Labour won’t support airstrikes in Syria, says Hilary Benn

Labour won’t support airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, says shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.

Hilary Benn

This comes after a set of co-ordinated attacks on Friday night in Paris, where at least 127 people were killed. Benn has deemed these attacks an “act of war”. But he told The Independent on Sunday that it was important to bring an end to the Syrian civil war before thinking about British airstrikes against ISIS in the country.

Benn is not an opponent of military intervention, which puts him at odds with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He said he didn’t think the Government were intending to put forward a proposal to extend airstrikes into Syria, and that he didn’t think they should.

 “They have to come up with an overall plan, which they have not done. I think the focus for now is finding a peaceful solution to the civil war.” 

 “The most useful contribution we can make is to support as a nation the peace talks that have started. That is the single most important thing we can do,” he said.

David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon are in favour of extending airstrikes against ISIS from Iraq to Syria. Earlier this month, the Foreign Affairs Committee advised the prime minister to focus on ending Syria’s civil war and not on airstrikes against ISIS.

It is not clear whether Cameron would be able to secure a majority in the House of Commons on this vote as it’s thought up to 30 Conservative MPs might rebel against the Government if this were to come to a vote. The Prime Minister has said he won’t have vote on RAF bombing raids until a “political consensus” has been reached.

Benn told the paper Labour would only thinking about supporting air strikes in Syria if they were supported by the United Nations.

Yesterday, Corbyn stated that the Parisian attacks were against “all of us”, saying “we stand in solidarity with the people of Paris.” He also called against a response which could “feed a cycle of violence and hatred.”

Similarly John Prescott, former Deputy Prime Minister, has warned against a response that would escalate violence. In an article in the Daily Mirror, he has said Britain must “stop all military involvement” in the region.

“From Afghanistan, to Iraq and Libya, Britain and the US stoked the unrest that allowed ISIS to emerge and thrive.

So we must stop all military involvement. Sending a drone to kill Mohammed ‘Jihadi John’ Emwazi may appeal to our baser instincts of vengeance. But it will be seen in the Middle East as a state-sponsored execution. Britain and the US as judge, jury and executioner. Just like ISIS .

As the parents of Jim Foley said: “It is a very small solace to learn that Jihadi John may have been killed by the US Government. His death does not bring Jim back.”

So we must stop these drone attacks and take no further active military role in either Iraq or Syria. Let other regional players like Iran take the lead on this,” he writes.

On the Andrew Marr show this morning, Lord Falconer shadow justice secretary reiterated Benn’s thoughts on intervention and  said the Labour party expressed solidarity with France and victims of the attack.

Update: Diane Abbott, shadow international development secretary, has echoed Benn’s comments. On Murnaghan this morning she said “a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war” must be the top of the agenda.“It’s not about dogma, it’s not about gestures, it’s about what works,” she said.

Abbott explained that Labour can only agree to bombing Syria if there’s UN agreement and if there’s a plan to deal with the refugees that would be created by military actions.

She also urged the Government to give more resources to Greece and Italy to vet and “disperse” refugees.

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