Socialist Worker

Jeremy Corbyn should confront Labour warmongers not appease them

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2483

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning against Trident

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning against Trident (Pic: Flickr/The Weekly Bull)


As parliament voted for war in Syria last week, Labour MPs ratcheted up the war on Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour MPs accused Corbyn supporters and anti-war protesters of bullying and intimidation after

66 of them voted with the Tories to bomb Syria.

Their disgraceful decision to line up with the Tories came after Corbyn said he would allow his MPs a free vote.

Corbyn is coming under constant attack from Labour MPs to his right who want to destabilise his leadership.

The free vote decision, following a meeting of the shadow cabinet, was a bid to appease those MPs and avoid a split.

But it paved the way for Tory prime minister David Cameron to call the vote in parliament that led to airstrikes in Syria going ahead.

He had held off until he was certain of a majority.

Many Corbyn supporters argue he was right to allow a free vote, as it protected his leadership and exposed pro-war MPs.

Student Louis is one of them. He told Socialist Worker, “He didn’t really have a choice.

“He was forced into it by the other Labour MPs.”

But Sophie, who organised a Stop the War protest in Walthamstow, east London, disagrees.

She said, “If there was a whip more would have voted against the war—and we might have had a chance to defeat the government.”

Many anti-war activists rightly direct their anger over the bombing of Syria towards pro-war Labour MPs.

Surgery 

Stop the War protesters in Leeds protested outside the surgery of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn. Benn ended the debate in parliament with a warmongering speech.

And angry residents of Walthamstow challenged Labour MP Stella Creasy for voting for war at a meeting in her ward last Sunday.

Creasy said Benn’s “internationalist” case for bombing convinced her. She brought in Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, who had voted against airstrikes, on the basis that there aren’t enough people to defend her.

Speaker after speaker condemned her vote for war. One said, “If Stella stood as an independent candidate she would get a derisory vote.”

Labour MPs used the protests and emails they received from people opposed to war to accuse Corbyn supporters of bullying and intimidation.

MP Tristram Hunt led calls for Corbyn to pull out of a Stop the War Christmas fundraiser after protests outside Labour offices last week.

But Corbyn hit back, defending Stop the War. He argued it had “repeatedly called it right over

14 years of disastrous wars in the wider Middle East”.

Corbyn rejected “attempts to portray campaigning, lobbying and protest as somehow beyond the pale”.

Reports suggest Corbyn is set to use a shadow cabinet reshuffle to strengthen his position.

He will be emboldened after Labour’s victory in the Oldham West by-election last week. But Corbyn is also strengthened by the support of thousands of people who are joining Stop the War protests.

He can rely on this support to confront the Labour right. The result of the free vote shows the dangers of trying to appease them.


Oldham vote gives a boost

The Labour Party won the Oldham West and Royton by-election on Thursday of last week with a majority of 10,722 votes—62 percent of the vote.

The result is less than previous MP Michael Meacher’s majority of 14,738.

But Labour’s share of the vote increased from then as the 40 percent turnout was lower than in May’s general election.

Many politicians and commentators had predicted that Labour’s majority would collapse to less than 1,000 as a result of Corbyn’s leadership.

Some even suggested that the racist Ukip party could have won by appealing to white working class voters who are “turned off” by Corbyn’s politics.

Now the same pundits claim that the election result had nothing to do with Corbyn, and was down to the popularity of candidate Jim McMahon.

Ukip was beaten into a distant second place, with just 6,487 votes.

Its leader, racist Nigel Farage, went into meltdown and claimed that the result had been “bent” by voters from ethnic minorities.

He added that immigration had meant that elections were open to “fraud”, and blamed Labour’s victory on voters who can’t speak English.


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