With today’s debate on Syria and the question of going to war, MPs are facing the biggest issue we ask them to deal with. But what is a serious matter, and requires serious thought, has been used for political purposes. Never has Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a new politics felt more appropriate.
David Cameron’s claim that those who oppose the government’s proposal to join the bombing of Syria are terrorist sympathisers is beneath contempt, particularly when the government itself is unable to show how the proposed military action, without ground troops or a plan for the future of the country, is supposed to deliver any sustainable victory against Daesh in Syria. And let’s not forget that it comes from a government that has kept close ties with regimes that have pitiful records on human rights and are now being accused of providing weapons to and buying oil from Daesh.
In fact, opposition to the proposals stems out of questions about strategy that the government has not provided convincing answers to. Where is the evidence that bombing fighters embedded in a civilian population will be effective to counter the spread of an ideology that has fed upon anti-Western feeling? What is the government’s plan for bringing an end to the Syrian civil war and the Assad regime which has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths?
The claim that there are 70,000 “moderate” troops in response to these questions – or indeed, troops in any meaningful sense of the word – hasn’t stood up to even basic scrutiny and has worrying echoes of Tony Blair’s 45 minute claim. We don’t need a report from Chilcot to learn this lesson from the past.
I don’t doubt that the government wants to defeat Daesh, but its plan seems akin to putting its head down and running at the problem. When it is throwing accusations and labels around, it seems that an intelligent debate, not just the Labour Party, is the government’s enemy.
For all of the noise about Labour’s leadership and splits in the party, let us be clear – Jeremy Corbyn has been on the right side of this issue and MPs briefing against him in the Labour Party have to stop viewing Syria as a way of sabotaging his leadership and re-running a contest he won comprehensively. They may not like it, but the approach the party took to Iraq was a touchstone question in the leadership election for many who felt ignored in the New Labour years.
Indeed, if the leadership election underlined anything it is the desire for a definitive change in the direction the country is taking. The housing crisis, unprecedented cuts to public services, growing levels of in-work poverty and a fundamental shift towards insecure employment models are not problems that call for clever political positioning or minor changes in policy, but bold and radical solutions.
Jeremy Corbyn won the right to put forward his solutions to these issues with over 250,000 votes and CWU members want to see him being given the backing to do so – the call for a new politics goes for all of the Labour Party, not just new members who have come in. Issues we face like Syria, and accusations like ‘terrorist sympathiser’ that are being thrown around, show just how important this change is.
For those who are seeking to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, I would say that in amongst the hysteria he has forced a government U-turn on tax credits, a U-turn on the Saudi prison contract and shifted public opinion on the bombing of Syria. This is clear evidence that Labour Party members made the right choice.