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Labour’s Dilemma: What Should Be Done With 66 MPs Who Voted With Tories To Approve Airstrikes In Syria? – OpEd


So the warmongers are happy now, as our planes began bombing Syria within hours of Wednesday’s vote in the House of Commons, as civilians die, because they always do, and as we’re told that this is the start of years of war. What  a shame and a disgrace. This century, this millennium, since the trigger of 9/11, which Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda intended to destabilise us, and to drag us into wars we couldn’t win, we have been mired in disaster in Afghanistan and we plumbed the depths in Iraq, and, when the Labour government gave way to the Tory-led coalition government, and, in turn, the Tories alone, in May’s particularly depressing General Election, we got involved in the destruction of Libya and, after a burst of sanity in 2013, when Parliament voted against bombing Syria, we got back in the game with bombing against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq, which has now been extended to Syria.


Wars of choice, for the whole of this time, so that my son, who is 16 in two weeks, doesn’t remember a time when we weren’t at war. My son was just one year old when we enthusiastically joined the Bush administration’s invasion of Afghanistan, and hideously overstayed our welcome after toppling the Taliban. My son was three when we illegally invaded Iraq, an invasion in which our Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was not Bush’s poodle, as many in the UK think, but was the key ally who gave legitimacy to Bush’s lawless plans.

And these endless wars? They are now longer in duration than the two World Wars combined, and yet they have never had more than the faintest trace of justification — only, arguably, in Afghanistan, at the beginning, although I didn’t agree with that particular invasion either, as wars without proper plans — attributes which all these wars share — are a recipe for disaster. And here we are, 14 years later, with no end in sight, bombing more civilians in Syria.

Yes, we say we have military targets, we say we are clever, but we’re not. Bombs always kill civilians. No one knows quite how many civilians have died in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria as a result of our bombs, but it is in the hundreds of thousands, at the every least. Blood is on the hands of those who authorised our bombs to be dropped — from Tony Blair to his cabinet to the MPs of all parties who backed him, and the media who did so too, and, more recently, with david Cameron taking Blair’s place.

On Wednesday, MPs spent all day debating David Cameron’s proposals to bomb Syria — a knee-jerk reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris, which, whatever their connection to Daesh, were carried out by European citizens. He tried to claim Daesh is a threat to our national security here in the UK, he lied about there being 70,000 moderate fighters waiting for our help, when the situation on the ground is much more complicated than that, and he called all his critics “terrorist sympathisers.” He tried to hide his desire not to be left out of the latest warmongering coalition, and he and others tried, with varying measures of failure, to disguise how, fundamentally, they like being at war.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee disagreed with David Cameron, and even Britain’s newspapers, dominated by right-wingers, failed to respond enthusiastically to the pounding of war drums from No. 10. On the eve of the vote, less than 50% of the British people were convinced. And yet, on the night, the bombing was approved by 397 votes to 223. The Tories “whipped” their MPs into line (such a horrible word, although apt, like a description of public school violence), but Jeremy Corbyn gave his MPs a free vote.


Some have criticised him for this, but to do otherwise would have been to have walked into a trap — set by his own opponents within the Labour party, who, suicidally, would have used it as the trigger for a coup — I say suicidally, because Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader by a majority of party members, and none of his opponents have shown any ability to endear themselves to members of the public, or even members of their own party, with anything approaching his appeal.

This was true, in the leadership election, for all his opponents — Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall — and although the media enthusiastically congratulated Hilary Benn for his warmongering speech on Wednesday night (predictably, providing yet another excuse to bash Jeremy, as they do so relentlessly and so disgracefully), there is no sign that his speech (which I saw, partly, and cynically, as his leadership pitch) will endear him to people either — and, of course, to those who remember his father, the great anti-war campaigner Tony Benn, his son’s warmongering (from Iraq onwards) is profoundly depressing (see Tony Benn here, arguing against Iraq airstrikes in 1998).

Jeremy Corbyn, of course, didn’t vote for war and nor did 152 of his colleagues. I commend him, as I commend those 152 MPs, and as I also commend the other MPs who voted against the proposals: the seven Tory rebels — John Baron (Basildon & Billericay), David Davis (Haltemprice & Howden), Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne & Sheppey), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) and Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) — plus the 53 SNP MPs, the three SDLP MPs, the two Lib Dems who defied their whip (Norman Lamb and Mark Williams), the two Plaid Cymru MPs, and Green MP Caroline Lucas.

They established that a case had not been made for us to bomb Syria, and, as we now find ourselves embroiled in what may well be an the open-ended war, even with British troops sent senselessly to die.

Below, I’m publishing the list of the 153 MPs who voted against the Tories’ proposals, and for anyone who wants to identify which of those MPs are truly committed not just to peace (and against senseless war), but also to social justice and, I would say, the socialist values of the Labour party, I’ve also noted which of these MPs also voted against the Tories’ wretched welfare cuts, back in July, when Harriet Harman was acting leader, and 48 Labour MPs defied the whip.

As the Guardian noted at the time, Harman “had urged Labour MPs to send a message to the electorate that they were listening to concerns over welfare payments by abstaining on the welfare bill after voting for an amendment that set out the party’s objections to the bill,” but 48 principled MPs objected — including Jeremy Corbyn, then the frontrunner in the leadership contest, John McDonnell, and three of the London mayoral candidates (Diane Abbott, David Lammy and the eventual winner of that contest, Sadiq Khan). All the other leadership candidates abstained.

I’m also posting the names of the 66 Labour MPs who voted with the Tories in support of airstrikes in Syria — and I note that only one of them voted against the welfare bill in July — because I want to be on record as stating that I believe it is appropriate for everyone who supports the Labour Party, or who wants a credible alternative to the Tories, to ask if these are the kind of people who should be trying to take the party into the future — and to suggest that, if there is to be a revived and revitalised Labour Party that remembers its roots, then some of these MPs should be deselected by their constituents.

Many are Blairites, who, to my mind, have lost touch with what the party should be, and who, since 2010, have failed to realise that being like the Tories but a bit less nasty isn’t electorally viable. it may be that socialism isn’t electorally viable, either, but I think we need to have a clear alternative to the Tories, i think we need that alternative to be socialist, and I also think it’s obvious that there are millions of us who are actually excited about the possibilities, and are hugely relieved that there is now a genuine alternative to the me-me-me-obsessed, big business-loving, poor-bashing selfishness and greed that has been mainstream politics, whether Tory or Labour, for the last 20 years.

Please note that members of the Shadow Cabinet are marked with asterisks — and of particular concern, it seems to me, should be the 11 members of the Shadow Cabinet who voted with the Tories, as opposed to the 16 who stood with Jeremy Corbyn. Please also note that there was one abstention on Wednesday by another Shadow Cabinet member, chief whip Rosie Winterton, and another four Labour MPs abstained (as did seven Tories). Five other labour MPs were not present, two of whom opposed the welfare bill. The 48th MP who voted against the welfare bill was Michael Meacher, who, sadly, died in October, but whose seat (Oldham West and Royton) was won on Thursday night by his Labour successor, Jim McMahon, with a thumping majority that reinforces Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Michael Meacher, of course, was one of the 36 MPs who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for his leadership bid, and I think I can safely say that he would also have voted with Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday night.

The 153 Labour MPs who voted against airstrikes in Syria

* Diane Abbott (Hackney North & Stoke Newington) Shadow secretary of state for international development, also voted against welfare bill in July
Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East & Saddleworth) also voted against welfare bill in July
Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Graham Allen (Nottingham North)
David Anderson (Blaydon) also voted against welfare bill in July
* Jon Ashworth (Leicester South) Shadow minister without portfolio
Clive Betts (Sheffield South East)
Roberta Blackman-Woods (Durham, City of)
Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central)
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West)
Lyn Brown (West Ham)
Nick Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East)
Karen Buck (Westminster North)
Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfield)
Richard Burgon (Leeds East) also voted against welfare bill in July
* Andy Burnham (Leigh) Shadow home secretary
Dawn Butler (Brent Central) also voted against welfare bill in July
Liam Byrne (Birmingham Hodge Hill)
Ruth Cadbury (Brentford & Isleworth)
Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)
Sarah Champion (Rotherham)
Julie Cooper (Burnley)
* Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) Leader of the Labour Party, also voted against welfare bill in July
David Crausby (Bolton North East)
Jon Cruddas (Dagenham & Rainham)
John Cryer (Leyton & Wanstead)
Judith Cummins (Bradford South)
Alex Cunningham (Stockton North)
Jim Cunningham (Coventry South)
Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe)
Geraint Davies (Swansea West) also voted against welfare bill in July
Peter Dowd (Bootle) also voted against welfare bill in July
Jack Dromey (Birmingham Erdington)
Clive Efford (Eltham)
Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central)
Bill Esterson (Sefton Central)
Chris Evans (Islwyn)
Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Rob Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South)
Paul Flynn (Newport West) also voted against welfare bill in July
Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield)
Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham Deptford)
Barry Gardiner (Brent North)
Pat Glass (Durham North West)
Mary Glindon (Tyneside North) also voted against welfare bill in July
Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green) also voted against welfare bill in July
* Kate Green (Stretford & Urmston) Shadow minister for women and equalities
* Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) Shadow secretary of state for transport
Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) also voted against welfare bill in July
* Nia Griffith (Llanelli) Shadow secretary of state for Wales
Andrew Gwynne (Denton & Reddish)
Louise Haigh (Sheffield Heeley) also voted against welfare bill in July
Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East)
David Hanson (Delyn)
Harry Harpham (Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough)
Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) also voted against welfare bill in July
Helen Hayes (Dulwich & West Norwood)
Sue Hayman (Workington) also voted against welfare bill in July
* John Healey (Wentworth & Dearne) Shadow minister for housing and planning
Mark Hendrick (Preston)
Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow)
Meg Hillier (Hackney South & Shoreditch)
Sharon Hodgson (Washington & Sunderland West)
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
Kate Hollern (Blackburn)
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) was teller for the rebels who voted against welfare bill in July
Rupa Huq (Ealing Central & Acton)
Imran Hussain (Bradford East) also voted against welfare bill in July
Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore)
Diana Johnson (Hull North)
Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) also voted against welfare bill in July
Mike Kane (Wythenshawe & Sale East)
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton) also voted against welfare bill in July
Barbara Keeley (Worsley & Eccles South)
Sadiq Khan (Tooting) also voted against welfare bill in July
Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon)
David Lammy (Tottenham) also voted against welfare bill in July
Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) also voted against welfare bill in July
Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields)
Clive Lewis (Norwich South) also voted against welfare bill in July
Ivan Lewis (Bury South)
Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford & Eccles) also voted against welfare bill in July
Ian Lucas (Wrexham)
Steve McCabe (Birmingham Selly Oak)
* Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) Shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs
Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) also voted against welfare bill in July
* John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington) Shadow chancellor of the exchequer, also voted against welfare bill in July
Liz McInnes (Heywood & Middleton) also voted against welfare bill in July
* Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) Shadow attorney general
Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)
Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port & Neston)
Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham Ladywood)
* Seema Malhotra (Feltham & Heston) Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury
John Mann (Bassetlaw)
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton South West) also voted against welfare bill in July
Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South)
Rachael Maskell (York Central) also voted against welfare bill in July
Chris Matheson (Chester, City of)
Alan Meale (Mansfield)
Ian Mearns (Gateshead) also voted against welfare bill in July
Ed Miliband (Doncaster North)
Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) also voted against welfare bill in July
Jessica Morden (Newport East)
Grahame Morris (Easington) also voted against welfare bill in July
* Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) Shadow secretary of state for Scotland
* Lisa Nandy (Wigan) Shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change
Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby)
Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central)
Kate Osamor (Edmonton) also voted against welfare bill in July
Albert Owen (Ynys Mon)
Teresa Pearce (Erith & Thamesmead) also voted against welfare bill in July
Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich & Woolwich)
Toby Perkins (Chesterfield)
Jess Phillips (Birmingham Yardley)
Stephen Pound (Ealing North)
Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East)
Angela Rayner (Ashton Under Lyne)
Christina Rees (Neath)
Rachel Reeves (Leeds West)
Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge & Hyde)
Marie Rimmer (St Helens South & Whiston) also voted against welfare bill in July
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool Walton)
Naseem Shah (Bradford West)
Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)
Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) also voted against welfare bill in July
Gavin Shuker (Luton South)
Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead & Kilburn) also voted against welfare bill in July
Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) also voted against welfare bill in July
Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith)
Andrew Smith (Oxford East)
Cat Smith (Lancaster & Fleetwood) also voted against welfare bill in July
Jeff Smith (Manchester Withington)
Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent)
* Owen Smith (Pontypridd) Shadow secretary of state for work and pensions
Karin Smyth (Bristol South)
Keir Starmer (Holborn & St Pancras)
Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) also voted against welfare bill in July
Wes Streeting (Ilford North)
Graham Stringer (Blackley & Broughton) also voted against welfare bill in July
Mark Tami (Alyn & Deeside)
Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen)
Emily Thornberry (Islington South & Finsbury)
Stephen Timms (East Ham)
* Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) Shadow secretary of state for communities and local government, shadow minister for the constitutional convention
Karl Turner (Hull East)
Derek Twigg (Halton)
Stephen Twigg (Liverpool West Derby)
Valerie Vaz (Walsall South)
Catherine West (Hornsey & Wood Green)
Alan Whitehead (Southampton Test)
David Winnick (Walsall North) also voted against welfare bill in July
Iain Wright (Hartlepool) also voted against welfare bill in July
Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) also voted against welfare bill in July

The 66 Labour MPs who voted for airstrikes in Syria

* Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) Shadow secretary of state for health
Ian Austin (Dudley North)
Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West)
Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)
Margaret Beckett (Derby South)
* Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) Shadow foreign secretary
* Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree) Shadow minister for mental health
Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East)
Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)
* Chris Bryant (Rhondda) Shadow leader of the House of Commons
Alan Campbell (Tynemouth)
Jenny Chapman (Darlington)
* Vernon Coaker (Gedling) Shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland
Ann Coffey (Stockport)
Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford)
Neil Coyle (Bermondsey & Old Southwark)
Mary Creagh (Wakefield)
Stella Creasy (Walthamstow)
Simon Danczuk (Rochdale)
Wayne David (Caerphilly)
* Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) Shadow minister for young people and voter registration
Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South & Penarth)
Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge)
* Michael Dugher (Barnsley East) Shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport
* Angela Eagle (Wallasey) Shadow first secretary of state, shadow secretary of state for business, innovation and skills
* Maria Eagle (Garston & Halewood) Shadow secretary of state for defence
Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside)
Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse)
Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East)
Caroline Flint (Don Valley)
Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham)
Margaret Hodge (Barking)
George Howarth (Knowsley)
Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central)
Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central)
Alan Johnson (Hull West & Hessle)
Graham Jones (Hyndburn)
Helen Jones (Warrington North) BUT voted against welfare bill in July
Kevan Jones (Durham North)
Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South)
Liz Kendall (Leicester West)
Dr Peter Kyle (Hove)
Chris Leslie (Nottingham East)
Holly Lynch (Halifax)
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden)
Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East)
Conor McGinn (St Helens North)
Alison McGovern (Wirral South)
Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South)
* Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) Shadow secretary of state for education
Jamie Reed (Copeland)
Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East)
Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West)
Joan Ryan (Enfield North)
Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North)
Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge)
John Spellar (Warley)
Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston)
Gareth Thomas (Harrow West)
Anna Turley (Redcar)
Chuka Umunna (Streatham)
Keith Vaz (Leicester East)
* Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) Deputy leader of the Labour Party, party chair and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield)
John Woodcock (Barrow & Furness)

The 5 Labour MPs who abstained in the Syria vote

Jo Cox (Batley and Spen)
Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham Perry Barr)
Steve Reed (Croydon North)
Virendra Sharma (Ealing Southall)
* Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) Opposition chief whip

The 5 Labour MPs who were unable to attend the Syria vote

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) voted against welfare bill in July
Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire)
Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West)
Mike Gapes (Ilford South)
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) voted against welfare bill in July

Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to his RSS feed (he can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see his definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, and, if you appreciate his work, feel free to make a donation.

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