Deputy leadership candidate Richard Burgon is set to unveil his proposal for a ‘Labour Peace Pledge’ that would give party members a veto over military action being supported by the leadership.
At a public meeting in Oxford on Wednesday evening, the MP for Leeds East and shadow cabinet member will say: “No decision is more important for a political party than whether or not to support military action.
“It is right that if the Labour Party wants to back military action then it must have the explicit backing of the party’s members, except in the case of a genuine national emergency or with UN backing, which Iraq clearly didn’t have.
“Never again should Labour members have the shame of having to protest “Not in my name” against their own party. With this pledge in place, the British people can be confident that the Labour Party will not repeat the mistakes of the past and wrongly back military conflict.”
The candidate has vowed to establish a working group and present the rule change at Labour conference in September if elected to the post of deputy leader. Under his plan, Labour would seek permission from members via a referendum or conference vote before backing military action.
Explaining his reasons for championing the pledge, Burgon is expected to say: “Labour remains scarred by the experience of the Iraq War – for many it is sadly the single act for which the last Labour government is most remembered.
“It was a conflict opposed by most Labour Party members at the time. Jeremy Corbyn rightly apologised for Labour’s role in the disastrous and illegal war at the time of the publication of the Chilcot Report in 2016.
“But even since Iraq, Labour mistakenly backed the intervention in Libya, which has had catastrophic consequences for that country, and contributed to a massive refugee crisis. These interventions were supposed to have made us safer from terrorism. Tragically, they have failed in that objective too.”
Burgon, so far backed for the deputy leader role by BFAWU, FBU and Unite trade unions, as well as 24 local parties, has run a campaign based on giving more powers to Labour members – including policies such as open selections.
As deputy leader, he has vowed to push for reform to parliamentary selections that would see sitting MPs face full selection processes before each general election rather than the current ‘trigger ballot’ that allows for ‘automatic reselection’.
The Labour left candidate has also advocated the introduction of a new Clause IV to ensure that public ownership commitments are “permanently enshrined in our party’s constitution” rather than left to election manifestos.