Pro-intervention Labour MPs are increasingly confident that they will help David Cameron get a majority for British military action against Islamic State in Syria. They also believe that the amount of support for such action will bring what one frontbencher describes as a ‘point of reckoning’ and another describes as a ‘turning point for the party’. This is because Corbyn is going to have to concede that he must give the Labour Shadow Cabinet a free vote on the matter, otherwise there will be a ‘bloodbath’, sources warn.
A number of Shadow Cabinet members are minded to vote in favour of action if Cameron presents a sufficiently well-thought-out plan. And they would expect a free vote, or else. Or else, of course, means that Corbyn could face his first resignations within the next couple of weeks.
It isn’t currently clear whether Corbyn will actually force his own position on the party, or allow there to be a different official Labour frontbench stance to his own stance, or just allow a straightforward free vote in which anyone can take any position. Hilary Benn has said he will consider what Cameron actually says, but Corbynite grassroots organisation Momentum is already lobbying MPs to vote against any action, regardless of what the Prime Minister brings to Parliament. As Seb reported this morning, Maria Eagle has said it is ‘conceivable’ the leader could support action. Conceivable, perhaps, but not likely.
The Shadow Cabinet will have to meet after the Prime Minister speaks – he’s expected to do that on Thursday – and then will come the ‘turning point’ for Corbyn, which is whether he believes he can tell the frontbenchers who are supposed to be serving him to follow his lead on the most serious question a political leader can answer.