Isabel Hardman

Hilary Benn didn’t see Corbyn’s Commons speech on Syria before he gave it

Hilary Benn didn't see Corbyn's Commons speech on Syria before he gave it
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Jeremy Corbyn didn’t show his Shadow Foreign Secretary a copy of what he was going to say in response to David Cameron’s statement on Syria, Coffee House understands.

Sources have told me that Hilary Benn was spotted sitting outside Corbyn’s office this morning before the Prime Minister made his Commons statement. Benn appeared to be waiting for something. When I asked his spokesman whether Benn had been given advance sight of Corbyn’s planned response to the Prime Minister, the spokesman said ‘no’.

Sources in Corbyn’s team insist that Benn was briefed beforehand, but the confusion goes some way to explaining why Benn and Corbyn appeared to take rather different views on the matter this afternoon, with Benn telling broadcasters that the case for action was ‘compelling’.

This is not the first time that Corbyn has made a statement without the relevant minister being aware of what was about to happen, though usually frontbenchers are surprised by press statements they hadn’t been told were to be released, not Commons responses on matters of war. This afternoon's row, in which the Shadow Cabinet were led to believe they had the weekend to consider their positions before Corbyn released his letter to the parliamentary party saying he would oppose strikes, is another example of what one source described as 'contempt of the Shadow Cabinet', or what more sympathetic figures might at least feel is a fundamental breakdown of communication.