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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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