Isabel Hardman

Jeremy Corbyn grants Labour MPs a free vote on Syria

Jeremy Corbyn grants Labour MPs a free vote on Syria
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The Shadow Cabinet is now holding its (delayed) meeting on Labour’s stance on Syria, and members have been told that they will get a free vote on the matter. Sources say that Jeremy Corbyn will also ask David Cameron to delay the vote, which is expected on Wednesday, in order to respond to MPs’ concerns, and that the party will still take a position that frontbenchers won't necessarily have to follow.

This is a way of avoiding the mass resignations and fury that Shadow Cabinet members were threatening. But it is also a sign that Labour as a party no longer falls within the accepted definition of a political party. Frontbenchers can now take a range of views on a matter of war. They might as well not bother holding Shadow Cabinet from now on.

UPDATE, 2.40pm: Corbyn has now written to David Cameron asking for a two-day debate. Here's the text of the letter:

Dear David

As of this morning we have not had a clear proposal from the government on when you plan to bring forward a motion to the House on air strikes in Syria or on arrangements for the debate.

In the view of the Opposition on a matter of such critical importance there must be full and adequate time for any debate in the House and only a full two day debate would ensure time for all Members who wish to participate to be able to do so.

As has happened previously a one day debate would inevitably lead to important contributions being curtailed. It is incumbent on us all to ensure the country feels there has been the fullest parliamentary discussion of what you have rightly described as a highly complex situation. In addition the debate would be much better informed by views from the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committees following your recent statements. 

Please can you provide an assurance that any proposal the government brings forward will be on the basis that there will be a two day debate in the House of Commons. 

Yours sincerely 

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Leader of the Opposition