Britain made a monumental decision today — it decided to bomb ISIS (also know as the Islamic State, ISIL and Daesh) in Syria.
However, while the focus should have been on debating the pros and cons of taking such significant military action, the whole day just demonstrated how fractured and shambolic Labour is — and they can’t blame anyone but than themselves.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour’s leader in September rocked the party to the core — progressive Blarite politicians were not happy while other MPs became confused on what the party line was.
However, arguably, the tipping point for the massive schism to course through Britain’s main opposition was when Corbyn sent a public letter condemning military action in Syria.
Now this doesn’t sound like a big deal — after all, Corbyn is known for hardline stances on everything from military action overseas, 1970s style taxation and socialist ideals, a far cry from the Tony Blair era. However, it was symbolic of how fractured the Labour party has become.
Usually, a political party leader would whip around and make sure, after long discussion, that politicians should vote in one certain way (or at least most of them) so the group would be united in what the party stands for and how best it can represent its voters.
Now this is not to say what he supports (an opposition to the bombing) is wrong in any way, it’s more of how he has gone about it. It simply paved the way for a decimation of Labour’s structure during today’s debate and vote.
Labour politicians defied Corbyn
Business Insider stayed for the long haul and covered the debate here.
But while 10.5 hours worth of debates should have garnered poignant volleys of questions, it was mostly dominated by Corbyn and Labour MPs demanding Prime Minister David Cameron apologise for describing those opposing a military intervention as “terrorist sympathisers.”
Corbyn’s provincial style of political house speaking, which was a big hit when he first came to parliament as Labour’s leader, was falling a bit flat in a monumental day in parliament. It was schoolyard point scoring at a time when pertinent questions should have been asked:
Even his party’s members were getting fed up:
Unlike the Prime Minister, as well as politicians across other political parties, he tried to make a hard and fast case for not bombing Syria without opening the floor to too many questions.
And after today, it is easy to see why Labour politicians were split on whether they were backing the military intervention in Syria or not.
Embarrassingly, the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn is in open conflict with Corbyn over the bombing campaign in Syria. He even did this interview on Tuesday night and confirmed his polar opposite view to Corbyn:
And here is Benn’s speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday:
It was so rousing that everyone, including non-Labour politicians, have heralded his speech as the best of the day:
I am at the entrance to the Members’ Lobby. One Tory MP tells me as many as 15 Labour MP waverers were swayed by Hilary Benn’s speech.
— Christopher Hope (@christopherhope) December 2, 2015
Meanwhile, Yvette Cooper, who was once in the running to be the leader of the Labour party before falling to Corbyn’s unstoppable momentum, gave an impassioned speech explaining why she would support the bombing campaign:
Fellow Labour MP Dan Jarvis, who has served in the British military and is seen by many as future party leader, won praise from staunch Conservative supporters for his speech supporting the government:
Here is his speech:
Jarvis, like Benn and others, also penned a long op-ed about why he is defying his party’s leader. You can read it here.
So what’s next?
Well, Labour has to deal with the fallout of the lost vote and how it appears that Corbyn appears to have control over his party. Foreign policy and social politics is where his heart is and this was his time to put Labour back on the map.
But now, after losing a crucial motion on military intervention overseas, any pretence that Labour was united behind their leader is lost. If anything, Corbyn could now face a leadership challenge — potentially from the public’s and Labour’s new favourite Hilary Benn.
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