Syria exposes hollowness of today’s British Labour Party

Comparing Milibands


I thought the British Labour Pary made a mistake when it picked current leader Ed Miliband over his elder brother David in 2010.

To over-simply the debate within the party at the time, support for David was seen as support for the party’s “New Labour” reformation ushered in by Tony Blair. Ed represented a return to Labour’s more socialist, pre-Blair roots.

“Given that the Labour Party spent most of the two decades before Blair getting stomped on by Margaret Thatcher and John Major, it’s curious why Ed’s back-to-our-roots message should resonate, but it does,” I wrote during the party leadership campaign in 2010.

Sure enough, Ed won. David subsequently found the Labour Party an uncomfortable fit and resigned his seat in April to become head of the International Rescue Committee, a New York-based NGO.

The gulf between the Labour Party that is and the Labour Party that might have been has been laid bare by the civil war in Syria, the use of chemical weapons there by forces of President Bashar al-Assad, and what, if anything, the West should do about it. Late last month Labour led voting to defeat a government motion that might have authorized British military action in Syria. The party that only ten years ago sent British soldiers into Iraq to rid the country of a dictator believed to posses chemical weapons now blocks potential air strikes against a dictator who is actively using chemical weapons to gas children within his country’s borders.

Things might have been different had another Miliband prevailed three years ago. In a column published today, David Miliband hints he would back military force against Assad, and suggests that the limited strikes that appear to be in the works are insufficient.

“[N]one of the military options being canvassed – or, in the UK, rejected – promises a decisive shift in the course of the conflict. We are not yet anywhere near the nadir of the humanitarian crisis already consuming five countries at the heart of the Middle East,” he writes in the Financial Times.

“It is clear that, while international engagement is decreasingly popular in the advanced democracies, a multipolar world makes it increasingly necessary.”

The British is enjoying the Milibands’ sibling rivalry. “Brothers at war,” the Daily Mail declares. This is admittedly fun stuff for headline writers, but the divide isn’t really about personalities. It’s about what the Labour Party actually stands for these days.

Dan Hodges, a self-described “Blairite cuckoo in the Miliband nest,” believes the answer is: not much. This emptiness has been starkly exposed by Labour’s response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria – something that caused Hodges to quit the party he had belonged to for 27 years.

“He had, he said, sought to oppose a ‘rush to war,’” writes Hodges of Miliband’s performance in a recent Prime Minister’s Questions.

“Fine. We know what Ed Miliband opposes. But what does he actually support? A gentle afternoon promenade to war? A careful tiptoe to war? Or no war at all? Miliband couldn’t say. Because, basically, he doesn’t know.”

Ed surely knows that the majority of the British public is opposed to strikes on Syria. Perhaps his principles are what polls tell him they should be. I’m not sure this is wise. Blair, recall, was re-elected in 2005, two years into a war in Iraq that had become increasingly unpopular in Britain. True, his Conservative opponents were weak. But Blair was at least prepared to defend convictions that were not widely shared. He won three straight majorities. Ed, in 2015, will be hard-pressed to win his first.


Syria exposes hollowness of today’s British Labour Party

  1. Blair poisoned the well on invasions…so neither Ed nor Dave are right. DaveCam, furious as it made him, ran into a brick wall on the same question. Chillaxe Dave.

    Brits never change leaders in the middle of a war….but that doesn’t mean they want another one.

    Most Brits are aware the Empire is gone……their leaders don’t seem to be, but it’s time to toss the ‘white man’s burden’.

    • I am not sure “white man’s burden” was fair as look at this from a Saudi perspective. Sunni Saudi funded 911, funds Syria terrorists, want Sunni domination over Shia Islam.

      Do we say Saudi are white? Is Obama white?… The realty is race doesn’t have much to do with it as I am not aware of any race that has a record of peace, honesty and integrity with their own peoples let alone someone else.

      We all love war when our politicians ramp up the propganda so they feel more virile and self important. Between religion and politics, a lot of people die needlessly. I long for a country where government works for the people, and the people don’t work for corrupt governments and egotistical politicians.

  2. Yes. If only Labour were more Not-Labour. Having options
    only confuses people.

  3. The vote in the British Parliament over Syria was an opportunity for the Labour Party to poke the Conservatives in the eye with a very sharp stick. Milibrand showed that he was prepared to block David Cameron’s motion for a military intervention in Syria in order to give him a hollow victory over his hated rival. He took the chance to gain some talking points in the press despite the mounting atrocities by the Syrian Army, the millions of displaced refugees, and Assad’s determination to ignore the international ban on using chemical weapons. It was political grandstanding at its best. Milibrand chose to turn a blind eye to a tyrant. That act has branded him as an apologist, a staller, and a coward. Not someone that I’d ever consider to be a candidate with enough character to actually lead a country, let alone a political party.

    • Just a few points:

      1. It’s Miliband, not MIlibrand.
      2. What is antecedent of “him” in your second sentence? Cameron or Miliband?
      3. “To gain a talking point” is a new idiom in English. Thank you for contributing to our rich language.
      4. What are “talking points in the press”? Talking points for talking to the press? Being described in the press as having talking points? Giving the press its own talking points?
      5. Do you really mean “political grandstanding at its best”? From the rest of your post, you mean either “political grandstanding at its worst” or “definitive political grandstanding.”
      6. Oh God it’s Miliband again not Milibrand.
      7. The metaphors are totally out of control. Miliband is poking Cameron in the eye with a sharp stick, earing a hollow victory, grandstanding, all while turning a blind eye and being branded as various things.
      8. Your last sentence has no verb.

      On the plus side, you make only one point, albeit in 150 words.

      • Duh. I call him Milibrand for a reason. Something that a mental midget like you would just never be expected to pick up on.

        • Oh, I see, my bad, your posts are full of nuance and those little finesses that mark the truly gifted ironist.

  4. Look, Petrou, your side LIED ABOUT WMD’s in Iraq. You and your humanitarian ilk were the useful idiots of Dick Cheney. It’s a scandal that any of you are still allowed to foist your worthless opinions on the rest of us. You are totally ignorant about your claimed field of expertise.

    Maybe it’s time to reflect just a TEENSY WEENSY bit more about a) US claims of chemical weapons use by Assad, since no plausible reason has been suggest for why he used them; b) the consequences of plunging a sectarian and highly armed society into anarchy, both for itself and for geopolitics.

    • At least he knows how to structure a complete sentence with a delineated subject and predicate. I’d trust that skill set over the incoherent ramblings of an illiterate apologist for the Assad regime.

      • All the sentences in my post are complete and the thought is entirely coherent.

        • LOL OK. If you say so.

          • Gotta give an example if you’re gonna attempt to be pedantic.

            Disclaimer: there’s a typo in the second paragraph (suggest should be suggested). But all five sentences are complete.

            Perhaps you have never heard of a semi-colon, but one of its uses to distinguish two long but parallel elements; the elements distinguished do not have to be independent clauses by any friggin’ means.

          • Yep. Gotta, gonna, and ‘friggin’ are excellent grammatical markers indicative of the high standard that we enjoy from commentators here on Maclean’s online forum.
            Going back to your original entry. It’s so fraught with structural errors it’s an embarrassment of riches.
            And while we’re on the subject let’s look at this one again.
            ‘All the sentences in my post are complete and the thought is entirely coherent.’ Duh.

          • Gotta, gonna, and ‘friggin’ All markers of the high grammatical standards that you aspire to. Keep dazzling us Petrou with your didatic, insightful, fully reasoned approach, that you take when commenting on geopolitical events.

          • LOL, yeah those are really the result of undereducation.

            It’s “didactic,” not “didatic.” Or was that another one of your little jokes?

          • Although you’re somewhat slow and dim witted, given enough time you’ll eventually catch on.

          • You completely overlooked the other glaring grammatical error that I inserted to see if you’d be able to pick up on it. Now that I’ve brought it to your attention can you tell the rest of us what it is?

  5. I recall just a few years back there was a media blitz (reminiscent of
    the recent MEK bumpf) selling us on a warm and fuzzy Assad and,
    especially, his young,attractive,and trendy missus. can we have
    more of that,please ?

    • Didn’t get your fill of Kate and William?

  6. In the 80s, I was fortunate (?) enough to have the Dad, Ralph Miliband, as a prof. He was rigorous and quite tough on any analysis that veered from his own, but open nonetheless. From that experience, I doubt he would have any truck with what either of his progeny are peddling (less so Ed than David, but still…apples falling far and all that).

    Regardless of pedigree, Ed may well win the next electoral donnybrook, as it’s hard to imagine Cameron is anyone’s darling right now or, at best, for much longer.

  7. I can’t speak with any confidence as to the merits or demerits of Milliband. But I will say, as an ex fan of Blair – never a frick’n gain! The man left office as a largely reviled and pathetic demagogue … just where are you going with this MP?
    I’ve seen, in my time, two great hopes of the principled centre left disgrace themselves while in office…Blair and Clinton. Whatever hopes there was of a third way died with these two men. And they did the burying.

    • Oh goody. Another poster with a highly positive outlook on the Syrian outcome.

  8. International Rescue? Sounds like the “Thunderbirds”.

    Only the insane rush to war. Driven by bankers wanting to trivialize the failure of their corrupt banking and debt fraud. Munition manufacturers, no war is no lobby money as there is no profit. CIA want revenge for the people that died meddling in other countries when their operations were illegal anyways, got Obama supporting Sunni Saudi middle east political domination….same terrorist demographics as 9/11.

    Ya, ya all want war for all the wrong reasons in a western failing empire of corruption and waste. America has been destroyed form the inside, but doesn’t mean that a falling Goliath can’t kill a lot of people on the way down.

    Btw, I am not Muslim, just see reality for what it is. I now understand with all of todays propaganda how Adolph managed to control Germany with his propaganda.

  9. Maybe it is because those that say no to war are more sane and less corrupt. Lobby money hasn’t bought them off, nor do they let ego, self importance war mongering cloud their vision.

    Two thumps up to those saying no to another useless war for politics, religion and those that subjugate people. If Obama wants war, perhaps close the politicians in a room and let them duke it out.

    No need to kill others for political corruption.

    • Answering your own posts again Dave? I guess that you just don’t see that as problem do you?