Key allies of Jeremy Corbyn including Chris Williamson, Emily Thornberry and Jon Trickett voted for airstrikes in Iraq in 2014, but are now likely to block intervention in Syria intended to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons against his own civilian population.
All three also voted in support of the government’s intervention in Libya in 2011, joined by Corbyn’s long-time friend Diane Abbott.
Former frontbencher Chris Williamson has retweeted a warning that if “bombs fall down on Syria” there will be “slaughter” that risks “creating terrorists”, and in an interview yesterday suggested that “I think it’s 2013, when the last time there was a vote” on military action. He has also shared an article by alt-left blogger Skwawkbox citing Russian reports that no chemical attacks have taken place.
But in 2014 he not only voted in support of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq, but intervened on Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on the issue.
Williamson used his intervention to ask Jeremy Corbyn to “comment on the argument that the air strikes have so far prevented the expansion of ISIL forces” and asked if “more air strikes go further in preventing ISIL from taking more ground?” Corbyn replied that “I do not believe that further air strikes and the deepening of our involvement will solve the problem”.
Emily Thornberry joined Williamson in voting for airstrikes, facing criticism from one of Jeremy Corbyn’s former colleagues at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament for arguing on Question Time that intervention “makes the world a safer place”. Now as Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary she has said that no military intervention should take place until an investigation into the recent chemical weapon attacks in Syria has been completed.
Jon Trickett, a solid ally of Jeremy Corbyn, also voted in support of airstrikes against ISIL.
Earlier, in 2011, all three voted in support of military intervention in Libya to defeat Colonel Gaddafi. On this occasion, Diane Abbott parted ways with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to vote in support of action too.
The votes will heap pressure on Labour frontbenchers to explain why they backed interventions against ISIL and Colonel Gaddafi, but are hesitating to confront Bashar al-Assad now.