David Cameron will be making the case for bombing Syria in the Commons later this week and all eyes are on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour to see if they supports his proposals. On the Today programme, the shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle summed up the party’s current position as we wait and see:
‘We are in a position in which we will make a decision after the Prime Minister puts forward his rationale – that is the sensible way of doing it and we will do that.’
Eagle also said the party’s leadership has yet to decide on whether it will whip Labour MPs in any future vote on bombing Syria:
‘We will make decisions about whipping arrangements, whether there is a whip, after we have made the decision about our policy on this and whether or not we’re going to support it’.
Most interestingly, Eagle hinted that Corbyn may support the bombing of Syria after all — if the government meets Labour’s criteria. ‘My understanding is that he is not a pacifist and that means it is conceivable,’ she said.
Her obfuscation suggested there has yet to be any kind of broad agreement among the party’s leadership on bombing Syria, but Eagle attempted to explain Labour is waiting before making any decisions:
‘He has a fair point with respect of some bombing campaign in the past that have not helped resolve the situation they’re seeking to resolve. There is nothing wrong with interrogating this matter properly, against a set of criteria and making a decision after we’ve been told by the Prime Minister — who has all the information on this — after we’ve been briefed. It’s only then that we can really make a decision and we will.’
It’s well known that a good chunk of Labour MPs are open to the idea of bombing Syria but the government will be none the wiser about whether it can count on any support from the opposition frontbench. Eagle was closely echoing the words closely of the shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn in this interview, so it might be that Corbyn’s Labour is trying out some good old message discipline this week. Or there might just be indecision about what to do.