On Wednesday, a debate was held in the House of Commons on a Labour motion for the suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have been widely condemned for targeting civilians in Yemen, with one third of air-strikes hitting non-combatants.
The Tory government fought the motion. Hardly surprisingly, since it has completely abdicated its international obligations.
International treaties to which the UK is a signatory, as well as commitments under EU rules and the UK’s own regulations, say that arms export licences cannot be granted if there is a risk weapons will be used in a ‘serious violation of international humanitarian law’. Parliament is well aware that there is more than just a ‘risk’ of this in Yemen:
In spite of this, in a remarkable answer to a written Parliamentary question, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon stated that it wasn’t the UK government’s business where and when the Saudis drop bombs supplied by the UK:
No wonder that arms sales continue to climb relentlessly, with Saudi Arabia the biggest buyer of UK-produced weapons:
But you expect this kind of morally-bankrupt venality from the Tories, who fit as comfortably into the pockets of big business as a kangaroo joey into the pouch of its marsupial mother. It’s in their nature.
But from Labour MPs? Labour’s motion was defeated by 90 votes. 98 Labour MPs abstained. Labour could have carried the motion by 8 votes. (A handful of MPs were unable to be present because of serious illness, family circumstances etc, but these are not included in these numbers)
To support a Tory government – even passively – is disgraceful for Labour MPs.
To support a Tory government against a ‘Party whip’ (an official device that means an MP is rebelling against his/her party) is unconscionable – and this was a whipped vote:
To support a Tory government to defeat a motion to stop them supplying weapons that are being brutally used to kill and main innocent civilians, including women and children, is unforgivable.
So, who are those MPs who helped to condemn the motion to defeat and countless more innocent Yemeni husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, children, siblings and parents to death and disfigurement inflicted by weapons made in and sold by the UK?
A full list of all the MPs who voted for and against Labour’s motion can be found here, but here is a selection of names you will recognise who cannot be found in either column, because they abstained
Gloria de Piero
and many more.
If those names look familiar, it is likely because they are among Corbyn’s most venomous opponents. Many have also been among the most vocal in making unevidenced claims of ‘abuse’. It seems they consider an online insult to be abuse, but not a bomb dropped on a wedding or funeral.
And not only that, but they apparently feel so strongly that it’s ok to keep selling arms for that purpose that they were prepared to defy the party whip rather than vote against further sales.
The SKWAWKBOX was not the only one to recognise the hypocrisy signalled by the decision to abstain:
This blog would never suggest that the abstentions had any connection with the fact that at least some of the abstainers attend swanky dinners thrown by arms companies.
They might just be shitty human beings.
Whatever their motives, they made it clear why the Labour party in which they felt at home haemorrhaged support for years and why so many people recognise and are inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity, moral courage and incorruptibility.
Clearer still why their replacement by better candidates is essential both for Labour’s electoral prospects and for its forward momentum.