London: Britain’s embattled opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn today allowed his Labour Party lawmakers a free vote on the contentious issue of Britain launching anti-ISIS air strikes in Syria but demanded a two-day Commons debate.
The Labour leader’s move comes as he held a crucial meeting with his Shadow Cabinet today amid a party split over whether to back military action in the region.
“Today’s Shadow Cabinet agreed to back Jeremy Corbyn’s recommendation of a free vote on the Government’s proposal to authorise UK bombing in Syria,” a Corbyn spokesperson said.
He added: “The Shadow Cabinet decided to support the call for David Cameron to step back from the rush to war and hold a full two day debate in the House of Commons on such a crucial national decision.
“Shadow Cabinet members agreed to call David Cameron to account on the unanswered questions raised by his case for bombing: including how it would accelerate a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war; what ground troops would take territory evacuated by ISIS; military co-ordination and strategy; the refugee crisis and the imperative to cut-off of supplies to ISIS.”
While Corbyn is opposed to military action in Syria, the free vote allows Labour MPs to vote as they like in a House of Commons vote, expected on Wednesday.
Earlier, Corbyn wrote to British Prime Minister David 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 airstrikes 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.
“As has happened previously, a one-day debate would inevitably lead to important contributions being curtailed. It is incumbent on us all to ensure the country feels there has been the fullest parliamentary discussion of what you have rightly described as a highly complex situation.
“In addition, the debate would be much better informed by views from the foreign affairs and defence select committees following your recent statements.”
The UK government is attempting to persuade British MPs to back extending UK air strikes from Iraq to Syria aimed at the so-called Islamic State into Syria in a vote in the Commons.
But Cameron has stressed he will hold a vote on air strikes only if certain he has the clear support of the Commons, saying losing the vote would hand the ISIS group a propaganda victory.
Although the British PM has a parliamentary majority, there are enough Conservative MPs opposed to the UK joining in the bombing of ISIS targets in Syria to put the result in doubt.