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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Alone and abandoned - Corbyn isolated on Labour front bench

The picture above is a genuine moment in the debate on the UK Government's defence review and shows the Leader of the Opposition alone and isolated on the front bench. As a symbol of what is happening to the Labour Party it is unassailable.

Over at the Telegraph, Labour Party member and columnist, Dan Hodges thinks it is now only a matter of time before Corbyn is ousted as leader. However, he raises wider concerns about the future of the Labour Party itself, which he says is in danger of turning into a rabble. The tipping point, he says, will the vote on whether to take arms in Syria:

Over the past few days there has been much internal debate about allowing Labour MPs a “free vote” on any Syria motion. It is, some in Labour’s ranks believe, a clever way of getting their party out of a tight spot. Their leader can vote with his conscience, members of the shadow cabinet can vote with theirs, and everyone can then carry on as if nothing has happened.

Something will have happened, though, something serious. The Labour Party will have failed to take a stand on an issue of war and peace. There have been times in our nation’s history when our political parties have adopted the right stance on military intervention. There have been times when they have adopted the wrong stance. But I cannot recall an occasion in my lifetime when one of those parties failed to adopt any stance at all.

What those arguing for a free vote are actually proposing is that the Labour Party should formally say to the British people: “We have no policy on Syria. We know British service personnel are being asked to fight. It is conceivable some of them are being asked to die. But we have no view on that. And we have no view because it is politically inconvenient for us to have a view.”

At that point Labour ceases to be a serious party of opposition. Not Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, but the Labour Party collectively. Indeed, it ceases to be a political party. It becomes an incoherent, morally and intellectually bankrupt rabble.

Hodges argues that this goes to the heart of what Labour actually is.He says that the front bench have to make a stand:

Members of the shadow cabinet have to go to Mr Corbyn and tell him squarely to his face that unless he joins with them in backing military action against Isil they will resign. No fixes, no fudges, but a simple choice. You back the Government, you back our allies, your back the United Nations, you back the majority view of your senior colleagues, or you can have my portfolio.

We cannot continue with a situation where on vital issues of war, national defence and national security, senior members of the Labour Party appear on our screens night after night and say: “Yeah, I don’t agree with Jeremy Corbyn on that, but what can you do?”

For the last two months the shadow cabinet has effectively been telling the people of Britain: “We don’t trust our leader on the most important issues facing our country, but you should.” This is unsustainable. Either the shadow cabinet has confidence in Mr Corbyn to make the right choices in defence of our nation, in which case they should be out there endorsing those choices. Or they don’t have confidence in him to make those life and death choices. In which case they should no longer, in good conscience, serve under him.

This is all serious stuff. How Labour politicians deal with it now could determine the future of their party for some time to come.
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