Right wing Labour MPs plan to give the Tories a majority for war - and inflict damaging defeat on Jeremy Corbyn, argues John Rees
The Tories need the fig leaf of cross-party consensus to win a vote for bombing Syria. Indeed, given that some Tory MPs will rebel, they need right wing Labour MPs to vote with them to win a Commons vote.
Cameron was toying with abandoning the vote on war with Syria but now he thinks he can get a double whammy: a vote for war and a divided Labour Party which will inflict a signal defeat on Jeremy Corbyn if, as expected, he is elected Labour leader on Saturday.
Partly this is because the Tories want to compensate for the damage they've suffered over the refugee crisis by turning the public mood of sympathy for refugees into support for war.
The Tories are still stinging from the Commons defeat when they last called a vote to bomb Syria in August 2013. That was ‘one of the worst decisions the House of Commons has ever made’, according to George Osborne. This despite the fact that they then wanted to bomb the Assad regime which would have assisted the growth of the Islamic State group. Now they want to bomb IS…which will assist the barrel bombing Assad regime!
Now a group of right wing Labour MPs say they are willing to hand the Tories victory by voting for war, as the BBC’s Newsnight was overjoyed to report. Labour MPs Pat McFadden, Jo Cox and John Woodcock are leading the rebellion.
Such a revolt would inflict a very serious defeat on Jeremy Corbyn, at least on foreign policy. This is why there should be no drift from the Corbyn campaign over Nato withdrawal, Trident and support for national liberation struggles. Any such drift would only encourage the Tories. They are experts at scenting weakness. Corbyn team insiders like Owen Jones have very publicly signalled that they are happy to compromise on key elements of internationalism or to pursue policy priorities that don’t contain much anti-war material.
But the Tories and the political elite who they represent really care about issues that touch on the international standing of the British state - Nato, war, the EU and Scottish independence. They know that the political Achilles heel of Labour leaders and the Labour right has always been its predilection for putting the unity of the state over the demands of internationalism or, for that matter, the unity of the Labour Party.
Clement Attlee secretly agreed to develop British nuclear weapons and Aneurin Bevan broke with the left over his insistence on hanging on to them.
That's why the Tories main line of attack against Corbyn has been over international issues, not domestic policy.
The anti-war movement needs to meet this challenge with a huge campaign against bombing Syria. We need to especially target those Labour MPs who plan to hand victory to the Tories. By letter, online, at their surgeries, at Westminster they need to know that this is unacceptable behaviour. Even some Tory MPs oppose bombing...why would any Labour MP be more in favour of adding to the bloodshed than a Tory?
John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher) and ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German). He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.