Hilary Benn: I won't quit

Posted On: 
27th November 2015

Hilary Benn has insisted he will not resign despite being at odds with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over whether the RAF should take part in air strikes in Syria.

Mr Corbyn infuriated colleagues last night by announcing he could not back strikes against IS militants in the war-torn country, despite having promised a collective decision would be made on Monday.

Speaking this morning, Mr Benn openly defied his leader and backed David Cameron's proposed strikes, although he quashed suggestions he could quit as Shadow Foreign Secretary.

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“I'm not going to resign because I am doing my job as the Shadow Foreign Secretary,” he told Radio 4's Today programme.

Setting out why he backed Mr Cameron, he said it was "right that we play our part".

He said: "There is a clear threat to our citizens and to our nation. We saw the killing of the British tourists in Sousse in the summer. I think the first responsibility of all of us as members of parliament is to take the right decisions to defend the nation. There is also a very clear threat to others."

Mr Benn was unable to say if Labour MPs would be given a free vote on the issue when it comes before parliament – most likely next week.

But he said he “genuinely” respected “those who take a different view”, including Mr Corbyn.

“Jeremy is perfectly entitled - he is the elected leader of the Labour party with a very large mandate, and he is perfectly entitled - to express to Labour MPs his view and the conclusion that he has reached about the choice it looks as if we are going to face in parliament, as are others," Mr Benn insisted.

'DECLARED WAR'

The Labour leader took heavy flak from members of his front bench last night, who said he had “declared war” on the Shadow Cabinet and accused him of “completely dishonest politics”.

One source said the leader could even face a wave of resignations from his own whips, most of whom are also thought to support bombing, after they were "undermined" by his actions.

High profile frontbenchers, including Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle and deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, said they backed David Cameron's call for RAF air strikes.