bombing of ISIS in Syria. A man, who is so ardently against war, has apparently been ‘forced’ to allow Labour MPs to vote with their conscience rather than the Labour whip. But does this show capitulation under pressure from his party, or does this show a strong leadership?
Corbyn may well have been forced into this decision by the dissidents in the PLP and made to back down, but I find this absolutely admirable. His MPs who advocate war were trying to get him into a corner. They were trying to use his views on military intervention to justify a political putsch. These are MPs who don’t care about Syria, about the innocents, but only about their self-interest.
A whipped vote gives them an excuse to rebel against their leader. A free vote however, cries accountability. The warmongers will now have to consult their conscience on this issue instead of their self-interest. What Corbyn has done is stopped the debate from targeting him, and has made it target individuals.
Those people within Labour who are foaming at the mouth at the prospect of war will now actually have to think about their constituents’ views, and act upon them, rather than their leaders’ view and act against them.
In reality, Whatever Corbyn chooses he will get stick for; the media love the in-fighting between factions within the Labour movement. Now this has been diverted, they need something to point their energies at. They have decided to say that Corbyn – a man who is totally and utterly against this intervention and past interventions – has, by allowing a free vote, allowed for our country to go to war. I think very differently to this. I think that actually, the Blairites within the party hold so much contempt for their leader that they would have voted against the whip just in spite of Jeremy Corbyn and his very well justified views.
A free vote stops the party-political infighting, and allows them to focus on the realities that this war will bring.
The fact that we have a PLP that is using the situation in Syria, and our response to it, as a political toy shows how they view this debate. They view it not as a decision that will advocate the killing of thousands of innocents and make us at greater threat from terror; but as a decision on which they can capitalize with cheap political point scoring against their leader.
What the Blairites are doing is actually quite clever. They are going against their leader, smearing his views as ‘invalid’ and ‘out of touch’ and creating a factional dispute within their party. They then go back out to the media and say ‘look at how bad Jeremy is handling the Labour party, it is entirely his fault’.
Do we not see the disrespect these MPs are showing to those who will lose their lives, their homes and their livelihoods because of our intervention? Corbyn seems to be the only one who is trying to centre the debate around the effects that our choice will have on us and the people we are meant to be protecting. The Blairites are lucky they have a leader that welcomes their ideas about this debate and has given them a voice.
When Corbyn won the leadership elections, he promised to recognise the ‘broad church’ that the Labour party is. He wanted to democratise the Labour party and did not want to silence any different views, even if they were different to his own. He promised to create a shadow cabinet that represents the diversity his party holds, and he did exactly this.
The Blue Labour faction were recognised as a part of the party and he allowed many of them into his cabinet. He could have created a cabinet full of ‘lefties’ such as himself but he did not. He is giving every part of the party a chance for reasoned debate in order to create unity within it. So what do the PLP do? They throw it right back in his face.
The right-wingers within the faction, commonly, but wrongly called the ‘moderates’ are playing dirty politics against their leader. They are not only inciting disunity and blaming it on their leader but they are taking advantage of his generosity towards them. How can we have a united Labour party when most of the factions not too keen on Corbyn are on a smearing campaign to eject him from his rightful position? We can’t.
What a free vote on Syria does is move the debate from the idea of disunity, because there is not really any whip to unite under. I admire this move, this is a real politician, and a real leader.
Now, when the PLP are so dead set on getting rid of Corbyn, they are going to lose sight of the real enemy.
Corbyn is providing an opposition and this is what we need in politics. Syria is being used by the Labour right-wing, the media and the Tories themselves, as a way of inciting disunity within the Labour party to fulfil their individual interests. We need to watch this debate very closely. We need think very hard about the effects intervention in Syria will have on not only us, but the innocent people of Syria.
Whether you agree with Corbyn or not, the choice of a free vote highlights the strength he has as a democratic leader. One that the media will spin and the Tories will deny. Give the man some praise, because either way, he will get a lot of stick.