Tom Goodenough

Why can’t Diane Abbott be honest about Labour’s Syria stance?

Why can’t Diane Abbott be honest about Labour’s Syria stance?
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Why can’t Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn be honest about Labour’s real stance on Syria? The shadow home secretary is demanding an ‘independent, UN-led investigation’ into what happened in Douma to determine whether chemical weapons were used in the attack this week. This is the line parroted by the Labour leader, who has said:

“Britain should press for an independent U.N.-led investigation of last weekend’s horrific chemical weapons attack so that those responsible can be held to account.”

But as Abbott and Corbyn know (or should know) only too well, an independent UN-led investigation is for the birds; it won’t happen. So Abbott and Corbyn would be more honest if they were to say Britain should stay out of the conflict altogether. Yet it seems they are not brave enough to do so, and instead the UN is a useful prop for them to wield when discussing Syria. It gives the veneer of a carefully-crafted position and makes it seem like they are being proactive. In reality, they are simply putting forward an argument for doing nothing.

Indeed, if the United Nations has proven itself good at anything in the Syrian conflict, it is standing still. Its security council meetings this week have been little more than an exercise in exchanging insults. And as Nick Robinson pointed out to Diane Abbott on the Today programme this morning, attempts to get the UN to lead an investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria will inevitably be blocked by Russia, which wields a veto – a veto it has already used repeatedly during the Syrian conflict.

Yet faced with this reality, Abbott’s response is simply to put her fingers in her ears. ‘We have to go forward’, she said on the Today programme, ‘and we have to go forward on the basis of the facts and the evidence’. In ignoring the UN's track record, she is doing the opposite. Meanwhile, the people of Syria continue to suffer terribly. But don't worry, says Abbott, the UN should eventually pull their finger out, even if all the signs indicate that they won't.