The decision to give Labour MPs a “free vote” on the issue of bombing Syria has cleared the way for a Commons vote on Wednesday to send the country to war. It was all the encouragement David Cameron needed.
A lot of guff has been talked about the vote being “a matter of conscience.” There is of course no logic at all that makes the question of, say, railway electrification, a matter of Party discipline but the question of illegally attacking another country a free-for-all.
In reality, it is not conscience at all that animates pro-war Labour MPs. It is either inveterate support for all British war-mongering, or a desire to destroy the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, or both. Their conduct explains the contempt in which most politicians are now held.
Nevertheless, the shadow cabinet decision should not mask the fact that the case for war is disintegrating. More and more people, experts and ordinary folk alike, are turning against David Cameron’s plan.
That is why all possible pressure should be continue to be applied, right down to the last-minute, on all MPs, but particularly the Labour minority wobbling on the matter, or presently signed up to support the Tories.
Let’s remind them that the arguments for war are threadbare.
Everyone would be delighted to see the end of Islamic State. But bombing by the most powerful air force in the world over the last two years has achieved little or nothing.
David Cameron’s 70,000-strong ground army ready to take and hold IS-controlled territory is largely a figment of his imagination – his own “45-minute warning”. Some of the fighters he is counting on are in fact al-Qaeda supporters.
And the government is still not seriously committed to a political process to end the Syrian civil war – the pre-condition for actually eliminating IS. Britain is therefore being sucked into another illegal, open-ended conflict which will achieve nothing beyond giving the whole cycle of violence another spin.
Cameron has learned nothing from his own disastrous intervention in Libya, never mind Tony Blair’s Iraq aggression.
His real reason for pushing for joining the bombing (alongside the USA, France, Russia and Turkey) is to give Britain a “seat at a table” in any post-war carve-up of the Middle East. The arguments of neo-imperialism in fact.
The determination of the majority of the Shadow Cabinet to go along with this has already been repudiated by the vast majority of Labour Party members and supporters. A growing wave of lobbying by the anti-war movement has also had an impact.
As a result even Labour MPs usually regarded as on the right of the Party are saying they will vote against further war when the matter comes before the Commons.
So the decision to allow a “free vote” – deplorable as it is – must be a spur to greater mobilisation, setting disappointment to one side. We must use every moment of the next 48 hours to maximise their number
Source: Stop the War Coalition