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Good lesson by John Redwood for Lord Mandelson on effective opposition

John RedwoodEvery so often, a Tory politician exposes the hypocrisy of a Blairite far more effectively than we could. Such is the case in John Redwood’s very effective critique of Lord Mandelson today for wanting “Corbyn to  be more Blair like to justify his  support and recommendation. The first is the UK’s willingness to undertake  military action in the Middle East against regimes or Islamic groupings it dislikes. The second is the UK’s requirement to accept any new law, regulation or treaty amendment from the EU that the EU institutions and other member states may propose.”

Though I am more sympathetic to the first of those than the second (being just about on the anti-withdrawal side of the EU fence), his argument is really rather good:

Lord Mandelson was always keen to require iron discipline in New Labour when he was one of the small clique in charge. Today he is now an enthusiast for rebellion, urging modern Labour MPs to disagree with their Leader and to remain true to the  flexible pro European and pro military intervention stances  of Blairism. This sad volte face is not surprising. Lord Mandelson would argue that an MP only owes loyalty to his party and its Leader when they are “doing the right thing”. The problems with that proposition are twofold. The first is who gets to decide what is the right thing? The second is, can it ever be the right thing in a democracy to seek to prevent the official opposition opposing for good reason?

He goes on:

The issue of military intervention is a crucial one. A good argument can be made to say that Tony Blair lost substantial support amongst voters as well as within the Labour party by the decision to go into Iraq, and by the way he, Campbell and Mandelson presented the case for such intervention. Parliament does need to debate the consequences of the substantial interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and the interventions of our allies in Syria, and to ask if past military interventions have been helpful. Mr Corbyn and some other Labour figures have a tradition of doubting the value and wisdom of such actions, which is shared by an important part of the electorate. Why must they now suppress their views and doubts, and switch to the pro intervention side? How do they keep their existing support, and reassure people in the middle ground, if they have to defend all that was done by past Labour governments in Iraq and Afghanistan? Arguably Mr Corbyn was too kind and weak in allowing Labour MPs a free vote on the Syrian war. His decision to allow such a free vote meant Parliament was not going to provide any serious challenge or check on the current government’s wish to pursue military action.


  1. Rod says:

    “His decision to allow such a free vote meant Parliament was not going to provide any serious challenge or check on the current government’s wish to pursue military action.”

    Quite correct.

    Benn should be consigned to the back-benches in the forthcoming reshuffle. And his CLP should deselect him.

    If people want to vote for ill-conceived military interventions and terrorism-instigating regime changes they can vote Tory.

    We need an opposition that is prepared to oppose the Tories effectively, not offer more Tory-lite befuddlement.

  2. David Ellis says:

    Your concern for the mass murdering regime is touching. There are three reasons why the bombing of Syria has been opposed by self-described `leftists’:

    1. By those who support Assad and Putin;

    2. Pacifists;

    3. By those who see it as not helping the Syrian National Democratic Revolution because it a) will kill civilians and create refugees; b) will help Assad and the Iranian militias with their Russian air cover to retake territory in the short-term and c) because it will help ISIS politically in the long-term.

    Benn should go because he supports a self-serving and misguided imperialist action that is cynically about spheres of influence and the dismemberment of Syria but don’t let us be in any doubt that positions 1 and 2 are every bit as disgusting. In fact more so as neo-Stalinists and Stalinists are using left verbiage to justify mass slaughter by Assad and are objectively in alliance with the European far right in their support for Putin. It’s a modern day version of the Stalin-Hitler pact.

  3. Tony says:

    “The issue of military intervention is a crucial one. A good argument can be made to say that Tony Blair lost substantial support amongst voters as well as within the Labour party by the decision to go into Iraq, and by the way he, Campbell and Mandelson presented the case for such intervention.”

    It is worth remembering that the supporters of Tony Blair still pretend that the intelligence was wrong on Iraq.

    This is a downright lie:

    Andrew Rawnsley:

    “But in its final drafting stages (Alastair) Campbell nevertheless sought and secured no fewer than fourteen changes to the wording of the dossier, each one toughening its language” (Correspondence released to the Hutton Inquiry)

    “John Scarlet changed the title of the dossier from ‘Iraq’s Programme of Weapons of Mass Destruction by deleting the word ‘Programme’”. 1

    Why on earth was Campbell allowed to alter an intelligence dossier? I am not aware of him being a military analyst.

    1 “The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour” by Andrew Rawnsley (Viking 2010) hardback edition. p117.

  4. Bazza says:

    Need left wing democratic socialist forces in the Middle East to unite people of all religions and of none against the current reactionary forces.
    Yours in peace, hope & international solidarity.

  5. Danny Josephs says:

    To paraphrase one of the greatest revolutionary leaders (I won’t mention his name, since for some reason it tends to send certain sages of the left into fits of apoplexy, let alone the effect it has on the right!), war is the greatest test of any socialist organization’s ideas and policies. If its analysis of the real reasons for resorting to war is clear and correct, the organization will be strengthened, even if, against mainstream public opinion, it opposes that war. This has often been the case in the past, though not where adventures in Afghanistan, Libya and the Middle East since the start of the new millennium are concerned. If the analysis is incorrect, any position on the war will be at best severely weakened and at worst, under the pressure of (literally) life-and-death decisions, will lead to the complete fracture of the organization. So, notwithstanding Jon Landsman’s admiration for Mr Redwood’s analysis, which is correct as far as it goes (ie not very far, being, unsurprisingly, merely Westminster-focused), it is vital that this movement is totally clear as to why we oppose the bombing of Syria:
    Firstly, as Socialists, we should oppose all wars intended fundamentally – despite the claims of the warmongers simply to want to get rid of some evil regime and/or terrorists – to further the imperialist interests of the protagonists, regardless of the cost to the innocent masses caught up in the warfare. Secondly, it assuredly doesn’t follow, as David Ellis seems to imply, that to oppose the bombing of Syria is to support Assad and Putin; it goes without saying that the latter has imperialist ambitions of his own in the Middle East and the former, a ruthless anti-democratic dictator, is his close ally. Nor, thirdly, does being opposed to this war automatically make us pacifists; I for one would support arming and aiding in any practicable way possible a “Syrian National Democratic” movement – or, even better, a socialist one – if such a movement can be identified.
    Finally, the reason anti-war campaigners should be calling for the democratic removal from their respective positions of power of Hilary Benn and other Labour MPs who voted for war is that they end up, intentionally or not, supporting the imperialist aims behind the war, condemning the masses of the Middle East to further decades of dictatorial and economic subjugation.
    Ps I would have liked to have helped Jon in his deliberations over the EU, especially as it must be very uncomfortable as a Socialist to be on the wrong side of the fence (only just, according to the author) and I am confident we could have dragged him over to the right side, but I fear we’ll have to leave that one for another day. Suffice at this stage to point out one glaringly obvious fact: The EU – and here it is important to remember we are talking about the institution, not the European countries that make up that institution – was created and has been maintained ever since primarily for the benefit of Big Business. Any minor concessions to workers were a necessary by-product in the EU’s relentless drive to achieve its capitalist goals, eg the creation of an enlarged internal market to make it easier for Big Business to carry out its activities, the creation of a trade bloc capable of competing with other blocs (North America, South East Asia etc) and burgeoning economies (China, India etc) and the drive to further privatisation (ask the Greeks). Given all this, is it any wonder that there is a “democratic deficit” around the EU (TTIP, anyone?)? This, briefly, is why all good Socialists should be in the NO camp in the upcoming referendum on the EU.

  6. swatantra says:

    Corbyn is going to be forced to change his tune, pretty quick, as are Cameron and others. The only way of removing IS is to send in ground troops and take out these Islamofacists, one by one, if necessary. And there will inevitably be some British casualties. But its the sacrifice we have to be prepared to make.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Will you vote for someine else if there’s a coup in 2018′ or wait till many of your friends lose their council seats?

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