Tue, 28 June 2022

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Press releases
By Women in Westminster

Richard Burgon vows to let Labour members veto military action as he slams 'frustrated Churchill' MPs

Richard Burgon vows to let Labour members veto military action as he slams 'frustrated Churchill' MPs
3 min read

Labour members would be able to veto any military action being supported by the party's leadership under radical plans being proposed by Richard Burgon.

The Shadow Justice Secretary, who is running for the deputy leadership of the party, unveiled his new 'Labour Peace Pledge' at a campaign event in Oxford on Wednesday night.

And he accused Labour MPs who supported military intervention in Syria of "strutting about like frustrated Churchills".

Under the pledge, Mr Burgon said Labour "would not endorse, or back, or support military action, unless the members gave it their explicit approval".

He added: "No decision is more important for a political party than whether or not to support military action.

"It is right that if the Labour Party wants to back military action then it must have the explicit backing of the party’s members, except in the case of a genuine national emergency or with UN backing, which Iraq clearly didn’t have.

"Never again should Labour members have the shame of having to protest 'Not in my name' against their own party. With this pledge in place, the British people can be confident that the Labour Party will not repeat the mistakes of the past and wrongly back military conflict."

The deputy leadership challenger also launched an angry attack on his Parliamentary colleagues over their knowledge of foreign policy - branding the behaviour of some Labour MPs "deeply embarrassing".

"I think the public would be shocked if they knew how ignorant many of the MPs are about the matters they are voting on, when it comes to other countries," he said.

"There are MPs who have voted for military action, including Labour MPs, who until they heard the speech on that proposal that day wouldn’t be able to say where that country was on the map, wouldn’t know what the capital city of that country was, wouldn’t know anything about the culture at all."

"Yet they strut about making these grandiose speeches like frustrated Churchills. And I think it’s deeply embarrassing."

The Leeds North MP has promised to set up a working group and present the rule change at Labour's annual conference in September if he wins the race to become deputy leader.


According to LabourList, the party would then be expected to seek permission from its members to press ahead with military action either through a referendum or conference vote.

Mr Burgon said: "Labour remains scarred by the experience of the Iraq War – for many it is sadly the single act for which the last Labour government is most remembered.

"It was a conflict opposed by most Labour Party members at the time. Jeremy Corbyn rightly apologised for Labour’s role in the disastrous and illegal war at the time of the publication of the Chilcot Report in 2016.

"But even since Iraq, Labour mistakenly backed the intervention in Libya, which has had catastrophic consequences for that country, and contributed to a massive refugee crisis. These interventions were supposed to have made us safer from terrorism. Tragically, they have failed in that objective too."

Mr Burgon's campaign has so far won the backing of the BFAWU, FBU and Unite trade unions, with 24 local parties also on board.

He has also won the support of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who has said Mr Burgon and leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey represent "the nature of my politics".

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Engineering a Better World

The Engineering a Better World podcast series from The House magazine and the IET is back for series two! New host Jonn Elledge discusses with parliamentarians and industry experts how technology and engineering can provide policy solutions to our changing world.

NEW SERIES - Listen now