Mon, 15 April 2024

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Jeremy Corbyn hit by backbench rebellion after telling Labour MPs to vote against his own motion

3 min read

Jeremy Corbyn was hit by a major Commons rebellion after dozens of Labour MPs ignored his order to vote against a motion he had tabled himself.

On a day of confusion, more than 50 backbenchers abstained following a three-hour debate on whether parliament should have the power to block military action by UK forces overseas.

Even though the motion being debated - that "this House has considered Parliament's rights in relation to the approval of military action by British Forces" was in Mr Corbyn's name, Labour MPs were whipped to vote against it.

Labour sources said that was a way of demonstrating the party's unhappiness at the Government for failing to bring forward a debate of its own on last Saturday's air strikes on Syria.

But only 205 of Labour's 259 followed his instructions, and the motion was passed, thanks to the support of the Conservatives, by 317 votes to 256.

Speaking afterwards, Labour rebel John Woodcock said: "I didn’t vote, and I think a number of my colleagues couldn’t really understand what the point in voting in quite the way we were asked (was)."

Another Labour MP said: "Last night the whips said we would vote for this motion, which is logical given it's the opposition motion. This morning we were told we had to vote against.

"You should not play games with matters of war and peace, which is why a load of us abstained. This party is becoming a joke."

Mr Corbyn has said a Labour government would introduce a War Powers Act, forcing a Prime Minister to seek MPs' approval before taking military action.

In the debate, the Labour leader said the Government should "learn the lessons" of Iraq.

"The Iraq war is something that is seared on the memory of every member who was in this House at the time and all those millions of people that expressed the deepest concern outside this House," he said.

"It’s for this House to take matters into its own hands and take back our control.”

But Theresa May said the airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities controlled by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad would have been “fundamentally undermined” if MPs had been given a chance to vote on them first.

She said: "This would not only have constrained their flexibility to act swiftly, it would have fundamentally undermined the effectiveness of their action and endangered the security of our American and French allies.

"In doing so we would have failed to stand up to Assad in the face of this latest atrocity."

The Prime Minister argued that Mr Corbyn's proposal would make small-scale military interventions unviable, adding: “We would have failed to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading Assad’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their future use, and we would have failed to uphold and defend the global consensus that says these weapons should never ever be used.”


Mr Corbyn - who yesterday faced thinly-veiled criticism from some his own backbenches over his stance on Syria - was also accused by the Liberal Democrats of making excuses for Assad’s backers in Moscow.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said: “Yesterday’s exchanges in the Commons showed broad support for upholding international law on chemical weapons, exposing a serious error of judgement on Theresa May’s part in not presenting her case to MPs for a vote.

"But we should be in no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is using this procedural device to cloak his ideological hostility to British armed forces involvement in more or less any military action, and to distract from his presumption of support for a morally bankrupt Russian regime.”

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