Emily Thornberry hits out at Labour MPs over vote on Saudi-led coalition in Yemen

Posted On: 
27th October 2016

Emily Thornberry has said she is "disappointed" at the dozens of Labour MPs who refused to back her call for the UK to withdraw support for Saudi military action in Yemen.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry
PA Images

The Shadow Foreign Secretary called on ministers to withdraw support for the Saudi-led coalition until a UN investigation can assess whether it had violated international humanitarian law in Yemen.

However the motion did not call for a suspension of UK arms sales to the Middle East country.

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Ms Thornberry lost her opposition day motion by 283 votes to 193, with some 102 Labour MPs either abstaining or not around to vote.

Riyadh has come under severe scrutiny after allegations surfaced it was deliberately civilian targets in the conflict.

In a post on Facebook, the Labour frontbencher said yesterday’s vote offered an opportunity to send a “message to the world”.

She also accused the Government of an “abject betrayal of principle” over the matter and expressed her "disgust" that only one Tory MP backed her motion.

“While Saudi Arabia will remain a valued strategic, security and economic ally in the years to come, our support for their forces in Yemen must be suspended until the alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law in that conflict have been fully and independently investigated,” she wrote.

She added: “That would have reflected what we should stand for as a country. And that is why I was so disgusted that all but one brave Tory MP voted against sending such a message, and disappointed that some of my Labour colleagues abstained from doing so.

“But the majority of us did, and over the coming months, we will continue to hold the Government to account for its abject betrayal of principle, and its failure to protect the civilian population of Yemen. And above all, we will continue to press for humanitarian relief, and a lasting peace.”

Ms Thornberry was intervened on by her own MPs in the Commons yesterday, with some expressing concern that the proposal would not lead to fewer casualties in Yemen.

John Woodcock said the coalition is focused on training Saudis to comply with international humanitarian law. In light of this, he argued withdrawing support for the forces would “make it very hard for many of us to vote for” the motion.

Former Labour frontbencher Toby Perkins said: “There is much in the motion that I agree with, but I fear it is ultimately undermined by the abandonment of our commitment to the UN Security Council resolution, and I fear that while it may make us feel better, it will not make the situation on the ground better.”

In response, Ms Thornberry said in her Facebook post: “Those MPs who say our support for the Saudi coalition is essential to help limit civilian casualties need to realise there may be significant elements of the coalition forces over whom neither the UK advisers nor Riyadh have any control."