Party members decide on war?

A hopeful for Labour's deputy leadership thinks so

Ian Murray hits out at Richard Burgon's 'fantasy' plan to let Labour members veto military action

Mr Burgon said his "peace pledge" would prevent Labour ever signing up to ill-fated military campaigns like the Iraq War again.

Under the policy, the Shadow Justice Secretary said Labour "would not endorse, or back, or support military action, unless the members gave it their explicit approval".

"Never again should Labour members have the shame of having to protest 'Not in my name' against their own party," he said.

"With this pledge in place, the British people can be confident that the Labour Party will not repeat the mistakes of the past and wrongly back military conflict.

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Should party members decide their party's stance on military action?

By Joe Harker

When it comes to politicians and plummeting popularity the idea of engaging in military action can seem appealing.

The prime example in British politics would appear to be Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War, with the conflict seen as the turning point that took her from being behind in the polls and facing dissent from within her own party to spending the rest of the decade in Downing Street.

Political drama House of Cards (the original British one) even referenced this with under-pressure prime minister Francis Urquhart and his wife toasting a military crisis as "our Falklands".

It's rarely so simple as that, with more recent conflicts turning into hard-to-escape situations that only breed more conflict. Niccolò Machiavelli remarked "wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please", conflicts such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to have proven him right.

The Claim:

Maybe that's why deputy Labour leadership hopeful Richard Burgon wants to have the party's stance on military action decided by the party membership.

He hit out at his fellow Labour MPs for "strutting about like frustrated Churchills" and approving military action in Syria.

Burgon suggested many MPs in the House of Commons who voted for military action would struggle to identify where on a map they would be sending troops, let alone what sort of culture they might be wading into.

His solution is to have Labour's policy on military action decided by party members, calling it his "peace pledge" where the membership must give "explicit approval" for the party to support it.

It wouldn't apply in cases where there was UN approval for conflict or in a case of national emergency.

Burgon also admitted a Labour prime minister could sanction military action without a vote from the membership, though he warned there would be "political consequences" in that event.

The Counter Claim:

Many other figures in the Labour party have criticised Burgon's idea, with Ian Murray MP describing it as "a reckless proposal that will do nothing to regain the trust of the public".

Murray, who is also running for Labour's deputy leadership, said the party needed to style themselves as a credible government in waiting and as such should stay as far away from the idea Burgon came up with.

Decisions on military action are for government ministers who can have access to classified information and dedicate their time to debating the issue with other MPs, not for members of a political party who paid as little as £3 for their membership.

Burgon's policy is not one that would work for a party ever hoping to get back into government. A government should be aiming to govern for everyone, not have policy on a matter as important as military action be dictated by paid up party members.

Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy said certain conflicts Britain had intervened in couldn't wait for a membership ballot to determine the party's stance. She noted Sierra Leone and Rwanda as two countries where waiting to ballot Labour members would have led to more deaths.

The Facts:

The policy appears to lack much support among the Labour party at large and Burgon isn't the favourite for deputy leader.

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