UK opposition faces split over Syria air strikes

23rd November 2015, Comments 0 comments

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn was Monday under increasing pressure to allow his Labour Party's lawmakers a free vote in parliament on British air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Prime Minister David Cameron will present the case for action this week before asking parliament to vote, and looks set to receive the backing of some Labour MPs despite Corbyn's opposition to the strikes.

Shadow defence minister Maria Eagle on Monday told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "there will be some support from the Labour party for him (Cameron) to do what he wishes" if they approve of his plan.

Corbyn has so far said he would call on his MPs to vote "as a party", but Eagle said Monday that a final decision on whether members could vote as they wished would not be made until Cameron had made his case.

She also suggested that "it was not inconceivable" that Corbyn, a radical leftist, may even back the strikes, despite making a name on the backbenches for repeatedly opposing military interventions.

Corbyn was a founder of the Stop the War coalition which campaigned against Britain's involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and organised some of Britain's biggest ever demonstrations.

Labour delivered Cameron a humiliating defeat when he last pushed for Syria air strikes in 2013, but reports say up to 60 Labour MPs are now ready to defy Corbyn and give Cameron the votes he needs to extend strikes on Islamic State jihadists from Iraq to Syria.

The Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group have bolstered Cameron's argument, as did a UN Security Council vote on Friday authorizing countries to "take all necessary measures" to fight IS.

Shadow foreign minister Hilary Benn said: "To those that say that taking action in Syria will make things worse: I say things are pretty bad for those in Syria and for our citizens too.

"The idea that we can stand over here and it will not affect us is not credible," he added.

Deputy party leader Tom Watson said: "There is now a United Nations resolution calling for action against Isis (IS) by any and all means".

"It is for the shadow cabinet to make a final collective decision on the issue," he said.

The shadow cabinet holds a regular meeting on Tuesday.

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© 2015 AFP

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