WHAT use is an opposition party when all it seems to do is oppose itself?

On the same day as the Concentrix debate, Labour also used their opposition day to debate a motion calling for an independent UN investigation into alleged Saudi Arabian war crimes in Yemen and the withdrawal of UK support for bombings in light of alleged atrocities. Yet despite this being a Labour party motion a number of Labour MPs spoke out against it. The resultant vote saw the motion rejected by 283 votes to 193, with around 100 Labour MPs either not voting for it or abstaining.

During the debate any observer would have found it difficult to distinguish a number of Labour MPs from the Tories. Time after time the Labour spokesperson was interrupted by her own side highlighting their contempt for the motion put forward by their own party. To some extent the issue of the debate – the ongoing war in Yemen and the role of Saudi – was almost a secondary issue when compared to the infighting within the Labour group.

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Normally you would have expected the Labour party to support what was a generally weak motion. The issue of Saudi’s involvement in the war in Yemen, the bombings of civilians and the lack of any real independent investigation into these war crimes was generally played down as Labour MPs lined up with Tories to excuse these atrocities in case it harmed the UK’s deals in supplying the Saudis with the weapons used to kill civilians.

Since March 2015 3.1 million people in Yemen have been forced to flee their homes, over 6,700 have been killed and over 33,000 have been injured. According to sources such as Oxfam, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this country stands on the brink of famine.

Even a joint report by the Business, Innovation and Skills and the International Development Committees recommended the UK Government suspend sales of arms which could be used in Yemen to Saudi until the independent, UN-led investigation has come to its conclusions and then review the situation again. The report said: “We heard during our inquiry that there have been clear violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). For example, the UN was told that planes dropped two missiles resulting in the destruction of a two-storey house during a wedding party. 47 civilians, including 21 women and 15 children were killed, and 58 wounded.”

However, instead of supporting their own motion Labour MPs put the profits of the UK arms trade ahead of the human rights of the people of Yemen. It’s a sad state of affairs when your own party members can’t be relied upon to support your own motions!

Despite Jeremy Corbyn winning 62 per cent of the vote in their recent leadership contest, there are still serious splits within Labour. Corbyn may be popular with Labour members but a number of his parliamentary group are still looking at ways to force him out with rumours already surfacing around Westminster of their next coup. The failure of Corbyn to initiate any form of elections to the shadow cabinet is being used by his detractors to build up discontent within the Labour group of MPs. There doesn’t seem to be any way to bridge the gap between Corbyn and the majority of the Labour’s parliamentary group.

Although this is an internal issue for Labour it has wider implications. Failure to support their own motion shows that splits are still rife within the party. Whether it’s the leadership ignoring the views of a significant body of the parliamentary group or whether it’s members of the parliamentary group wanting to embarrass the party leadership, the result is the same. Labour is an ineffectual party of opposition. If they can’t even come together to support their own motions then what chance have they got of actually opposing the Tories?