From: Dorothy Macedo [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2001 6:03 AM
To: michael letwin
Subject: Labour Against the War (England)
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you will be pleased to hear that the English version of Labour Against the War was launched on 24 October in Portcullis House, the office block/meeting rooms building for MPs next to Parliament in the heart of Westminster. I expect you will get official confirmation soon but I thought you’d like to know at once. It is the English rather than the British version because a separate organisation is being set up in Scotland.
Speakers at the launch meeting included veteran ex-MP Tony Benn, Labour Party NEC member Christine Shawcroft, ASLEF (train drivers union) General Secretary Mick Rix and Erkan Gok representing Turkish workers in London plus MPs Bob Marshall-Andrews, George Galloway, Jeremy Corbyn, Alice Mahon and Paul Marsden. Other MPs present included Kelvin Hopkins and John McDonnell. The meeting was attended by Labour Party activists from London and the south east of England. The meeting agreed the statement of aims (see below) and set up a committee which is now contacting local Labour Parties in every constituency to build support. We plan to have a large Labour Party presence on the next major demonstration in London on 18 November.
This is the report that appeared in the Guardian newspaper:
Anti-war MPs force Blair and Short on to defensive
Party leftwingers launch Labour Against the War group, but development secretary declares: ‘We must not wobble’
Michael White and Patrick Wintour
Guardian Thursday October 25, 2001
Backbench critics of the US-led coalition’s military campaign against the militant al-Qaida network and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan launched a group called Labour Against the War last night, amid growing signs that internal opposition to Tony Blair’s policies is growing in confidence – despite differences among the opponents.
The launch of the group, mainly by leftwing MPs, followed brisk exchanges in the Commons. Mr Blair and the international development secretary, Clare Short, were taken to task about a range of politics. Not even Ms Short’s high reputation on the left could wholly deflect the criticism.
Mr Blair told Jeremy Corbyn that he “respects entirely his right to disagree” but refused to endorse calls for a pause in American bombing of what he stressed included “no civilian targets at all” in Afghanistan.
Making a Commons statement on the desperate struggle to get aid through to the refugees Ms Short – who had earlier soothed the weekly private meeting of backbenchers – told critics that no landmines had been dropped on Afghanistan during the 16-day campaign. But she admitted that a “few” cluster bombs may have been deployed.
She was even more adamant than Mr Blair that the Taliban were the main obstacle to relief supplies reaching Afghan civilians. “It is not true that the bombing is the cause of the problem,” she told MPs, adding later: “We know how in good people’s hearts they hate the bombing. But they are wrong.”
“Of course we must mini mise the bombing and move to the political phase as soon as possible. But we must not wobble,” the impassioned minister said.
Refugee figures were “much less than the UN predicted” Ms Short also revealed. Many people were moving within the country to their villages.
The priority of the anti-war group at Westminster is to rally support among Labour activists in constituencies, so that an increasingly significant anti-war movement is not dominated by churches, pressure groups such as CND and far-left fringe parties.
Alan Simpson, MP for Nottingham South, who organised last night’s anti-war meeting, stressed five key aims to unite diverse opinions:
*: Unequivocal condemnation of the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York;
*: Belief that military action against Afghanistan will not rid the world of the terrorist threat or create a stable international framework;
*: Opposition to British involvement in the bombing, and support for alternative methods of defeating terrorism, including aid;
*: Opposition to any clampdown on civil liberties or the right to asylum in the name of the fight against terrorism;
*: Commitment to work for these objectives in the Labour party and union movement.
Three members of Labour’s national executive are said to have offered support – Mark Seddon, Christine Shawcroft and Ann Black – and two union general secretaries, Mick Rix of Aslef and Andy Gilchrist, head of the firefighters union.
The anti-war group includes people with a variety of views. Some MPs would endorse operations by special forces to seize Osama bin Laden as prime suspect behind the terror attacks on US cities last month, but would not back the bombing of Afghanistan, or occupation by ground troops.
“Plenty of people wouldn’t mind if something happened to Bin Laden,” one leftwinger explained. But other critics want Bin Laden captured, not killed, and brought before an international court.