Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Set In Motion

As soon as Parliament returns after Easter, then there needs to be a Commons motion, with a division, condemning the Government's support for the American bombing of Syria.

Watch out for any Labour votes against that motion. Watch out for a large number of Labour abstentions.

Then compare those with the list of Labour MPs who failed to support a condemnation of continuing British arms sales to Saudi Arabia while the war in Yemen raged on, as it still does today.

As for Conservative votes against the Government, they would be unlikely to reach double figures.

None whatever voted against the war in Kosovo, admittedly a symbolic vote.

Although Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and George Galloway all supported Tony Benn and Tam Dalyell in doing so.

In fact, every MP who voted against the Government on that occasion was at that moment a member of the Labour Party, although at least two of them no longer are.

Both of those are still alive, and one of them is on course to re-enter the House of Commons next month.

There was no vote of any kind on Afghanistan, but 139 Labour MPs voted against the Iraq War, whereas only 16 Conservatives did so.

A former Foreign Secretary was among the anti-war MPs to resign from the Government front bench. There were no resignations from the Opposition front bench.

The Conservative-supporting press spent several subsequent years literally accusing opponents and critics of the Iraq War of treason, as well as of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.

It did so on a daily basis. For years.

Some of us still occasionally get that kind of abuse to this day. There are those who are still subjected to it on a very regular basis.

One of the most outspoken of those voices belonged to a man who has since served as Education Secretary, as Chief Whip and as Lord Chancellor, and who remains a Conservative MP.

Such views are also held by, for example, the current Secretary of State for International Trade.

Now as then, he considers criticism of the American Administration, the Israeli Government or the Saudi Royal House to be treasonable in and against the United Kingdom.

That is mainstream thinking on the British Right.

Indeed, it is pretty much definitive of the British Right, including the Blairite Right of the Labour Party as well as almost all Conservatives.

Anything else, harking back to a Toryism of old, is altogether eccentric, and it is as rare as hen's teeth in the Commons.

Thus, precisely one Conservative, as against 11 Labourites (again including Corbyn and McDonnell, as well as Barry Gardiner), voted against the war in Libya, which has turned out to have been the most catastrophic of the lot, at least so far.

Thus, only 30 Conservatives joined the whole of the Labour Party in voting against war in Syria in 2013.

And thus, when, for all the hype, fewer than one third of Labour MPs voted to bomb Syria in 2015, a mere seven Conservatives voted against doing so.

Would there even be that many this time?

As soon as Parliament returns after Easter, then there needs to be a Commons motion, with a division, condemning the Government's support for the American bombing of Syria.


  1. I loved your idea to bring the Saudi arms motion back word for word to the floor of the House after the Government stopped pretending that British made cluster bombs were not being used in Yemen. "The rather good Labour Chief Whip ought to publish in advance the list of MPs with leave of absence. For anyone else, abstention this time ought to mean deselection in due season, and universal moral revulsion with immediate effect."

    1. I still think that that ought to have happened. But it has now been overtaken by events.

  2. David, your point is a wee overstated.

    The Kosovo war resolution "vote" you referenced was 11-0 (w/ two tellers) not receiving the minimum number of supporters necessary to force a Commons debate - it was a fringe symbolic move in the Commons essentially for the Campaign Group types to go on the record with their opposition. To say they were the only ones opposed to the war would be inaccurate.

    One of the most prominent opponents of that war was Alex Salmond who was even baited by Labour MSPs on the subject less than a decade ago - . There were several Tory MPs opposed which, while it might not have been a huge proportion of the parliamentary party, was probably similar as a % of party MPs (remember 13 Labour MPs was 3.1% of the parliamentary party; the Tory equivalent would have been 5). Likewise, the difference in 2003 was less extreme than raw numbers suggest - about 34% of Labour and 10% of Tories (but then 100% of Lib Dems, SNP, PC) voted against the Iraq war. As you point out, only 4% of the party voted against the Libyan war. Miliband's 2013 position was opportunistic, if very useful for us. Corbyn's in 2015 was genuine but steeped in rather underwhelming, semi-pacifist claptrap.

    Ultimately, you are mainly right that there are very few anti-war, properly paleoconservative Tory MPs but there are almost equally few properly anti-war socialist MPs. Moreover, polling data does not suggest a major difference between the electorates of the main parties over foreign policy. UKIP now represents paleoconservative foreign policy (they have had a few prominent Atlanticists but they are not dominant), yet you celebrate their absence from parliament.

    1. Theirs were the only votes against it.