Jeremy Corbyn tells shadow cabinet: I will choose position on Syrian air strikes –

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader Photo: Danny Lawson/PA

He also hit back at Labour MPs plotting his downfall by saying they failed to realise the party had “changed” since his election, warning the rebels: “I am not going anywhere.”

The defiant appearance on BBC One’s Andrew Marr programme escalates the public row at the top of the Labour Party about whether to back Syrian air strikes.

Around two-thirds of the Labour shadow cabinet are convinced by the argument for bombing Isil targets in the country – but Mr Corbyn and a handful of close senior allies are fiercely opposed.

Jeremy Corbyn speaks as shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle and deputy Labour leader Tom Watson sit beside him Photo: PARLIAMENTLIVE.TV

Speaking ahead of a meeting with his shadow cabinet and Labour MPs on Monday, Mr Corbyn attempted to reassert his authority by saying he would decide the party’s position.

The Labour leader said no decision had been made yet about whether to give MPs a free vote on Syria air strikes but made his strongest public criticism of the bombing to date.

Mr Corbyn warned that there could be jihadists among the 70,000 opposition forces in Syria which David Cameron cited in his 36-page case for war and warned striking the Isil stronghold of Raqqa could “make the situation worse”.

He denied he was a pacifist, but added: “There is nothing wrong with my heart except for wanting a peaceful world.”

Mr Corbyn revealed 70,000 people had responded to his letter on Friday asking for Labour supporters’ views on Syria air strikes and dismissed claims the move undermined his shadow cabinet, saying they had kept the media “fully informed” with their views.

Asked whether Labour MPs would be whipped on Syria air strikes, Mr Corbyn said: “No decision has been made on that yet, I am going to find out what MPs think.

“Obviously there are strong views on both directions. We will have a further discussion on this. We will make that decision not at this moment but later on.”

Asked if the whipping position would be a collective decision by the shadow cabinet, Mr Corbyn said: “It is the leader who decides. I will make up my mind in due course.”



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