Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Corbyn is avoiding his duty by avoiding Syria

I know the focus was never likely to be on Jeremy Corbyn’s efforts at Prime Minister’s Questions, as George Osborne was unveiling his double whammy, the Autumn Statement and Spending Review all rolled into one. But, Corbyn may as well not have bothered turning up he made so little impact.

It is not that the subject matter of his questions were completely inappropriate – challenging the government’s commitment to green energy and the plight of, and services offered to, abused women – they were just the wrong subjects on the day.

The Prime Minister is preparing to present to the House of Commons proposals, which will at some point be debated, that could see British armed forces going into action against ISIL in Syria. I know that the Labour Party is hopelessly split on the issue, but it falls to the Leader of the Opposition to raise these important issues on occasions like PMQs.

And while the pressure to support such airstrikes is huge – and, speaking personally, I do think we have a responsibility to help try and fix the mess which we are undoubtedly partly to blame for creating – the shooting down of the Russian plane by a Turkish fighter is reason enough to consider pausing for a moment, just to allow for anger to subside, for events to follow their course.

Had Jeremy Corbyn made such a plea, even though David Cameron is likely to have brushed it off, the Leader of the Opposition would have been making a reasonable point, one which would have broad appeal. After all, hastily sending our military in to such a confusing, multi-layered, conflict zone, without detailed talks and agreements between as many of the significant players as possible, is the last thing we should be doing.

But no. Not a word on the matter did Jeremy Corbyn mutter. It was left to the SNP’s Angus Robertson to mention Syria. Sadly for Corbyn, avoiding the issue isn’t going to make it go away.


While I'm on the subject of the opposition, how on earth did shadow chancellor John McDonnell put himself into a position where he had to appear on television and condemn the brutality of Chairman Mao? I understand it was supposed to be a gag about Osborne flogging of British assets to a Communist government in China - an attack which has some merit - but to say it fell flat is slightly flattering.

I do quite like McDonnell's style on television; he's quite open and happy to be contrite - some may say he has a lot for which to be contrite - but he should steer clear of attempts at edgy humour.

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