Pressure on Miliband: Labour 'unease' over Syria vote as Blair intervenes

Miliband: Defeat in victory?
Miliband: Defeat in victory?
Ian Dunt By

The pressure continued to pile on Ed Miliband over the Syria intervention vote today, over a week since the historic Commons debate.

Tony Blair broke ranks with his most explicit criticism of the Labour leader yet, while Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said many of his colleagues felt "unease" about the vote.

The comments come amid an increasingly vitriolic response to the Labour leader from media commentators.

This week's PMQs also suggested the vote may have permanently poisoned relations between him and the prime minister, with David Cameron seemingly unable to even look at the Labour leader.


"I wrote before the vote that I thought we had to support action in Syria and I said after the vote that I was disappointed by it," Blair told the Today programme.

"So this is something where I just have to disagree with the leadership of the party.

"Not to act, I think, is dangerous because you're sending a signal that such a use of chemical weapons can take place without the international community having a robust and proper response," he added.

The former prime minister admitted that intervention could be "long and bloody and difficult and expensive" but warned that inaction would be "long and bloody and difficult and expensive and worse".

The Blair intervention may actually be welcomed by Miliband as further proof he has disentangled himself from the former Labour leader's almost messianic attitude towards foreign policy.

He will be more concerned about the coded criticisms from those on his backbenches, who are nervous about the impact the vote had on Britain's international reputation.

In a piece for the Guardian, Bradshaw blamed Cameron for last week's vote, but his views will be worrying for Miliband as he tries to redefine events as an effort to halt a rush to war.

"Let's be clear what most Labour MPs were and were not voting for last week," Bradshaw wrote.

"We were not voting to support Britain taking part in immediate military action, but nor were we voting to rule it out completely. Neither were most Conservatives or Liberal Democrats.

"But because of Cameron's grotesque mishandling of the parliamentary recall and his 'rush to decision', that's where we are.

"All three main parties and their leaders ruling out any second vote whatever further war crimes Bashar al-Assad commits, however much worse the humanitarian crisis becomes and whatever the UN or the US and others decide to do.

"A considerable number of Labour MPs (many more than have so said so publicly) feel deeply uneasy about this," he added.

"Where do we stand if Democrat America, Socialist France, Turkey and the Arab League go ahead with strikes?

"Does being nice to Iran and talking about Britain's now diminished diplomatic and humanitarian role constitute a foreign policy?

"Labour needs to have clear and unambiguous answers to these questions. They will dominate politics through the party conference season."

He continued: "Instead of sticking to this sensible and measured approach, we seem to have abandoned it because of the incompetence of a Tory prime minister.

"We have allowed Labour foreign policy to be dictated by the government."

Syria is currently being debated on the sidelines at the G20 meeting in St Petersburg, before a vote by Congress in Washington next week.

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