This Blog has just learned that Jeremy Corbyn is to offer a free vote to Labour MPs on Tory PM David Cameron’s proposals for the UK to bomb Syria – but will make clear that Labour party policy is to oppose airstrikes.
His decision averts the threat of a mass shadow cabinet walkout while making it clear that his own firmly-held opposition to airstrikes is official Labour party policy, backed by the membership.
He will also call on Cameron to delay the vote until after he has addressed Labour Party concerns over his justification for the bombing – and has already written to the prime minister calling for a full, two-day debate.
This suggests Corbyn is playing what some people describe as a “long game”.
If Cameron agrees to delay a vote until after he has made another attempt to justify himself, this will give the Labour leadership time for a full assessment of responses to Mr Corbyn’s emailed consultation of party members.
MPs will be able to see precisely how members in their own constituencies have responded and what arguments they have put forward.
This means those who have expressed support for bombings may find themselves at odds with their own constituency membership. What will that mean for their own future, if they go ahead with support for a Conservative motion?
It seems to This Writer that Labour MPs who still plan to support the Tories are courting deselection before the next election, to be replaced by candidates who more accurately reflect party policy (which is to block air strikes, let’s not forget).
Cameron will face a dilemma over his plan to demand a vote this week, as undecided Labour MPs are more likely to support party policy in the absence of full information from the consultation or any further justification from Cameron.
Prior to the announcement This Writer would have preferred Corbyn to have whipped his members to vote against air strikes.
But this move is, potentially, a stroke of genius.
It hamstrings Cameron and the rebels, provides time for heated emotions to calm, and creates openings for the Labour Party’s future.
Of course, some commentators haven’t seen it like that.
Ed Balls’ former head of policy, Karim Palant, has tweeted: “This is the right decision in the circumstances. But poor handling has hurt leader’s standing with his supporters.” Oh, really?
It seems to me that any “poor handling” was carried out by the Blairites who briefed against Corbyn in the Tory rags. They misinformed the media and created a stir that was altogether unnecessary.
Corbyn stands unblemished as a result of all this; he has demonstrated – as well as it is possible to do so – that his view is supported by the majority of the party, and it is his opponents who are on the wrong side of the argument.
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