POLITICS

Jeremy Corbyn Defies Labour MPs Over Commons Motion Accusing Tony Blair Of 'Lying' About Iraq

Leader asserts authority

29/11/2016 14:42 | Updated 01 December 2016
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS via Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn has rejected pleas from Labour MPs to force the party to oppose a controversial motion attacking Tony Blair over Iraq.

The Labour leader and Shadow Cabinet rejected a request from the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to impose a three-line whip on the SNP motion due to be debated in the Commons on Wednesday.

The motion claims that Blair misled Parliament over his intentions to go to war in Iraqi in 2003, urges a new committee investigation that could result in the former PM being stripped of his Privy Council membership.

HuffPost UK has learned that the Shadow Cabinet agreed to impose only a one-line whip, meaning that the debate is not considered essential to attend.

In a compromise move, Shadow Chief Whip Nick Brown is understood to be making clear that any MP who is present for the debate will be expected to vote against the motion.

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Blair with Corbyn, Sir John Major and Theresa May

But the decision is a significant reassertion of Corbyn’s authority over his Parliamentary Party as the PLP had decided by an “overwhelming” show of hands on Monday to back a three-line whip.

That would have meant forcing every MP to turn up to vote against the SNP move and possible disciplinary action against those who defied the whip.

Former ministers Ben Bradshaw and Pat McFadden had told the PLP meeting of their anger at weekend reports that “senior figures” in the party were ready to back the SNP motion.

Corbyn said this summer that he would “probably” back moves to declare Blair had been in contempt of Parliament over his statements on Iraq.

One MP told HuffPost on Tuesday that the party leadership had “stuck two fingers up to the PLP, so that the Blair-haters can slink away”.

Michael Tubi via Getty Images
Jeremy Corbyn is a leading supporter of Stop the War

But several former Blair and Brown government ministers are still expected to turn out in force to defend Blair from the charge that he knowingly misled Parliament.

The SNP, backed by the Greens and Plaid Cymru, argue that the Chilcot Inquiry Report revealed that Blair was always intent on “regime change” in Iraq.

His infamous memo to George Bush months before the invasion, promising “I’ll be with you, whatever”, was proof that he had not been straight with Parliament, his critics claim.

Blair’s defenders say that Chilcot cleared him of the charge of lying.

No vote was taken at the Shadow Cabinet meeting and several ministers spoke to support the Shadow Chief Whip’s stance.

The party refused to comment about whipping arrangements, but one source said that the Shadow Cabinet had decided “to oppose” the SNP motion.

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