I thought it a good opportunity to provide a round up of the available evidence we have about what the public think of airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria… and to give a reminder to people of what is NOT good evidence. First, here’s the recent polling evidence:

  • Survation/Mirror polled after Cameron’s statement this week, and found 48% agreed with Britain beginning airstrikes against Islamic State alongside France and the US, 30% of people disagreed (tabs here)
  • YouGov earlier this week asked if people would approve or disapprove of the RAF taking part in airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. 59% would approve, 20% would disapprove (tabs here).
  • ComRes for the Indy on Sunday asked a question on whether people would support Britain taking part in airstrikes against ISIS without UN approval (there wasn’t a parallel version with UN approval). 46% would support airstrikes without UN approval, 32% would not. Tabs are here. A slightly earlier ComRes poll for the Daily Mail asked if people would back British military air strikes against Syria – 60% would, 24% would oppose (tabs here)
  • BMG for the Standard asked a question on whether Britain should extend it’s current airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq to cover Syria as well. This found an even split – 50% thought they should, 50% thought they should not (tabs here)
  • I don’t think ICM have asked a direct support/oppose bombing question, but last week they asked a question about Parliamentary consent. It found 46% supported airstrikes if Parliament agreed, 23% supported airstrikes without Parliamentary consent, 12% opposed airstrikes regardless, 19% didn’t know (tabs here)

The precise levels of support differ from poll to poll as they are all asking slightly different questions using slightly different wordings. However the overall picture is pretty clearly one where the balance of public support is in favour of airstrikes – even the most sceptical finding, from BMG, has people evenly divided. That’s not to say British public opinion is gung-ho enthusiasm for conflict, if you look through the rest of those surveys there is plenty of doubt (for example, several polls have found that people think intervening will increase the risk of terrorism here in Britain). On balance, however, public opinion seems to be in favour.

On twitter and other social media there is lots of sharing of a “poll” by ITV that apparently shows a large majority against Britain taking part. The reason this “poll” gives such sharply different answers is because it is not representative and has no controls upon it. I have written about this many, many times (and for many decades before I was writing the great Bob Worcester dutifully fought that same long fight). The sort of open access polls that used to be on Ceefax, and for people to phone in to newspapers, and these days pop up at the bottom of newspaper stories and the sidebar of websites are completely useless as a way of accurately measuring public opinion.

Opinion polls are meaningful for one reason and one reason alone, because the sample is representative. It has the right number of young people and old people as Britain as a whole, the same number of rich people and poor people as Britain as a whole, the same numbers of left-wing and right-wing people… and therefore, it should have the same proportion of people who are anti-bombing and pro-bombing as there are in Britain as a whole. An open-access poll on a website has no such controls.

When a poll is properly done the researcher will use some sort of sampling method that produces a sample that is demographically representative of the country as a whole. Then when it’s finished, they’ll fine tune it using weighting to make sure it is representative (e.g. if the proportion of women in the sample is lower than 51% they’ll weight the female respondents up). The people answering the poll will be invited and contacted by the researcher, preventing people or organised campaigns skewing a poll by deliberately directing lots of people who share their views to fill it in.

Numbers alone do not make a poll representative. A common error is to see a professionally conducted poll of a 1000 people and a bigger open-access “poll” of 10,000 people and think that the latter is therefore more meaningful. This is wrong – it’s how representative the sample is that matters, not how big it is. The classic example of this is the 1936 US Presidential race, the one that made the reputation of George Gallup. Back then the Literary Digest conducted a mail-in poll with a sample size of 2.3 million people, Gallup conducted a normal sized professional poll. The Digest’s poll predicted that Alf Landon would easily win the election, Gallup correctly predicted that Roosevelt would win a crushing landslide. The problem was that while the Literary Digest’s poll had a vast sample (probably the biggest sample of any opinion poll, ever) it wasn’t representative, it was skewed towards richer people who were more likely to vote Republican. Gallup’s sample was tiny compared to his competitor, but it had proper controls and was properly representative.

Unlike the polls by ComRes, ICM, Survation and YouGov the ITV “poll” won’t have controls to make sure the sample is representative of the British public – indeed, they don’t even collect any demographics to see whether it is or not. There is nothing stopping organised campaigns seeking to influence an open poll – for example, StoptheWar could’ve sent an email out to their mailing list encouraging them all to fill it in. There is nothing stopping anyone with the wherewithal to delete a cookie from their computer voting many, many times. It is, in short, meaningless.

Following May the properly conducted polls got something wrong too of course – but that’s a reason to be wary of even properly conducted polls, not a reason to suddenly put trust in “polls” that don’t even attempt to do things properly.

“Polls” like this, which Bob Worcester christened “Voodoo polls”, are a blight on journalism and opinion research. Because to the casual observer they can’t be easily distinguished from a properly conducted poll they mislead readers into thinking they are meaningful. I assume newspaper websites use them because they drive traffic, but serving up “news” that any journalist with a basic grasp of stats should know is meaningless – or in this case, actively wrong – is doing a disservice to their readers and listeners. At least when the BBC do things like this caveats are normally added saying the “poll” was self-selecting and isn’t representative. ITV don’t caveat it at all, so who can blame all the excited anti-airstrikes people on social media for thinking it means something and jumping upon it? I’m sorry, but it doesn’t – properly conducted polling suggests the public split broadly in favour.

Of course, none of this means that it is necessarily correct for Britain to take part in airstrikes. Polls are not a magic 8 ball where you ask the public and they spit out the “correct” answer. Public opinion can be wrong, and often is. The evidence is that public opinion favours bombing ISIS in Syria, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the government or opposition should do so.


340 Responses to “Syria polling round up and a reminder about voodoo polls”

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  1. @roger mexico

    “The attraction to a strong nationalist makes more sense, except that nationalists rarely admire other people’s versions of the same things.”

    Under what they would consider normal circumstances you’re right the people you’re talking about wouldn’t admire a foreign version if they had it at home but I think the bit you’re missing is how much the people who admire Putin because he seems loyal to Russia believe the opposite of the current western political class – who they perceive as loyal to their lobbyists.

  2. Roger Mexico

    One other factor that may be involved in responses to simplistic “bomb people” questions may be attitudes to what people think the UK’s role should be.

    YG asked Which one of the following statements comes closest to your view?
    The UK should seek to remain a great power, with substantial armed forces and its own seat at the United Nations Security Council as one of the ‘big five’ permanent members (the others are the United States, Russia, France and China) – 63% (53%)
    The UK should accept that it is no longer a great power, cut its defence budget further, in due course give up its seat on the UN Security Council, and reduce its contribution to maintaining international security – 20% (26%)
    Don’t know -17% (20%)

    I’ve put the Scottish percentage in brackets because it may help to explain a previous observation you made about Scots not trusting Obama or Hollande. For those who dislike the leaders of the state, they are citizens of, “waving their WMD willies about”, why should they like foreign leaders who do the same?

  3. Anthony

    Incidentally, why did YG decide to increase the knowledge base of those questioned, beyond that of the general populace, by explaining who the permanent members of the Security Council are?

    That seems to be in direct contravention of what you said previously re the bomb Syria questions.

  4. I wonder if this story of bullying inside the Tory Party that may or may not have led to the tragic death of a leading party worker might have more legs than we first thought. When I first read about it I thought it sounded as if a grieving and heartbroken father was possibly reading too much into it, but now we’ve seen our first high level resignation within the party, this scandal is gathering some momentum.

    It’s certainly miring the Tories in some dreadful headlines at the moment. Bullying, suicide and high level resignations are not a good look for a party that still finds that likeability factor stubbornly elusive. Respected but unloved seems to be the Tories lot in British politics.

  5. Roger Mexico – “The attraction to a strong nationalist makes more sense, except that nationalists rarely admire other people’s versions of the same things. No doubt many UKIP types would be big Putin fans if they were in Russia, but they’re not. Maybe UKIP voters are just more internationalist than they give themselves credit for.”

    The kipper voters are simply taking their cue from UKIP’s leaders (in much the way Conservative voters give extra weight to what Cameron says and Lab voters give weight to what Corbyn says).

    If the UKIP leadership was anti-Putin, the kipper-inclined voters would be too. But as it happens UKIP’s leadership is pro-Putin. If you Google you find quotes from Farage from 2014 talking about how Putin is a “brilliant operator” who had “played the whole Syria thing.” And Diane James saying he’s “a very strong leader”, and so on.

    As to why they are saying these things – it’s simple. Putin has been courting them because they are anti-EU. He’s been courting Marine Le Pen too (and has loaned her 32 million euros), and there is a similar courting of anti-EU forces from the left and right (so Syriza got attention from Putin when they were locking horns with the EU – now they have stopped, they’ve been dropped like hot potatoes).

    You have to put UKIP’s opposition to tackling ISIS militarily into that context too – it’s not in Putin’s interests and they are his friends. Even though the refugee crisis metasized once ISIS started taking territory. Any tackling of the refugee crisis has to start with defeating ISIS because ISIS is the main cause of people fleeing in terror.

  6. Candy

    “ISIS is the main cause of people fleeing in terror.”

    That may be true – or it may not.

    Such a statement requires an evidential basis, or be preceded by IMO (others might use IMHO).

  7. @Crossbat,

    I think the main problem for the Tories from the Clarke / Shapps story is that it distracts from headlines about Corbyn and Syria.

    In general, it’s a story about minor people the public have never heard of. I’m not sure a 21 year old could really be described as a “leading party worker”.

    It does feed the stereotype of both nerdy “Tory Boys” and braying, sneering Young Conservatives, but I think by and large the people who buy into those stereotypes aren’t likely to vote Tory anyway.

    Remember, the person allegedly responsible has already been banned for life from the party. The “scandal” is about whether party officials could have done more, earlier. It’s not the most substantive of stories. I rather get the feeling the BBC and the non-Tory press are glad to have something to balance the bad news stories for Labour and are large-ing it up accordingly.

  8. @OldNat

    Take a look at the following – page 6 gives the figures.

    http://www.unhcr.org/media-rrp6/planning.pdf

    There is a sharp jump when ISIS enters the fray. Lebanon for example was hosting 180,000 refugees in Dec 2012, and it jumped to 905,000 by Dec 2013. ISIS started to claim territory in Syria from April 2013 onwards.

    The Assad thing has been going on since 2011 – it was the entry of ISIS into the mix that prompted people to flee (probably because it was terrifying in a way living under the other militia was not).

  9. AMBER STAR

    Russia military weren’t overtly involved in Syria until September 2015. Perhaps some people do not like the idea of the UK being allies with Russia hence the fall in support for working with the Syrian government.

    No, because support for working with Russia (59%) is much higher than for working with Syria (38%):

    https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/10/01/cooperation-russia-syria/

    If it was Russia that was dragging down Syria it would be the other way round.

    I’ve linked to the article rather than the tables because it has a couple of useful graphs showing how support for airstrikes has remained constant this year (though it did go up at the end of 2014). What has continue to increase dramatically is support for putting ground troops back into Iraq to fight ISIS and that small but positive level of support is in the current poll s in the current poll (39% – 34%)

    (Putting troops into Syria hasn’t been asked so often but gets very similar levels of support (41% – 34%)

  10. Candy

    Thanks for the link.

    Interesting that the 37% rise between April-Sep 2013, that you highlight, is rather dwarfed by the 70% rise Dec 12 – Apr 13.

    It’s such a complicated civil war with so many proxy wars being funded by the USA, Iran, Russia, Saudi, Turkey and the Gulf States, that it’s a little hard to allocate proportions of “blame”.

    However, it does seem likely that when the Kurds (not entirely blameless themselves!) came under attack simultaneously from the divergent rebel group of Daesh and the Turks then those, in the territories they had controlled came under unbearable pressure.

    What isn’t clear is how many of those “fleeing in terror” are doing so from the different parts of Syria where different civil/proxy wars are going on.

    In 2013, we were being told that Assad was the problem. Now it’s Daesh. They both are, of course, but so are all the other groups fighting over territory in the states called Syria and Iraq – not to mention all the other states in the former Ottoman Empire that subsequent empires carved up, in their own interests.

    With four of the permanent members of the Security Council already involved on different sides, and China increasingly being pulled in, simplistic analysis is unkilely to be helpful.

  11. @ Barbanzero

    Thanks for the video, and all the thoughts that it invokes…

  12. Neil A

    The thing about the Shapps’ resignation is that he’s clearly trying to take one for the team and have the investigation stopped. But what is very clear is that a lot of people knew a lot and as usual with scandals it will be the cover-up that does the damage rather than the original incidents.

    The Telegraph (which apparently has been downplaying the story till today) quotes our old friend The Senior MP who said:

    “The real issue now is if Clarke realises he’s finished and comes out.

    He knows an awful lot of stuff and has quite a lot on MPs, I’m sure. Clarke now has nothing to lose and he will take people down.”

    The MP suggested Lord Feldman would remain protected by Mr Cameron.
    “No one in politics is entirely untouchable, but Feldman is the nearest thing to it”

    Of course political journalists love a bit of bloodletting, but it does look as there’s a awful lot of pots about to boil over at CCHQ.

    The Telegraph also had a shrewd piece by Tim Stanley on the environment that allows this sort of thing to develop:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/12022641/Grant-Shapps-resigns-this-Tory-scandal-is-why-people-hate-politics.html

    Of course it’s not just the Conservatives who are filled with similar people doing similar things, though it may be other Parties can expect fewer blind eyes turned to them. And of course one reason why there is so much hated directed to Corbyn is that he represents a break with that world and there are an awful lot of people in Labour who have invested heavily in it.

  13. Oldnat,

    I composed a long and, I like to think, elegant response but then realised I’d promised AW that I wouldn’t argue about Syria any more.

    Suffice to say, I think your analysis is in itself simplistic.

  14. As to the Russian involvement … You really have read RT, and have the intuition how to read it.

    At the moment the Russians dictate who can bomb and where in Syria, and they now backed it up with some Sam system and a cruiser (Certainly Turkish regular infringement of Syrian airspace is finished). On the other hand, the Russians are quite willing to drop Assad (official version), except … There is nobody … So Assad carries on.

    The West lost. So, I’m not quite sure what the polling shows (apart from harming the Labour Party – but it’s neither here or there).

    I accept Anthony’s point of the problem of enlightening people, but asking 15th century people about tanks is not much better – it is harsh, I know. Can it be methodologically handled (it can).

    Russia has changed the problems of perception just as BBC’s incomprehensible editorial policy – both affect ontology and epistemology – and both affect the Labour Party negatively (chistka?).

  15. Apologies for the riddles in my previous comment. They are intentional and ask for reflection – the very thing that the populous is not offered in the questions.

  16. MRJONES

    I think the bit you’re missing is how much the people who admire Putin because he seems loyal to Russia believe the opposite of the current western political class – who they perceive as loyal to their lobbyists.

    I think there’s a lot of truth in that, though of course it shows a shockingly naive view of Russia’s political class. I wonder about the effect of ‘alternative’ news sources such as RT as well.

  17. Neil A

    My analysis is just that the situation in the Middle East is incredibly complex.

    Maybe you are right. Suggesting that the problem is complex may be simplistic.

  18. Roger,

    It’s certainly a sorry tale, although as a former (long time ago mind) Young Conservative and student Conservative, I find the “outrage” about the idea that groups of excited 20 somethings might party hard after a day’s campaigning a bit invented.

    Misogynistic and bullying behaviour happens in pretty much all arenas, and of course it should be tackled promptly and effectively. But at its highest, this scandal reaches who? Rob Halfon and Justine Greening? None of the public have heard of Halfon and very few could probably pick Greening out of a lineup. And actually, the real meat of the allegations concerns people who even the Labour party had probably never heard of until they read it in the paper.

    If the Tories sacked everyone involved tomorrow, the public wouldn’t even notice.

  19. Oldnat,

    I meant that to say “in 2013 we were told the problem was Assad, now it’s Daesh” is simplistic.

    Noone was saying in 2013 that Assad was the only problem. Noone is saying 2015 that Daesh is the only problem. Treating the conflict as “Assad or Daesh, which is it” is simplistic. But you’ve probably got me in trouble with the guvnor, so I’ll shut up…

  20. @RogerMexico

    “The attraction to a strong nationalist makes more sense, except that nationalists rarely admire other people’s versions of the same things.”

    I doubt that’s true. People of all political persuasions tend to admire and envy foreign politicians and movements they’d like to see equivalents of in their own countries.

  21. Surely it is possible to acknowledge Putin’s great political skill and still view him as an SOB. That is my view.

  22. Syria is complicated as is the public’s attitude to it. Why does not Labour put forward a motion supporting further limited action, in Syria, if necessary in support of the campaign against ISIS in Iraq. This would have a clear objective, to clear ISIS out of Iraq, would be related to ground troops, would not gratuitously kill Civilians in Raqqa, and would hopefully buy time for the work on the outlines of a more comprehensive strategy. Practically it would be as useful as anything else we might do and politically it might help prevent us from tearing each other apart at home,

  23. The Telegraph are reporting that UKIP internal polling in Oldham suggests they have cut Labour’s 34 point lead to just 7 with 4 days to go. I wonder which would be worse for Labour long-term, to narrowly win this by-election or lose it?

  24. Seems that Shapps together with others formed a group rather like Harold Wilson’s kitchen cabinet or the group around Bernard Ingham in the Thatcher years.

  25. “I think that some on the left can’t accept that anything good comes out of the US, in the same way that many (most) on the right couldn’t accept that anything good came out of the old Soviet bloc.”

    ——–

    Well someone on here said the Storage movement started in the U.S., so that’s one good thing right there and is there any good reason why that shouldn’t happinate the peeps on the left? (Dunno what the Soviets did about storage tho’…)

  26. “People support attacks on Isis and don’t realise the govt are being deliberately vague because they’re going to try and finesse that support into an attack on Assad.”

    ———-

    See that’s where polling could tease out whether peeps are aware of such shenanigans. Keep the polling similarly vague of course and it can be used to assist such shenanigans…

  27. Roger Mexico

    Maybe so but my point is to look at it from the other direction – not so much about how much they like Putin on an absolute scale; it’s more about how much they despise their own ruling class on a relative scale.

    In numbers, say you had a scale of +/- 10. It’s not western leaders 0 and Putin 10; it’s western leaders -8 and Putin 2.

  28. Candy

    “Even though the refugee crisis metasized once ISIS started taking territory. Any tackling of the refugee crisis has to start with defeating ISIS because ISIS is the main cause of people fleeing in terror.”

    It’s definitely true the civil war was mostly stalemated with Assad on course to slowly grind out a win and the stalemate was broken when Isis suddenly took a lot of territory but I’d suggest they suddenly took a lot of territory – allowing them to massacre the **** out of all and sundry – because of all the help, funding and weaponry they got from our allies.

    If so then the main cause is our allies secretly supporting Isis to get Assad and the solution would be to get them to stop.

  29. @Neil A

    [Mote and beam, mote and beam – AW]

    I was also interested to see the unfolding scandal getting some extensive coverage on Neil’s Daily Politics show this morning, leading me to believe that the story has legs and quite some distance yet to run.

    Awful headlines for the Tories that parade very unwanted stereotypes. Nasty posh boys and bullies come out to play.

  30. Interesting snippets this morning on Labour/Syria:-

    McDonnell saying a Free Vote is the right way for Labour on this issue.

    Corbyn saying HE will decide whether there is a Free Vote.

    Sky’s political correspondent musing whether Corbyn would apply a Whip , thus sowing such seeds of doubt about certainty of a majority vote , that Cameron would not bring the issue to a vote.

    That would, on the face of it, seem like a nuclear option for Corbyn-demonstrate to Members that he “stopped the war” , whilst watching his Shadow Cabinet resignations mount.

    Fascinating-what does Corbyn actually want to achieve?

  31. “whilst watching his Shadow Cabinet resignations mount”

    Yeah, I guess the argument from his point of view is does he think those resignations would be for the best long term politically (from his point of view) vs would they be the best for the outcome of the vote.

    I don’t see a clear cut winner in that argument – all a bit 50/50.

  32. @ Colin

    From my perspective, I’d like to see whether our government believes there is a driving reason to ‘do something in Syria’. Polling shows the UK electorate believe there is. The government have a working majority & the committed support of all the DUP. So the Tories should stop playing politics, get on with pressuring their own back-benchers to vote in favour & have a vote.

    If it ultimately goes bad, like it did in Libya, the government should be willing to take the consequences, in terms of opposition scrutiny.

    In trying to future-proof itself from possible criticism in the HoC, the government is beginning to look either unsure of itself; or unsure that the course of action which it’s recommending is both really needed & the correct thing to do.

  33. AMBER STAR

    Totally agree with you Amber, they should get on with it and call a vote.

  34. Amber Star

    Good post.

  35. @hawthorn
    “Surely it is possible to acknowledge Putin’s great political skill and still view him as an SOB. That is my view.”

    Where’s this great political skill hiding?

    – Ukraine used to be entirely in Russia’s sphere of influence, now most of it isn’t
    – Russia’s economy is shrinking and vulnerable due to Putin’s inability to diversify the economy away from reliance on oil/gas exports
    – after panicking about losing their only overseas naval base in Syria and the Assad government, Putin has managed both to demonstrate the vulnerability of Russians to terrorist attacks AND to isolate Russia even further by messing about near the Turkish border so there are now fresh sanctions hurting a vital regional partnership for Russia
    – and only last week the consummate political skills of Vladimir Putin resulted in Europe extending sanctions against Russia for a further 6 months. This is DESPITE attempts by Russia to forge a closer relationship with Europe after the Paris attacks.

    It baffles me why in some circles they admire Putin’s “skill”…. When I look at Putin’s actions and the situation of Russia, I see incompetence, chronic weakness and a series of mistakes from constantly reacting to events.

  36. AMBER
    I have some sympathy with that view-in the normal run of things.

    But in this case, Cameron has said that he doesn’t want to hand a propaganda victory to IS-ie anything less than a convincing majority with substantial cross party support .

    So I think he is right to want to test the Labour backbench situation. If the Labour Party was acting “normally” , there would be an agreed position & DC could see what it was clearly. As it is , he hasn’t a clue how Labour will vote. -perhaps Monday’s meeting will help him-but perhaps it won’t.

  37. MR JONES

    @”I don’t see a clear cut winner ”

    There can’t be one can there?-until the Labour Party decides which of its MP’s mandates has seniority-Selection by the Party Members-or Election by the UK Electorate.

  38. @Colin

    I think there may not be an available common position, given the difference in view from much of the PLP and the Government benches.

    Given that, DC cannot wait and see forever. He is PM, his party is the Government, and they need to ‘get on with it’, if that is what they want to do.

  39. @Crossbat,

    Daily Politics is by definition a show for political nerds like us. It only gets a wider audience if a soundbite makes its way into the main news.

    I don’t think there will be main DP viewers who don’t come to the programme with pretty fixed political opinions.

    I agree about the worst stereotypes. When I think back to how mild-mannered and collegiate my associates were 25 years ago it seems a bit odd. The chairman of my university Conservative Association was the daughter of a auto worker from the West Midlands, and most of the membership were lower middle-class Northerners. The only real posh boy we had was from Clwyd, and we actually had a Welsh-speaker (much to the chagrin of the student union, who had hitherto relied on the requirement for all posters/notices to be bi-lingual as a way to keep the Tories out of sight).

    My local Young Conservatives were even more diverse. My best friends were a young couple who lived in their respective parents’ council houses, and he played in a rock band that would perform at the weekends at the Con club.

    Of course this was all in the heyday of Thatch.

    The only time I ever really came across the “honking hooray henry” types was at party conferences.

  40. @Catmanjeff/Amber

    “Get on and let us defeat you”. This is the new politics?

  41. @Neil A

    There is nothing wrong with a political system where party A puts forward a proposal, try to persuade others that it is a good proposal. If party B,C and D then don’t agree and vote against, and the party A loses, then fine.

    Some proposals will not have a easy middle ground that can be negotiated.

    I would love the Syria issue to dealt with via a free-vote of all MPs. Voting on purely the merits of the proposal is surely the best way forward?

  42. @Catmanjeff,

    The UK should have “Tory Wars” and “Labour Wars”. It should have UK Wars, supported by the UK parliament.

    I agree on the free vote, but that’s not what you or Amber were saying. You were saying that if the Tories wanted to go to war they had to find a way to force it through themselves, and not rely on dissenters on the Labour benches. I don’t think that’s right.

  43. *bah* that should be shouldn’t have “Tory Wars”…..

  44. CATMAN

    @”I would love the Syria issue to dealt with via a free-vote of all MPs.”

    I agree.

    For this issue I think that is correct way.

  45. I think Rawnsley puts his finger on Labour’s problem :-

    ” There would be a more attentive audience for the Labour leader’s case if anyone thought he was opposed to air strikes because he has weighed up the many political and moral complexities of the Syrian situation and come to a reasoned conclusion that the course of action proposed by the prime minister is unwise.
    But his arguments, even the good ones, come over as weak because everyone suspects that there are no circumstances in which he would ever want Britain to act to protect its citizens and assist its allies. He has previously said as much.”

    “Labour is trapped. Trapped with a leader incapable of commanding the confidence and loyalty of his MPs. Trapped because Labour’s aghast parliamentarians are powerless to do anything about it. Trapped with a leader who can’t win the trust of the public but is strongly protected by the support of his members. This is the Corbyn catch-22. This is the Gordian knot that binds the Labour party. There is no sign yet of someone bearing a sword powerful enough to cut through it.”

    Guardian

  46. @Neil A

    If a Government wants to win a vote in the commons, it has to win the majority of MPs.

    It’s obvious that as it stands MPs of all parties are not unified on one position, and a very large number don’t support what the Government is proposing.

    If a party (any btw, this isn’t a party political point) has many MPs who disagree with the proposal fundamentally, surely they can only vote against?

    I would really hacked off if my MP voted for something they didn’t agree with, because of trying to create an artificial unity. An MP that would do that is basically dishonest to their principles?

    Any artificial unity would be paper-thin, useless and fall apart very quickly anyway.

  47. @Colin

    Did you also read the excellent David Davis piece in the same paper?

  48. CMJ

    I did-but like a number of comentators with their easy lists of Syrian Whataboutary, he indulges in the non sequitur that Cameron is focussed “solely “on military intervention in IS held Syria.

    I heard his statement in HoC & his answers to questions-he isn’t.

    He emphasised time & again how important the Vienna component is and the army needed to take & hold IS territory will only emerge from those talks.

  49. Neil A

    “The only time I ever really came across the “honking hooray henry” types was at party conferences.”

    I presume that you were only there on duty! :-)

  50. @ Neil A

    “Get on and let us defeat you”. This is the new politics?

    I think you are implying a motivation to my comment which is not justified.

    Last time, polling showed that the government did not have the support of the electorate. This time, polling shows it does.

    And surely a government which lacks the conviction to call a vote is already handing a propaganda victory to ISIS, if ISIS actually care about such things.

    My view is, ISIS do not care what the UK decides to do nor how it makes the decision; because, whatever happens, ISIS will try to use it to their advantage. Their potential leveraging of any UK process or decision should be given absolutely no consideration whatsoever in our deliberations.

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