Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party, is in an impossible position over the question of whether Britain should join in the bombing of ISIS (also known as Islamic State) in Syria.
Many Labour members, especially the ones that support Corbyn, don’t want it. Corbyn doesn’t want it, but his party’s politicians are more on the fence.
He previously said he would not approve a free vote on the issue, but now he’s changed his mind — Labour MPs will be able to make their own decision over whether to back the air strikes.
Corbyn’s position is unenviable — he risked fracturing the Labour party further, and alienating his supporters, whatever he did.
Last week in Whitehall the leader surprised his own party with a public personal letter about how he does not support the Conservative-led government’s reasons for bombing Syria in order to destroy fighters for the Islamic State (ISIS).
This letter was apparently a hit with Labour’s members. The party said it conducted an emailed poll over whether its members were “for” or “against” the bombing in Syria and it said 75% were against military action.
There were 107,875 respondents to the emailed poll and out of those responses, 64,771 were from full individual party members.
However, the 75% number comes from initial analysis of 1,900 responses. Labour MP Angela Smith also told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One this morning that she questions the validity of the poll because she didn’t even receive the email. She added that the exercise was a “rather vague consultation.”
According to George Eaton of the New Statesman, senior Labour figures don’t agree with that 75% — a majority of his shadow cabinet are in favour of PM David Cameron’s plan to take military action against ISIS.
Cameron said he will hold a vote but only if he has obvious and clear support from the House of Commons because if the vote failed, it would give ISIS a propaganda victory.
Labour’s support is actually crucial to the bombing going ahead. While Cameron’s Conservative party politicians are largely in favour of the bombing in Syria, there are a number of Tory MPs that are opposed to the military action and could throw the result into doubt.
Although Mr Cameron has a parliamentary majority, there are enough Conservative MPs opposed to the UK joining in the bombing of IS targets in Syria to put the result in doubt. The Scottish National Party, the third largest party in the Commons, is largely opposed to the bombing in Syria.
Combining this all together, Labour MPs hold the key into potentially the government obtaining the vote to launch air strike action in Syria.
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