David Cameron has given MPs the weekend to decide their position on bombing Isil in Syria, with Jeremy Corbyn already making up his mind, setting himself on collision course with his own shadow cabinet. Shadow ministers are seething after the Labour leader went over their heads and wrote to MPs to say he could not support air strikes, despite telling his cabinet they would come to a “collective decision” on Monday, with one minister saying the row has proven that Corbyn is “no longer fit to run the Labour party”. More than half of the shadow cabinet said they supported military action, with others saying they would resign en masse if he tries to force them to vote against strikes. “If anyone resigns over this,” Labour MP John Spellar told Radio 5, “it should be Jeremy Corbyn.” Many hope he’ll back down and give MPs a free vote (something backed by John McDonnell), which would defuse tensions over the issue. Some in the Corbyn camp hope that shadow ministers, after spending a weekend “talking to constituents” (i.e. being bombarded by e-mails from Momentum/activists), would change their mind. But if they don’t, and are pushed to resign, could Corbyn tough it out? He would get an ideal opportunity to decry their disrespect, and replace them with loyalists, but it would take Labour’s factional warfare to a new level.
The Prime Minister has been trying to build cross-party support, saying that he wouldn’t hold a vote on bombing Syria “if there’s a danger of losing it”. He can count on the support of “many Labour MPs”, according to Tony Blair. Tory MPs are lining up to support Cameron, like Foreign Affairs Committee chair Crispin Blunt and Andrew Percy – who previously voted against bombing Syria in 2013. He cites “the UN vote, the growing international consensus for action, the Isil-first strategy and the ruling out of our own ground troops” as reasons he has changed his mind. France is calling on Britain to get involved, with its defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian writing in the Guardian that the UK should “take the fight to the very heart of Isis, defeating it and making our countries and peoples safer”. Fraser Nelson agrees in today’s paper, arguing that intervening would be a “highly potent gesture” that would “let our allies see that we’re fully behind them”. Russia is also calling on Britain to work with them, with its ambassador comparing Isil to the threat posed by the Nazis.
Corbyn is feeling the pressure over the Syria vote, now cancelling a planned visit to Oldham six days before a crunch by-election. Labour MPs are expecting to hold the seat, but with the party’s 14,000 majority massively reduced. “A lot of that is down to Jeremy,” one MP told the Mirror. If Corbyn whipped his party against action in Syria, he could scupper the vote – as the government knows it needs to be confident of having the numbers. Only three ministers – Dianne Abbott, Jon Trickett and John Cryer – spoke in his support at yesterday’s meeting, so he could be left looking rather lonely if Labour moderates were forced out. One thing is clear: Labour MPs – and their leader – have a lot to think about over the weekend in the run-up to this vote.
“That bomb in Paris, that could have been London. If they had their way, it would be London”
Ken Blames 7/7 On Blair
Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has blamed Tony Blair for the 7/7 bombings. During a heated exchange on Thursday night’s Question Time, he claimed that the former Labour leader ignored intelligence warnings which led to the attacks on London’s transport network that claimed the lives of 52 people.
Corbyn’s May Deadline
Labour infighting will continue until a “credible leader” emerges as an alternative to Jeremy Corbyn, former minister Frank Field has warned. This comes as Diane Abbott admitted to LBC that Corbyn has until May to prove himself, saying such a deadline “ought to be good enough for anybody”. Meanwhile, John McDonnell reportedly made ‘humorous’ remarks calling for Labour councillors opposed to the IRA’s political wing to have their kneecaps shot off, the Times reports, and called for the “ballot, the bullet and the bomb” to unite Ireland.
Minister’s Food Bank Query
A Government health minister has been criticised for saying that it is “strange” people are using food banks when parts of the country are in the grip of an obesity crisis. Lord Prior of Brampton was challenged in Parliament after he claimed there was no link between benefit cuts and people turning to the charities to feed their families.
Net Migration Rises Again
Romanians are now the third biggest group migrating to Britain as new figures show net migration is at a new high of 336,000. Some of this rise is due to emigration falling, and I’ve explained Britain is a victim of its own economic success. Could immigration worries be solved by leaving the EU? No, says Will Straw, who argues that – despite what Nigel Farage may say – Britain would have less control over its borders.
Taxes may have to rise because George Osborne has just a “50-50” chance of meeting his target of running a surplus by 2020, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned. It also said that tens of thousands of people will rush to complete the purchase buy-to-let properties ahead of a stamp duty hike next year, and that council tax rises intended for spending on social care could be diverted to pay for other services.
Hudson’s One In Ten
The Commons standards commissioner investigates just one in ten complaints about MPs, it can be disclosed. Kathryn Hudson’s office has been asked to consider almost 300 formal complaints by members of the public and other MPs in more than two years but has opened just 29 investigations, a Telegraph analysis has found.
Salmond’s Priority Portrait
Alex Salmond has been accused of putting his vanity above his parliamentary duties after he missed a key Commons debate on Syrian air strikes on the day he unveiled a portrait of himself in Edinburgh.
Sartorial Security Scare
From her colourful power suits to the formidable handbags and pristine strings of pearls, her fashion sense remains an indelible part of her legacy. But Baroness Thatcher’s love of clothes had one accidental effect, her former private secretary has disclosed: intimidating Russian security services.
Star Trek Tony
Tony Blair tried to become a stand-up comedian, but he was “really dire” at it. The former Labour PM told Matt Forde that he also once tried to get laughs from other Oxford students in his youth by playing the Star Trek character Captain Kirk.