Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn has once again contradicted his party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn by saying that there’s no point trying to negotiate with ISIS.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Benn made his comments at a Fabian Society event on Tuesday evening, telling the room that there are some times when terrorist groups need defeating militarily, and this is one of them.
Here’s what Benn said, added emphasis is ours:
I don’t think there’s much to negotiate with Daesh [ISIS] about, unless someone’s going to take a different view… There are times where groups like that have to be defeated, that’s the argument I made in the House of Commons on the 2nd of December.
Benn’s words appear to directly contradict Corbyn, who on Sunday told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that the British government should try and open back-channels with ISIS and push for a political solution.
Here’s what Corbyn told Marr, added emphasis is ours.
The British government maintained a channel to the IRA all through the Troubles. I don’t condemn them for that, I don’t condemn them for keeping a back channel to the Taliban… There has to be a route through somewhere. A lot of the commanders in ISIL, particularly in Iraq, but also in Syria are actually former officers in the Iraqi army….
I believe the neighbouring governments in the region are in touch, look at the way there’s been some degree at times of prisoners exchange, of hostage exchange. We’ve got to bring out a political solution in Syria.
It’s the first time that Benn has publically disagreed with Corbyn over Syria since the speech on the on December 2 Benn mentioned that almost cost him his role in the shadow cabinet.
Benn made a speech to the House of Commons in his role as shadow Foreign Secretary, calling for the Royal Air Force to extend its airstrikes against ISIS to be extended into Syria. Corbyn opposed the airstrikes.
Hilary’s actions led to massive problems in Labours shadow cabinet and led to widespread briefing by the party that he was going to be fired by Corbyn in his shadow cabinet reshuffle.
This didn’t actually happen, but after days of negotiation, Corbyn reached what appeared to be a deal with Benn. Corbyn let him keep his job on the understanding that Benn wouldn’t disagree with Corbyn in his capacity as shadow Foreign Secretary.
This is what Shadow Chancellor and close Corbyn ally John McDonnell told the BBC’s Today Programme:
When it comes down to future debates we won’t have a situation where he [Benn] will be speaking from the front bench when there is a major disagreement on policy and where the Parliamentary Labour Party is in the majority against him… If there is a disagreement and people on a free vote want to express their views, they will do it from the back benches
Benn’s address to the Fabian Society on Tuesday will test this apparent deal. It’s not clear if he was speaking last night in his capacity as a shadow minister or as a backbench; or even how Benn is expected to make that distinction clear. Regardless, with the Labour party doing so badly in the polls, Corbyn can’t afford to have another disagreement with Benn in public.
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