Sharp divisions within the Labour over Britain launching airstrikes in Syria were uneasily resolved on Monday when party leader Jeremy Corbyn allowed his MPs a free vote on such a motion but also declared the party’s opposition to the strikes.
Corbyn has consistently opposed such an action against Syria, while several shadow ministers and MPs have been in favour of the case made by Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons last week.
The sensitive issue is the first time such all-out action would be sanctioned by Parliament since Britain’s controversial participation in the 2003 Iraq conflict.
There has been much talk of shadow ministers resigning if Corbyn were to issue a whip opposing the government motion, but the prolonged meeting of the shadow cabinet ended with an agreement that seemed contradictory but the best way out of the impasse.
Corbyn, however, asked Cameron for a longer debate in the House of Commons on the issue before it is put to vote. The government is expected to bring the motion this week. Cameron said he would bring the motion only if there were a strong possibility of it being supported.
Corbyn wrote to Cameron: “As of this morning we have not had a clear proposal from the government on when you plan to bring forward a motion to the House on air strikes in Syria or on arrangements for the debate”.
“In the view of the Opposition on a matter of such critical importance there must be full and adequate time for any debate in the House and only a full two day debate would ensure time for all Members who wish to participate to be able to do so”.
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, was among leaders criticising Corbyn’s decision allowing a free vote, while the Muslim Council of Britain said airstrikes in Syria will not only be ineffective but also another “recruiting sergeant” for the terrorists.