Three-quarters of Labour Party members oppose air strikes. Will MPs defy them?

The shadow cabinet was due to meet to decide Labour’s stance on Syria [Image: Sean Dempsey/PA].

The shadow cabinet was due to meet to decide Labour’s stance on Syria [Image: Sean Dempsey/PA].

A consultation of Labour Party members has shown 75 per cent of them oppose UK participation in air strikes in Syria, according to a representative sample.

Jeremy Corbyn emailed members on Friday, seeking their views. He received 107,875 responses, of which 64,771 were confirmed as from full Party members (the email and its response address were widely publicised immediately upon its release, so it is necessary to make the distinction).

That’s far too many for Labour staff to be able to provide a full report within a morning, so the statement is based on a sample of replies from 1,900 party members. It runs as follows:

A sample of this weekend’s consultation of Labour Party members, carried out in response to an email from Jeremy Corbyn, issued Friday 27th November, has shown that 75 per cent of Labour party members who have responded oppose UK bombing in Syria.

107,875 responses were received of which 64,771 were confirmed as full individual Labour Party members. The remainder included affiliated supporters and registered supporters.

Random sampling, of full individual Labour Party members who responded to the email, has shown:

75 per cent are against UK bombing in Syria

13 per cent are for UK bombing in Syria

11 per cent are undecided on the issue.

The Guardian, reporting the statement in its live politics blog, has rather inkindly claimed: “This 75% figure is quite a lot higher than the figure YouGov produced when it surveyed Labour members last week. It found that only 58% of Labour member were opposed to air strikes. (See 10.36am) But that is because this is a self-selecting survey, rather than a proper poll, and in survey like this the views of those highly motivated to participate always tend to be over-represented.”

That’s a little disingenuous.

Everybody with an opinion was invited to participate, and we should accept that everybody who wanted to express that opinion has done so. Therefore we should accept the figure as representative of the views of the Labour Party – until the full result, recording all 100,000+ opinions, can be published in the future.

Considering the huge volume of responses, it would be wrong to blame Labour for basing an initial press release on a representative selection.

Where does this leave Labour’s MPs?

The vast majority, who are prepared to follow the Party line as voted through – unanimously – at Conference in September, will follow Jeremy Corbyn’s lead. NEC member Bex Bailey has tried to claim that the criteria for action outlined in the motion have been met, but this is a voice in the wilderness; consensus is that they have not.

But those who have said they are inclined to vote in favour of air strikes must now decide whether they wish to defy the will of their own electorate in order to support Conservative prime minister David Cameron.

They now know it is a choice that could end their careers.

So: Tom Watson, Hilary Benn, Chris Bryant, Chuka Umunna, and the handful of others who agree with you – what justification can you supply for your position?

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20 thoughts on “Three-quarters of Labour Party members oppose air strikes. Will MPs defy them?

  1. NMac

    I was one of the 64,771 and I support Jeremy Corbyn all the way on this issue. It was nice to be consulted, so I hope the Labour MPs listen to what ordinary people are saying.

    1. Jacquie Perrie

      We are not the ordinary people, we are the human race who have spoken out against the insanity of war! It’s time these jumped up ego maniacs were held accountable by the rest of us! Not in our name!

  2. hayfords

    The headline “Three-quarters of Labour Party members oppose air strikes” is not strictly correct. I do notice you have the accurate version below, “75 per cent of Labour party members who have responded”. This is a self selecting group as those with a strong view would be more likely to respond.

    Taking this view of percentages of responders to indicate overall agreement is support that the current government has a mandate as we should then consider the percentage of people who voted Conservative out of those who voted in the GE (responded) and not compared to the whole electorate.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You’re splitting hairs. All of the party were invited to respond and we must work with the figures we have. Many members didn’t respond but we don’t know why. We can’t say they don’t have an opinion either way and we can’t say they do, because we don’t know their circumstances.
      It isn’t like the general election, where people have a democratic duty to vote and make a conscious choice regarding whether to do so or not, and who to support.
      But then, you know all that and are simply trying to deceive the gullible.

      1. hayfords

        It looks like the discussion is academic as the news seems to suggest that Corbyn has allowed a free vote, with an official Labour position against it. That sounds like a fudge. That should result in a healthy majority for the government. I will be interesting to seee how many Labour MPs vote in favour. Current estimates are 60 plus. It has temporarily avoided a major confrontation inside Labour.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        See my article. It may be a fudge to you but it’s a very clever move.
        If it does result on a majority for the Conservative Government, it will end the careers of the Labour MPs who vote with them.
        As for temporarily avoiding a major confrontation within Labour, I reckon you’re wrong there as well. Time will tell.

    2. perry525

      May I mention that there are many Conservatives, Liberals etc. Who do not want us to bomb Syria. Why are they ignored? Where is their voice? Its not only Labour supporters!

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        The right-wing media are desperate to pretend there is a crisis in the Labour Party over this. There isn’t, so they are working overtime to reinforce their fairy tale.

      2. John Gaines

        And, it is also disengenous for the Labour Reich Wing to claim that the Shadow Cabinet had the might of 9 Million voters who voted for them….
        Dearie me, and I foolishly thought that they voted LABOUR it hardly matters whom the Candidate is and, bloody lucky for them that it is….won’t make that mistake again, will we?

  3. Lynn Dye

    I am also one of the 64,771 Labour party members and I backed Jeremy Corbyn on no air strikes. I don’t subscribe to YouGov, so why does the Guardian presume they have all Labour supporters’ views?
    As a full member, my husband also backed the party leader.
    Now he DOES subscribe to YouGov but they did not even ask him. What does that tell us?

    1. Aelfy

      Yougov randomly select people for these surveys, they asked me, in fact they have asked me several times about which party I support as well. It’s the luck of the draw 🙂

  4. Ros Curwood

    I wonder if it would be possible to run an independent but affiliated Labour candidate in the constituencies of those who are not really Labour MPs, so then voters could choose. After all the SNP found some great candidates from among the untried and untested. Be good to get some new blood into the mix, maybe those with real experience instead of degrees in politics….just thinking…

  5. Roy Beiley

    Why bother to email people for their views if you do not act on a 75% majority against bombing Syria. Corbyn needs to grow some balls and impose a 3 line whip. If he doesn’t and Cameron gets his majority, all the people who saw Corbyn as ” different” are going to be sadly disappointed. Me included.

  6. hayfords

    This from the Guardian at 18:05

    The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush posted this on Twitter a few moments ago.

    — Stephen Bush (@stephenkb)
    November 30, 2015

    Not that it matters but told that Labour HQ did NOT check poll results. Just 100 emails checked, not 1,900 as claimed.

    — Stephen Bush (@stephenkb)
    November 30, 2015

    Milne overruled Labour spinners who objected and sent release out at any case.

  7. ChinaShop

    I am both a Labour Party member who responded in support of Jeremy Corbyn and a regular YouGov contributor who, like your husband, was not asked on this occasion. I normally receive several surveys every week and I always respond, so as a registered contributor, it’s fair to suppose that my political allegiances are known to the organisation. It may be that the selection of contributors polled is entirely random as Aelfy suggests but it is also not beyond the realms of probability that a selection is made to produce a desired result. It is also worth noting that of the two founders, Stephan Shakespeare was once owner of ConservativeHome and Nadhim Zahawi is now a Conservative MP for Stratford upon Avon.

Comments are closed.