Since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month I’ve not really been one of those wavering on the debate that has been going on here in the UK as to whether we should actively participate in bombing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Syria. ISIS don’t recognise the border between Iraq and Syria. We have been bombing their positions in Iraq – but not Syria – for some time, so it seemed to me rather anachronistic that the UK parliament had imposed that limitation in a vote in the House of Commons.
Today was the culmination of the process of changing that rather strange limitation. The government, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, tabled a motion to allow the RAF to join the co-ordinated bombing of ISIS positions in Syria, having held off until they were sure they would get a clear majority in the house. Cameron managed to almost shoot himself in the foot by describing any and all MP’s not voting for – or speaking in favour during the pre-division debate – as ‘terrorist sympathisers’, not surprisingly making many very sincere MPs (some in his own party) very angry and upset. Despite many calls for him to apologise, apology came there none…
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader (apparently) of the opposition Labour Party, spoke against the motion. His sincerity is unquestionable – his anti-war views are long-held – but his argument was simplistic and very incoherent and confused, and was also rather childish.
For those of us looking for a more authentic Labour voice, one in touch with reality, salvation came at the end of the debate. The Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn (scion of the sainted Tony) stood to speak. This is what he had to say. It says everything that is good about Britain today.
Please read it – better, watch him make the speech (the video in also on the same webpage). It’s a remarkable piece of modern parliamentary oratory – the best political speech I think I’ve ever heard live.
This man should be leader of the Labour Party, not Mr Corbyn. Labour will not win an election with Mr Corbyn in charge, he speaks to too few people with a very narrow, some would say outdated, view of what socialist politics are today in the UK. Mr Benn – not nearly as scarily swivel-eyed as his father – could very well get Labour re-elected and, on today’s evidence, be a great – inclusive – Prime Minister.