New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
28 August 2013updated 27 Sep 2015 5:33am

Labour set to whip MPs over Syria as Diane Abbott warns she could resign

Shadow public health minister says intervention "would put me in a very difficult position" as Labour signals it will whip MPs in support of Miliband's stance.

By George Eaton

Ahead of tomorrow’s recall of parliament, MPs from all parties are voicing their scepticism and in some cases opposition towards intervention in Syria. The most senior Labour figure to do so is Diane Abbott. While it is often forgotten given her long spell as a maverick backbencher, Abbott has been shadow public health minister since 2010, having been appointed by Ed Miliband after standing in the Labour leadership election. 

The Hackney North MP was quick to signal her concern over military action yesterday, when she tweeted: “Blair joins clamour for attack on Syria. Another reason why it’s probably a bad idea.” She went on to tell the Guardian: “I voted against the Iraq War. At the moment, I can’t see anything that would make me vote for intervention in Syria. Essentially it’s a civil war. What Libya and Egypt have taught us is that these situations in the Middle East are complex. It’s not good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats.”

Asked whether she would resign from the frontbench if Labour supported intervention, she replied: “It would put me in a very difficult position.” While Ed Miliband has yet to explicitly state that he will vote in favour of military action, he has said that he is prepared to support the government provided that the intervention is “legal”, “specifically limited to deterring the future use of chemical weapons” and that it has “clear and achievable military goals”.

A Labour source told me this morning that the party “was likely” to whip its MPs, citing the precedents of Iraq and Libya. As a result, any frontbencher who opposes intervention (assuming that Miliband supports the government) would be expected to resign their position. Abbott told Daybreak this morning that she was “waiting to hear the debate” but added: “on the basis of what I know now, I’m not even sure this intervention will be legal and it’s certainly not the case that Assad is going to wake up the morning after we bomb him and say ‘oh, less of these atrocities’. It runs a big risk of making matters worse and of dragging us into a civil war in Syria with no endgame.” 

The question for Miliband, as he seeks to preserve party unity, is how many other shadow ministers may be prepared to join Abbott if she decides to resign, rather than support military action. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy