Musings on the Aftermath

Whether or not to extend British involvement across the “non-existent” border between Iraq and Syria was always going to be a divisive issue. There was no way around that. For a party such as ours, it promised to be particularly so. Not especially in Parliament, where we are now so few that nobody would notice except us. No, I mean divisive internally. Within hours of Tim’s announcement that he would support the strikes and ask our other MPs to as well, not only had my inbox exploded with Facebook notifications declaring it to be a stupid idea or that the conditions had not been met, but protests had been called for outside HQ and Sal Brinton had agreed to meet them.

Now I’m not suggesting for one minute that we should all tow the party line without question, and I have the utmost respect for Norman and Mark for voting against. Questioning decisions and following our consciences are two of the things that distinguish us from many hard-left Corbynites. Each and every person who objected is well within their rights to do so, and I personally would be willing to discuss it with anyone who will present me with a more reasoned argument than those I get from people in my seminars.

Let us reality check for a moment. Tim gave Cameron a list of conditions for our support. These were, in Tim’s view, broadly met. While many of us, myself included, are not convinced by the term ‘broadly’, they were never going to be completely met by the Prime Minister, and why would they be? Eight MPs dictating terms? Chances are he looked at it, gave it to Philip Hammond and forgot about it. The important thing now is that we carry on. Calls for a new leader, of which I have seen a couple floating around, sincere or otherwise, are groundless. Yet they solidify one of my greatest fears following the leadership election, division. Twice now, when something hasn’t gone well for Tim, or he’s done something they don’t agree with, the bitter branch of the Normtroopers have raised their heads.

That interview where he couldn’t say gay sex wasn’t a sin? New leader! Bombing Syria? New leader!

What kind of message would that send? I do not doubt that Norman would be a good leader, but I doubt very much that he would support, or approve of, any attempt to oust Tim. Are we not better than this tribalism? That has always been Labour’s territory.

On Labour, I find myself in the curious position of believing that the only true statesman figure this country has is the Shadow Foreign Secretary. Not Cameron, Osbourne or Corbyn, but Hilary Benn. I understand that this is another divisive view, yet I cannot help but think it. He would be, in my mind, the best chance Labour had of recovering from Corbyn, even if he couldn’t win an election. What a shame for Labour then, that their hard-left would rather send him and others death and deselection threats than encourage, or even accommodate, his different views.

We may not all agree, we may not even like each other in some cases, but let’s not light the torches and sharpen the pitchforks. Labour’s divisions could well destroy them yet, think what tribalism could do to us.

* Ed Thornley is a member of Leeds Young Liberals, co-ordinated their campaigning in June’s General Election and is doing the same for the Leeds Council elections next year. He campaigned in Southport during the EU Referendum.

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11 Comments

  • Wise and sensible . Nothing divisive about admiring Hilary Benn . Whether agreeing with him on this recent speech , he is impressive. Tribalism and pettiness are awful . In this party the number of people who detest so called orange bookers , and yet who literally admit they have not even read that book is ridiculous . Supporters of Norman Lamb are by and large keen on Tim Farron as leader. I know I am for both .Everyone should relieve themselves and our party of knee jerk responses and stop the toys from the play pen nonsense . Open and constructive debate is good . Constant criticism is bad .

  • Toe the line, not tow the line!

  • David Pollard 7th Dec '15 - 5:21pm

    There was no valid reason for supporting Cameron. Anyone who is a regular reader of Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn, Jasmine Alibhi-Brown and of course Mark Steel in The independent could not have reached such a decision in a million years. Everything else is froth.

  • Would just like to pick up on Dave Page’s point about where the calls for Tim’s resignation have come from. As far as I can tell they haven’t come from the so called ‘Normtroopers’. I and many others from Norm’s camp have said Tim needs (as does Norman) time to explain his stance on Syria. We should resist saying throw away remarks that over dramatise every ebb and flow of his leadership. Whilst I found the Channel 4 interview very difficult to stomach, the Syria issue is something by which Tim demonstrated a rationale for voting with the government, regardless of my thoughts on whether it was the right thing to do or not.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Dec '15 - 8:52pm

    Labour’s next leader could be someone who is younger than Ed Milliband. The average or typical voter does not have a degree in economics. Those that do may have 365 different opinons. Oldham was a strongly held Labour seat, not typical. Next May will be more important. We still do not know for sure when the referendum will be.

  • David Pollard
    Read up on the Middle East and Islam. Take a trip to Beirut.

  • Greg Simpson 8th Dec '15 - 2:29pm

    David Pollard – I can give you a valid reason. The UK is already dropping bombs on IS in Iraq. This vote extends that action to IS in Syria. It brings coherence to an incoherent military action. You may disagree, but it is valid. You could argue that the current coalition military action in Iraq and Syria is incoherent because it doesn’t include a ground strategy. That too would be valid. The corollary of that would be to withdraw support for action in Iraq too. But that wasn’t part of the Government’s motion. In terms of the vote on the motion I would support. In terms of the UK’s and Coalition’s overall strategy, I would not.

  • Greg Simpson 8th Dec ’15 – 2:29pm…..David Pollard – I can give you a valid reason. The UK is already dropping bombs on IS in Iraq. This vote extends that action to IS in Syria. It brings coherence to an incoherent military action….

    GS, as ISIS and their equally bad ‘fellow travellers’ already control large areas Libya, Mali and Somalia, the extension of your reasoning is to bomb these areas…

    IMO..The reason we are bombing in Iraq is that our intervention has failed;… I’d sum it up with Mastermind’s “We’ve started so we’ll finish” ….

  • Greg Simpson 8th Dec '15 - 4:18pm

    @expats “GS, as ISIS and their equally bad ‘fellow travellers’ already control large areas Libya, Mali and Somalia, the extension of your reasoning is to bomb these areas…”

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. These are in distinct geographical places, different physical battlespaces. IS holds ground across Syria/Iraq border in one distinct battlespace. So it is different.

    But I agree with your sign off. Extension of UK action to Syria will not change the dynamic on the ground. As John McCain has said, its nice to have the Brits with us but the additional capability is minimal. However, it does put UK policy on a more coherent basis, and, possibly, increases our ability to influence coalition policy. I hope the UK uses that to do more than “I’ve started so I’ll finish……..”

  • Liberal Neil 8th Dec '15 - 5:41pm

    David – “Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn, Jasmine Alibhi-Brown and of course Mark Steel” is hardly a balanced range of opinions and they don’t always get things right.

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