17:10 Monday 30th November 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Jeremy Corbyn will grant Labour MPs a free vote on extending UK air strikes against so-called Islamic State into Syria. The Labour Leader, who opposes military intervention, has requested a two day debate in the House of Commons. The news comes after he spent the afternoon meeting his Shadow Cabinet team, many of who are likely to support air strikes. The Labour backbencher John Woodcock supports action in Syria. He says MPs should be free to vote according to their consciences.
JOHN WOODCOCK: The only way through this if we’re going to maintain Labour Party harmony at all is to allow people to vote according to their own judgement on this, given the very strongly held and expressed views, which would mean a free vote, rather than a whipped vote.
CHRIS MANN: Labour said three quarters of rank and file members polled by the Party are against air strikes in Syria, but some frontbenchers had warned of possible resignations if the Party leadership had forced a collective opposition. Earlier today, one of Mr Corbyn’s closest allies, the MP Diane Abbott, said she believed the Leader should force MPs to follow his lead.
DIANE ABBOTT: We’re a party of government, and a party of government have to have a position on matters of peace and war. And the problem about a free vote is it hands victory to Cameron over these air strikes. It hands victory to him on a plate. I don’t think that’s what Party members want to see.
CHRIS MANN: The Prime Minister says dropping British bombs on Islamic State targets in Syria will help make our streets safer. Let’s get reaction now from the Labour MP for Cambridge Daniel Zeichner, who is the Shadow Housing Minister, sorry Shadow Transport Minister sorry. Daniel, afternoon to you.
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Good afternoon Chris.
CHRIS MANN: So where do you stand, first of all on the free vote? Good idea, or not?
DANIEL ZEICHNER: I think it’s the right thing to do. I think people obviously have very strong feelings of principle on these issues. I also think that actually different parts of the country, MPs will be finding different things from their constituents, and it’s right that they reflect those. I think this is the kind of grown-up politics that people wanted. To imagine that everyone in a political party has the same view I don’t think is realistic. And on these very big issues, whether you go to war or not .. remember the House of Commons didn’t used to have a vote on this. It’s only a recent thing. So I think a free vote is the right decision.
CHRIS MANN: But let’s face it, you know, he’s not exactly leading the party, is it, as you would expect traditionally a Labour Leader to do? People just able to say what they want. That’s not about leadership is it?
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Well I think Jeremy stood on the basis of being a different kind of leader.
CHRIS MANN: .. not a Leader.
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Well, in some ways not a traditional leader, certainly. But this is what a lot of people wanted. They wanted to change the kind of politics we have. And actually I think that by pausing, causing people to reflect, I think Jeremy has already had an influence. And I hope the influence will be that we don’t rush to join a bombing mission which no-one seems entirely clear what it’s supposed to achieve.
CHRIS MANN: There is talk of resignations thrown by senior Labour Shadow Ministers. Would you be one of them?
DANIEL ZEICHNER: No I don’t think so, because .. and I very much hope that no-one else resigns either, because I don’t think it should become a resigning issue. I think what Jeremy’s said is that he wants politics to be done differently. He’s asked people to go away, listen to what constituents are saying. Certainly what I’ve been hearing in Cambridge is a very very strong message that people in Cambridge do not support the Government. And that’s why I’m very unlikely to be supporting them. I want to hear what colleagues have to say at meetings tonight and over the next few days, but at the moment I don’t think David Cameron has made a strong enough case.
CHRIS MANN: The Prime Minister wants emphatic Parliamentary backing. Do you think he’ll get it?
DANIEL ZEICHNER: I don’t quite understand why the Prime Minister doesn’t think he can carry his own party on this. And I think there really should be some questions for him. Why doesn’t he go to a vote soon? Presumably the Conservatives will support him. If not, if he’s actually having to rely on Labour, I think that tells you something rather odd, because he’s been winning every vote, week in, week out, sadly, despite our best efforts to beat him.
CHRIS MANN: So you reject his statement that bombing those targets in Syria will make our streets safer here in Cambridgeshire.
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Well that is the key judgement, isn’t it? And I’m not sure there is any evidence to support that view. It may well make it worse, which is what Jeremy Corbyn was saying. Now I think it’s a very hard thing to say for sure one way or the other. But at the moment, I’m not at all convinced. And when you look at it, in places like Raqqa, it seems that the kind of people we really really would want to be rid of are actually hidden in amongst the civilian population So I’m not at all convinced it’s going to be possible to get them in the way that the Prime Minister has argued.
CHRIS MANN: Daniel Zeichner, thank you for joining us. That’s the Labour MP for Cambridge, also Shadow Transport Minister.