Chartist Propose Model Motion Against Syria Strikes

Chartist editor Mike Davis has drafted a model motion for adoption by local Labour Parties and trade unions, opposing air strikes in Syria and supporting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a political settlement to the conflict.

The Chartist motion is set out below in full followed by the four conditions to be met before Labour could support bombing in Syria, as adopted by Labour Party conference in September.

Davis has also drafted a series of questions for anti-war Labour members to ask their MPs.

The Chartist website includes a recent article by Clive Lewis MP, shadow minster for Energy and Climate Change and an Afghanistan was veteran, who argues that “it is time to learn from the past and not make the same mistakes over Syria”.

The model motion:

Syria and terror attacks

This Party/branch expresses its sympathy with the victims, families and friends of those killed and injured in the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Turkey and on the Russian airbus. We condemn unreservedly these barbaric attacks.

We call on our leaders and MPs to oppose any British bombing or military attacks in Syria.

We believe this kind of intervention can only exacerbate an already violent situation and lead to the loss of more innocent lives.

We support the Labour leader’s call for a political settlement to the conflict and for an end to the supply of arms and equipment to states and companies supplying ISIS.

Further we call for a multi-lateral, UN endorsed approach consistent with international law to resolve the conflict in Syria.

Four conditions

The 2015 Labour Party conference agreed four conditions that need to be satisfied before military action could be supported:

  1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation from the United Nations
  2. A comprehensive EU-wide plan to provide humanitarian assistance to the consequent increase in the number of refugees.
  3. That bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘ISIL’.
  4. That any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to end the Syrian civil war.

More information about these conditions and the questions to MPs proposed by Chartist are here.


  1. Will
    4 December 2015

    Hi Ernie

    Clearly you’re not happy with how the vote went on Wednesday night. As it happens nor am I (though you seem to presume otherwise, more of that later). But I’m not sure this kind of sweeping denunciation of all and sundry really helps debate very much.

    Fred Halliday once wrote that ‘in no area of public discussion is there as high a dose of posturing, misinformation and irrationality as that of international issues…Freud once argued that the aim of psychoanalysis was to reduce extreme hysteria to everyday common misery. The function of reasoned argument, and an engaged scepticism, in international affairs is to do just that.’ Let me take various of your points.

    You say the UK was a ‘sleeping but willing partner’ in various wars. I don’t honestly know what this means. Perhaps, had the vote yesterday gone against bombing Syria, we’d have continued to be a ‘sleeping but willing partner’ to US and French action there, whereas now we are an active and willing partner?

    Anyway, of the wars you cite in this regard:
    – Korea, Bosnia, Iraq 1, Afghanistan and Libya: UK played some, at times major, role under UN Security Council mandates;
    – Kosovo (under NATO mandate, later UN mandate) and Iraq 2 (in alliance with the US) the UK played a key military role;
    – Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Lebanon and Somalia: UK had no/virtually no military role (though I believe the UK may have some role in helping the African Union develop the capability to oust al Shabab from Somalia which in my view is a worthwhile endeavour).

    You claim NATO takes action against countries simply as the US demands. This just shows a misunderstanding of NATO’s politics and history. In fact NATO has very rarely taken military action and none before 1992. It did do so in the former Yugoslavia, mostly in order to uphold UN mandates (Kosovo the main exception); it did in Afghanistan (the only time NATO’s collective security clause has been invoked, again in conjunction with a UN mandate); in Libya (under a UN Security Council resolution); and in various other activities like post-earthquake in Pakistan and in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf. The point here, about mentioning UN resolutions, is that these can’t come about simply at the whim of the US.

    I never said Jeremy was a pacifist (which is a general commitment to non-violence). He may be, I don’t know. It is a coherent and honourably moral position to hold; but it isn’t the basis on which he has opposed this military action. However, I am not aware of any occasion he has, or would, support the use of British armed force abroad. This is important in understanding his arguments against war because it makes all talk of ‘conditions’ a bit redundant.

    I agree with you that doing nothing is hugely problematic. Any thoughts on this? Yep, Corbyn is pretty blank here too.

    ‘Weapons of mass destruction’ is a term used (in international law among other things) to apply to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. While, with the advent of uranium tipped bombs, the distinction is not quite as clear-cut as it once was, nevertheless let’s not confuse the issue further. They will, as you say, be spending millions on weaponry to carry out the attacks on Syria.

    When you say ‘my message to Will and to those Labour MPs like Hillary Benn, Maria Eagle et. al. who are prepared to go to war and bomb Isis’ do you mean to imply that I support the vote for war? That isn’t my position and cannot be inferred from anything I have said previously. Though I do agree entirely that Bush and Blair left an almighty mess.

    The point about the precise wording of the resolution passed in September is that the anti-war lobby, Momentum especially, are appealing to the precise wording of the resolution to make their case. So it does matter, quite a lot in my view. And part of my point was that its ‘spirit and intention’ was to be opposed to intervention on any grounds, at all, ever. It would have been better if it had been phrased, debated and voted on in these terms.

    You also say ‘Labour sided with the Tories’. Labour didn’t; 66 Labour MPs did. Labour failed to have a united position as we know, though a large majority of Labour MPs voted against the Tories.

    You seem to have taken this as a cue to (yet again) write Labour off. I think the situation is far more problematic than that.

    Everyday common misery restored? Best wishes, as ever,


    (The late Fred Halliday’s piece on the Afghan war, written soon after 9/11, is still worth a read: ).

  2. Harry Barnes
    3 December 2015

    The Government has, of course, acted immediately on the decision to bomb Syria. But in order to carry yesterday’s parliamentary vote it felt obiged to include numbers of extra points in its resolution – as a cover for the bombing. Some of these points now need pushing and pressing – persistently. When will they be acted upon? It is something which Labour MPs should keep pushing, no matter which way they voted yesterday. There are some things which Labour can still unite around. The leadership (in particular) needs to be searching for them and pressing them.

  3. Ernest Jacques
    3 December 2015

    Will Brown is not wrong in saying that the Syrian bombing debate is a bit more nuanced and complex than simply labelling Labour as a war party and our Westminster politicians as American poodles.

    That is not in dispute but as a generalisation it’s a true summation of how the UK political class responds to never ending civil wars, usually initiated and/or stoked up by the USA from Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, Lebanon Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Iraq x 2, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and dozens more (the list is endless) where the UK was and is a sleeping but willing partner.

    Also it is incontestable that while NATO is ostensibly an Alliance of 28 independent member countries it’s the USA and the Neocon’s in Washington that call the tune in demanding military action against any nation – good or bad – that refuses to bow to its dictates’ or resists having its resources plundered. And what we know about the US war machine is while they are very good at starting wars, winning them is much more problematic and the deaths, injuries and displacement of millions In the middle east is testament to the deadly influence of American foreign policy.

    Again many might agree with Will Brown’s suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn is a pacifist who would not support going to war in any circumstances.

    But with all due respect that is not what this debate is about. It’s about Cameron’s desire to join an existing coalition of countries already bombing day-in day-out in Iraq and Syria including France and Russia whose bombs failed to protect their own citizens from appalling terrorist attacks. So that, to my mind, whether or not Corbyn is a pacifist is a red herring.

    And while it is true that doing nothing is hugely problematic, what none of Labour’s war brigade seem to worry about is the collateral damage. For every terrorist killed by these so-called smart bombs and drones, multiple numbers of innocent men, women and children will be killed, injured and displaced. But of course, like Bush and Blair and their political poodles before them, those who voted for war today will all sleep safe in their beds tonight in the sure and certain knowledge the price will be paid (as usual) by millions of the poor and vulnerable people both at home and in the middle east.

    At home because, whether or not there are Isis terrorist attacks in the UK, in an age of austerity, Labour MPs have sided with the Tories (again) to spend hundreds more millions on weapons of mass destruction. So when the migrants flood in in record numbers, it will be the poor who pay the price with jobs and low pay and who will get bumped off the housing list and lose their homes when they cannot afford escalating rents because Labour and Tory MPs, while finding the money for war (again), won’t commit to the building of millions of desperately needed social houses. The social cleansing of our towns and cities will simply escalate and Labour and Conservatives and equally complicit. And if that is not unbelievable scandal and indictment Labour, I don’t know what is?

    So my message to Will and to those Labour MPs like Hillary Benn, Maria Eagle et. al. who are prepared to go to war and bomb Isis, is where do you think Isis came from? Might it not be that in addition to Syria’s Assad, the Isis terrorist are hugely the creation of USA foreign policy and the behaviour of self-serving war criminals Bush and Blair who bragged about mission accomplished but left an almighty mess in Iraq, Syria and throughout the whole of the middle-east?

    But picking to bits an inadequately worded resolution debated in the summer is to my mind unhelpful and a bit of a cop-out. It is the spirit and intentions of the debate and resolution that really matters, not those of a few Labour MPs, malcontent’s and establishment pedants.

    So unsurprisingly Labour tonight sided with the Tories and got away with it because Jeremy Corbyn bottled it – couldn’t countenance a Parliamentary split – when it came to imposing a three line whip. And because he put the Parliamentary Party first, he ensured that party policy was meaningless and the will of party members is ignored. No change there then.

  4. Harry Barnes
    2 December 2015

    The Government’s motion on Syria and the published amendments to it can be found here –

  5. Will
    1 December 2015

    Hi folks,
    I think the internal Labour debate is bit more nuanced and differentiated than a simple label like ‘the war party’ or ‘US poodle’ acknowledges. It was Labour MPs who provided the opposition to the Iraq War (over a hundred of them) and it is Labour where the real debate about this war is happening.

    There are those like Corbyn who think bombing would be wrong because the wrong procedures have been followed (it isn’t legal within the UN rules) and wrong in terms of the consequences (it won’t produce the desired outcome). (These are in fact reflective of two of the ways of approaching questions of justice – preceduralist and consequentialist – should you be interested). There’s more than a strong suggestion that Corbyn would oppose military actoin under any circumstances. There are those like Benn who think it’s right legally (procedure) and in its effects (consequences). There are some such as Keir Starmer who think it’s legal (procedurally correct) but won’t achieve it’s aims because the wider strategy is inadequate. And there may even be some who think the legal basis isn’t clear enough but who think action would be effective (though I’ve not heard anyone make this point, yet anyway).

    On the legality I thought this was a pretty good summary of the UN resolution on my reading of it:
    If right, I think it means that it won’t make military action against ISIS subject to the kind of legal dispute that the 2003 invasion was. However, whether it amounts to the ‘clear and unambiguous’ stipulation that Labour conference wants is more debatable, though it comes pretty close.

    But this reveals a wider problem – the Labour conference resolution isn’t in fact terribly good. it was celarly put together to try to prevent support for bombing without explicitly saying so. It is less subtle than, for instance, Ed Miliband’s five conditions for bombing Assad a couple of years ago.

    The first condition is that despite wanting something ‘clear and unambiguous’ Labour’s own resolution isn’t clear and unambiguous about what this means – it doesn’t for instance stipulate that such an authorisation has to be given by a UNSC resolution under Chapter VII which is what the Corbynites are now claiming is the relevant yardstick (there are other sources of UN authorisation including the Charter itself which includes Article 51 which is the key basis of Cameron’s case).

    The second condition couldn’t possibly be put in place in a short time frame – accepting this means no military action for the forseeable future.

    The third condition is pretty much impossible to meet under any circumstances and certainly for the kind of air power that is likely to be deployed (we wouldn’t have fought the second world war under these conditions).

    The fourth condition is to my mind the really important one, referring to how military and political actions might combine. But it’s not a question of subordinating one to the other (whatever that means) and the idea of having a ‘broadly-based Syrian government’ before you take on ISIS seems a bit improbable to me. It’s here (i.e. a consequentialist argument) that Cameron can and should come under real pressure.

    Amendments to the government resolution would be a good tactic, but if based on ‘conditions’ (of whatever combination) that would mean accepting, explicitly, that military action is acceptable in principle. I suspect that Corbyn doesn’t actually believe this.

    Best wishes

  6. Harry Barnes
    1 December 2015

    And here (at the bottom of the page you access) you will find a link to a relevant document on the situation. This document has today (Tuesday) been published by the House of Commons Library.

  7. Harry Barnes
    1 December 2015


    Conference notes the evidence of an increased Russian military build-up in Syria; the announcement of talks between US and Russian military leaders aimed at avoiding the risk of clashes in Syria on Friday, 18th September; the meeting between the Israeli PM and Russian President in Moscow on Monday, 21st September, focused on preventing accidental conflict between their forces in Syria; and the growing international diplomatic effort to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria.

    Conference also notes the likelihood that David Cameron will seek House of Commons support to extend UK participation in the bombing of Iraq to Syria in the near future.

    Conference believes the Parliamentary Labour Party should oppose any such extension unless the following conditions are met:

    1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations;
    2. A comprehensive European Union-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to;
    3. Such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’, noting that if the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had not been blocked by the PLP under Ed Miliband’s leadership, ‘Islamic State’ forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory, including Damascus.
    4. Any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’. Conference believes that only military action which meets all these objectives, and thus avoids the risk of repeating the disastrous consequences of the 2003 war in Iraq and the 2011 air campaign intervention in Libya, can secure the assent of the British people.


    That this house notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom; welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’; further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter; notes that military action against ISIL is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria; welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement; welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees; underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria; welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut ISIL’s sources of finance, fighters, and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance; acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian causalities; using the UK’s particular capabilities; notes the Governments will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House; and accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria; and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.


  8. Ernest Jacques
    1 December 2015

    Jeremy Corbyn – Not Wrong

    While the attacks in Paris were acts of pure Barbarisms, nobody ever seems to ask what makes humans behave in this way? No easy answers but one thing for sure Jeremy Corbyn is right to oppose extra-judicial drone killings, while Cameron and all our arm-chair generals are not just wrong but are buffoons if they think the answer to never ending middle-east warfare is even more weapons of mass destruction.

    Is it too much to expect Labour MP’s to open their eyes, engage their brains and consider where they think ISIS came from? To conclude that the roots lead right back to war criminals Bush and Blair and the almighty mess that they created in Iraq and throughout the middle-east. That those Labour MP’s who voted for war in 2003 and who have never apologised are complicit in the deaths, injuries and displacement of millions of men, women and children a truly Kafkaism nightmare with the only winners, as always, being the industrial military machine, NATO justifiers and all those who grow rich from never-ending wars and human suffering.

    Human suffering and mass migration on a biblical scale that should shame our Westminster establishment their American allies and which Cameron and many Labour MP’s want to perpetuate. And despite the political spin it’s invariably about war and hardly ever about defence.

    Labour the War Party

    Sadly the Parliamentary Labour has always been an American poodle and war party keen to keep the military industrial complex and big money happy (aka Trident) and now keen to bomb the shit out of Syria and kill and injure many more innocent civilians (men, women and children) for every dead terrorist.
    And they will spin it, as always, on the basis that you can’t make a democratic omelette without breaking a few eggs. Sorry heads. As long as it’s not their heads or their families who are put in mortal danger. Not forgetting the additional cheap labour bonus our leaders, the wealthy and businesses will benefit from when the exodus grows and includes the whole middle-east.

    Sent the War Mongers to Syria

    To my mind, it’s just a pity we couldn’t preface every vote for war with a condition that war voters, like Cameron and Labour’s arm-chair generals be required to lead their troops into battle as did kings and princes in the middle ages.

  9. Harry Barnes
    30 November 2015

    So why is it that there is as yet no sign that the PLP will put down an amendment to any proposal by Cameron about the bombing of Syria? Given Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to Labour Party democracy, this should be an amendment containing the four points contained in the Emergency Resolution which was massively endorsed at the recent Labour Party Conference.

    It actually accepts bombing in very carefully defined circumstances. But these are circumstances which the government is unlikely to seek to meet. Yet such a Labour amendment would stand a chance of winning the day in the current complex situation in parliament. Then the pressure would be on to deliver its four points.

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