Richard Burgon's Plan To Let Labour Members Block Military Action Branded 'Fantasy Government'

Deputy leadership rival Ian Murray says "peace pledge" is "worst possible" strategy to regain public trust after election catastrophe.

Richard Burgon’s plan to let Labour members decide whether the UK goes to war has been branded “fantasy government” by a rival for the party’s deputy leadership.

Ian Murray accused the left-winger of “folly” and being “reckless” after the eyebrow-raising proposal, which states Labour “would not endorse, or back, or support military action, unless the members gave it their explicit approval”.

Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, unveiled his “peace pledge” on Wednesday.

He said military action “must have the explicit backing” of party members unless it had UN backing or was “a genuine national emergency”.

In a speech in Oxford this week, Burgon claimed Labour colleagues were “frustrated Churchills” as he criticised his party’s decision to back the Iraq War under Tony Blair’s leadership.

“There are MPs who have voted for military action, including Labour MPs, who until they heard the speech on that proposal that day wouldn’t be able to say where that country was on the map, wouldn’t know what the capital city of that country was, wouldn’t know anything about the culture at all.”

“Yet they strut about making these grandiose speeches like frustrated Churchills.”

Scottish Labour MP Murray has strongly criticised the plan. He told HuffPost UK: “Part of the reason we lost the last two elections is because people didn’t trust our leadership when it came to national security – this is the worst possible way to address that problem.”

He added: “Ministers should always be held accountable for those decisions by parliament, but it is a folly to offload decisions on national security to members of a political party, who by their very nature will not have all the facts before them or be able to respond in the time needed.

Richard Burgon MP addresses protest organised by Stop The War, in London
Richard Burgon MP addresses protest organised by Stop The War, in London
Guy Smallman via Getty Images

“This is pandering to a view of how a fantasy government would run, and would simply ensure that Labour remains in permanent opposition.”

Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy also poured cold water on the idea, saying: “I can’t disagree with him more”.

She said: “At times in our history there have been moments when we have had to stand up and go to protect people all over the world.

“In Sierra Leone and Rwanda, those people couldn’t wait for us to go and ballot Labour Party members.”

Responding to criticism, Burgon said that under the plan MPs could still choose to vote against the party’s position and maintained that Labour MPs have “failed to learn the lessons of Iraq”.

Burgon is battling deputy leadership favourite Angela Rayner as well as Murray, Rosena Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler.


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