Jeremy Corbyn and top members of the Shadow Cabinet were last night given an intelligence briefing on the scale of threat posed by ISIS to the UK. The Labour leader was joined by Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, deputy leader Tom Watson, Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle and Shadow Justice Secretary Lord Falconer.
The briefing took place in Corbyn’s office ahead of David Cameron laying out his plans for a military assault on ISIS in Syria this morning. The Shadow Cabinet will meet later today to discuss Labour’s position on the proposals, but they are not expected to come to an agreed line until early next week.
Corbyn is a long-term opponent of military intervention, especially in the Middle East, and was chair of the Stop the War Coalition until this Autumn. It is unlikely that he will support action, and while he has not ruled it out, has been stressing the need for a political solution to the civil war in Syria.
Speaking this morning, John McDonnell said he was “sceptical about British involvement in Middle East full stop”. He has spoken about the possibility of a free vote on the issue, which Corbyn is publicly less keen on.
There were not many Labour MPs prepared to support intervention when it was being discussed back in September, but the terror attacks on Paris mean that more are now open to the idea.
There is now considerable backbench support for the idea of a free vote, with many believing that Corbyn and McDonnell will oppose the move regardless of what plan Cameron puts forward. This position will be made clear at Monday’s evening of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which will be attended and addressed by Corbyn.