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The Syria Vote Aftermath Has Shown the Worst of the 'New Politics'

09/12/2015 09:46 GMT | Updated 08/12/2016 10:12 GMT

In the aftermath of the vote on whether to bomb ISIS in Syria, the new Labour Party will have to face some uncomfortable questions about the new direction in which Corbyn wants to take, spurred on both by Corbyn's supporters, and by the group that now seems to take pride of place in Corbyn's foreign policy: Stop the War Coalition.

To take Corbyn's supporters first, it should no longer surprise us that self-declared Corbyn supporters respond to their opponents with vulgar abuse. Indeed, anyone who attended the Conservative Party Conference, or otherwise witnessed the behaviour outside of it by a mob of 'anti-Tories', will be familiar with this, as Delegates had to run a gauntlet of spitting, assaults, and even at least one rape threat. The mob was even addressed by Jeremy Corbyn himself, and condemnation of spitting at journalists was unable to extend to spitting at Tories. For a 'new, kinder politics', this was a remarkably intolerant attitude towards those who happened to be members of another Party.

Yet in the reactions to the Labour rebellion on the Syria vote, such supporters have gone at least one step further, in the barrage of abuse directed at MPs including Stella Creasey and Simon Danczuk - and, most repugnantly, the celebrating by Corbyn supporters of the hospitalisation of Mike Gapes. Indeed, Charlotte Leslie even received a bomb threat for which the defendant has already pleaded guilty. While we can't openly lay the blame for the latter on Jeremy Corbyn, or the Party (and arguably the others), questions must still be asked as to why this didn't happen in 2003, when the anti-Iraq war protests were possibly the largest ever taking place in Britain. There certainly appears to have been an ascension of certain parts of the Left since the General Election (the parts which respond by rioting purely because the party they back didn't win an election), and now - in Corbyn Abbott, and McDonnell - their ideology is resting at the heart of the new Labour party.

This intolerance of other views even within one's own party extends beyond vulgar abuse (and worse) of Labour MPs that won't tow the (largely self-proclaimed) 'new politics' of the Party, however. Ever since Corbyn was elected, parts of the Left have agitated for mandatory re-selection of MPs, and I suspect that this isn't about democratic accountability, but instead about removing as many non-Corbynite MPs as possible, turning the Parliamentary Labour Party into a homogenous bloc centred (ironically) on the most rebellious MP in the Party's history. Such an impression is only bolstered by the releasing of a list of MPs who voted for bombing ISIS in Syria, exhorting their deselection - as if doctrinaire anti-interventionism is now suddenly an immutable tenet of the Party which supported intervention, not just in Iraq, but in Kosovo where such intervention was likely responsible for the prevention of genocide.

However, the aftermath of the Syria vote also exposed something far more worrying about this new ideology: namely, the prominence of Stop the War Coalition - a group which was chaired until recently by Corbyn himself. In the aftermath of the bombing vote, it was absurdly claimed by Stop the War that those who go and fight alongside ISIS are far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity of the International Brigades than the bombing of Syria. Quite how anyone can draw an equivalence between citizens leaving their homes to fight against fascism in Spain with joining a theocratic cult which murders "apostates"; enslaves minorities; and destroys cultural heritage remains a mystery. Yet this is far from the first time that the group has condemned the West in the context of Islamic extremism. Its first reaction to the Paris attacks was to post (and later delete) that it was France's fault (for being interventionist) that Paris was attacked, and stated that the most surprising thing about the Charlie Hebdo attack was that such attacks weren't more common due to our "endless provocation" of Muslims.

Yet the group is not simply 'anti-war'; it is merely anti-West. There were no "Hands Off Syria" protests when Putin announced his own intervention in Syria, for instance, and indeed Jeremy Corbyn himself wrote for the group, arguing that we should not even provide arms to the Ukrainian government as the country's very territorial integrity is under threat from Russian forces (including the illegal annexation of Crimea), with Corbyn claiming that Euromaidan was actually orchestrated by NATO rather than being a democratic uprising. Nor, frankly, is the group concerned with ordinary Syrians despite its protestations to the contrary; in at least one Stop the War event, Syrians have been prevented from speaking because they supported a no-fly zone. These issues have just led to the resignation of Caroline Lucas from the group, yet Corbyn remains due to speak at their annual Christmas fundraiser and Dianne Abbott remains a patron. The continued support by the Labour leader of a group disavowed by the Green Party (traditionally considered further to the left than Labour) would have been inconceivable prior to Corbyn's leadership, and will only further lead the party down the road to disrepute and oblivion.

In the wake of Corbyn's leadership, I suggested that the moderate Labour members and PLP MPs split from the Labour Party like the SDP did previously. The reactions to the Syria vote, and continued currying by the Labour leadership of Stop the War, only continue to underline the seeming irreconcilability of the two main factions. For non-Corbynite Labour - exemplified by Hilary Benn - to have any credibility as a party assuming they retain a voice at all), such a decision will need to be seriously contemplated, now more than ever.