Beeston protesters challenge Hilary Benn over Syria

Fifty protesters greeted Hilary Benn MP at his surgery this morning (Saturday 5 December 2015), angry that he had supported the bombing of Syria in Parliament this week.

Protesters outside Vale Circles centre wait for Hilary Benn MP. Photo: Jeremy Morton
Protesters outside Vale Circles centre wait for Hilary Benn MP. Photo: Jeremy Morton

The protesters were angry but respectful and were supported by passing motorists and a Fire Engine tooting their horns. In speeches, Mr Benn was criticised for the deaths of innocent people as a result of the bombing and of not breaking ties with Turkey and Saudi Arabia who both tacitly support ISIS.

Mr Benn eventually came out came out to speak to the protesters and a twenty minute discussion followed.

Ejaz Ahmed from Beeston asked if he would now apologise for the Iraq war, but Mr Benn said he was pleased Saddam Hussein had been removed and that the rise of ISIS was not a result the Iraq war. He said Britain should accept more refugees and commended the community on welcoming refugees over the years.

He said he supported the Kurds and claimed they welcomed allied air support in their fight against ISIS, but he wouldn’t be drawn on Britain’s relationship to Turkey (who are bombing the Kurds) saying they were a sovereign country who must make their own policy decisions.

Hilary Benn MP debates the issues with protesters. Photo: Jeremy Morton
Hilary Benn MP debates the issues with protesters. Photo: Jeremy Morton

Steve Johnston from Beeston said the point of the protest had been to show Hilary Benn that he was not speaking for his constituents when he supported bombing Syria. He added that he felt they had made their point very clearly.



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23 Replies to “Beeston protesters challenge Hilary Benn over Syria”

  1. More likely, the size of the protest showed Hilary Benn that he wasn’t speaking for a very small minority of his constituents…

  2. To be honest I disagree with the decision that Parliament has made, but Hilary was given a strong mandate by the voters to take decisions on their behalf – and sometimes those decisions won’t tally up with some members of the public – two of which interestingly enough were rival candidates in May who were at the protest.

    Short of a local referendum to canvass opinions of voters, MPs had a decision to make – some like the member for Morley &amp Outwood just vote how they are told, other MPs are serial rebels (Corbyn was in a previous life) and others vote according to their conscience.

    For a change I agree with Tom Watson, ‘Momentum’ are just a rabble intent on causing trouble – as are groups linked to them. Threats to kill people, or deselect them are just ridiculous. Benn could stand as an Independent in Leeds Central and beat a Corbynista candidate handily.

    I disagreed with almost every word he said on Wednesday night but he made the points he was trying to make very well indeed.

    1. You have no evidence of violence or a rabble. You should really take that back. A demo of 70,000 plus at Tory conference with one egg thrown and one spit. This does not represent a violent mob. Have you never used the welfare state? School, library, park, swimming pool, college, nursery, lawyers, doctor, the NHS, ?? Socialists want humanity, equality, access for all to education and training without debt. Are you so blind that you cannot see that ukip is using you? I guess that you are a working class man. Foreigners are no threat to you and your loved ones. Numbers are not the issue. Politicians that “count” immigrants will be counting you very soon. I won’t be angry with you but I will ask you to learn. Ukip just lost Oldham. Think about that whilst your leader the far right rager blames it on Asians.

      1. Hi Liz – thanks for the reply. I’m afraid I can’t take back the comment about violence, I’ve seen it with my own eyes at the launch of the European election campaign last year in Sheffield, people are abused for being ‘Tory scum’ routinely too.

        I’ve used the NHS and oppose the creeping privatisation of it – use of PFI commenced under Major (I believe) but accelerated massively under Blair, as for the welfare state I paid one visit to the job centre after a redundancy seven years ago and was spoken to like dirt – during the time of a labour government who supposedly represent working class people like me.

        Socialism just isn’t for me – despite my upbringing in a Labour leaning household, by a single parent who wasn’t exactly impressed with Thatcher.

        I’m a libertarian – with a mix of left wing and right wing (probably a 40-60 split) – primarily in favour of lower taxes, because I feel that individual people know how to spend their own money better than George Osborne.

        My membership of UKIP stems primarily from wanting this country to be governed by our own politicians, who we elect and remove, rather than appointed, unaccountable commissioners in Brussels – immigration doesn’t particularly concern me – though I think that there does need to be a sensible debate on numbers due to pressures on housing, jobs etc – but without the rhetoric from both sides. Without migration the NHS (as an example) would crumble – but that surely brings rise to the requirement to prioritise those people, irrespective of nationality, over unskilled workers, at a time when we have a million young people on the dole.

        I’m not blaming Johnny Foreigner – I’m blaming the system, it’s broken and needs fixing.

        As for Nigel Farage, his comments were in bad taste and smacked of sour grapes – being so far back was a surprise, I expected Labour to win by a couple of thousand, but their candidate was good and the UKIP campaign wasn’t great.

        The issue of voting fraud does need to be discussed, but in a wider sense in terms of ballot box and postal voting – across all sections of the community rather than immediately after a thumping by election defeat in an area where Labour have overwhelming support amongst one section of the community.

        Let’s face it, the lack of requirement to provide ID at the polling station is quite shocking, most people have a licence, or passport, or something as proof of address.

        At present there’s little to stop a person who knows people in an area (like I do in Beeston, Middleton or Morley) voting on behalf of a candidate, using the names of people who they know don’t vote.

        I’m not blind, I’m not a Nigel Farage worshipper, ultimately people join parties who’s policies reflect your views the best.

        Labour don’t represent me in the slightest, the Tories are cutting in the wrong place, the Lib Dems are extremely pro EU, the Greens are in favour of increased taxes on business, which I think would be bad for small firms who I believe drive the economy.

        1. Slogans like “tory scum” isn’t violence – it is to say that when a pool is stagnant, scum floats to the top. Tory austerity is actually violent causing poverty, sickness and suicides. On tax – we could not have built the welfare state, social housing, education and the NHS without progressive taxation based upon wealth and income. The post-war settlement built jobs and thus tax-payers. Ukip’s policy of no tax for low earners marginalises poor people from society. It is divisive and exclusive. If you have some leftiness in you, then you are in the wrong party as Ukip is a far-right party and sides with some actual fascist parties in Europe. I too do not support the EU Institutions considering what it has done to Greece, Ireland and Spain. I also oppose the unaccountable bureaucracy. Whilst you may not be a fan of Farage, he does attract to the party assorted bigots of the racist, sexist and homophobic variety. And on libertarianism – well liberty for who? You are political as you are a member of a party which would like to be elected to power. But socialists do not wish to take power but to build an equal society free from exploitation and oppression. Do you support historical progressive legislation? eg – Equal pay act, racial equality, equal marriage and human rights and access to justice – (all of which were fought for in long and difficult campaigns from The Chartists to The Suffragettes and more). Do you support the rights for workers to organise in trade unions? Just wondering.

          1. Interesting question, to be honest I’ve not thought all that far ahead.

            The Tories are claiming that their renegotiation is a success already – despite asking for almost nothing and being rebuffed on some things…. and we don’t have the date of the referendum yet.

            I suppose it could be keeping us out of the EU, I don’t know.

            That said, I do think it’s days are numbered.

            I read an interesting piece a while back citing the left wing case for leaving – as someone on the right it was compelling – indeed you made some of the points in your previous post (treatment of Greece being one).

  3. MP’s especially front benchers should consult their members on issues of such magnitude, the consequences being so serious. If they cannot marry their members view with their own they should vote with their conscience and resign from their position as Robin Cook did over Iraq. Momumentum btw is full of compassionate enthusiastic people who want to make society a better place.

    1. I agree with you about more direct democracy – matters of such magnitude should be put to the voters for them to decide, rather than MPs – some of whom on all sides of the House are compromised by lobbyists and what not.

      I disagree with you about Momentum – I don’t see what they are trying to pursue as creating a better society, certainly not my view of one at least.

  4. These people are from the Socialist Workers’ Party, the top of their placards (though fuzzy in this photo) says Socialist Worker on it and the man addressing Hilary Benn regularly sells the Socialist Worker newspaper outside Leeds Beckett University! Go to the second photo, zoom-in on the placard furthest to the right, above the guy in the flat cap, and you can actually make out the words ‘Socialist Party’ in red text above the slogan! This is the local SWP doing a overtly Party Political protest, you’ve been had.

        1. The “socialist” one. Wherever there is a divisive issue you always see the same placards and faces.
          The title of this article is “Beeston protesters challenge Hilary Benn over Syria” – but that’s not really true is it.
          Sure, there were some Beeston residents there, and it took place in Beeston, but this demonstration was organised and attended predominately by left wing activists. All of which is perfectly fine, but lets not pretend it was something that it wasn’t.

    1. That was my first thought too.

      I like the ‘peaceful demo’ – wherever that lot go there’s violence, lots of it.

      The behaviour of them and their fellow cronies at the Conservative party conference was disgusting, spitting at people and throwing eggs.

      At least Labour now know how it feels to be on the receiving end of it, though the chance of Corbyn disassociating Labour from groups like this are slim.

      1. Luke I can assure you there was no violence on Saturday. If it looks like there was a scrum around Hilary Benn that’s because people, and especially the other media present, wanted to hear his answers.

        This was a totally peaceful protest and whilst I didn’t recognise everyone there there were many faces from Beeston and Middleton – ie Hilary Benn’s constituents.

    2. Socialist workers are like hangers on for any cause I remember them from FBU actions here today gone tomorrow very fickle a good days real work wouldn’t do them any harm

  5. Firstly Rich B, lobbies tend to be small in number but represent high numbers of people. Public opposition during the build up to the debate was very high – some polls showing 89%. Later the same day 400 mainly young people marched and rallied in town against the bombings. I agree with Rachel Kirk’s comments above. And during Jeremy Corbyn’s decades as an MP he did indeed rebel – against Blair because he was a war-mongering Thatcherite. Benn propped up a nasty Cameron and his cabinet of war-mongering profiteers. Next Saturday there is another Leeds Coalition Against War demonstration at 1pm followed by a Climate demonstration at 2pm. Proud to be among the rabble.

    1. Hi Liz. Agree, lots of people are opposed to extending bombing into Syria. Not sure about your quoted 89% though… Do you have any links to this or is it more hyperbole?
      There is also the argument that popular support for a policy isn’t always a great indicator of its validity. There is massive popular support in the country for the reintroduction of capital punishment. Doesn’t mean it would be a great idea…..
      Anyway, totally support people in letting our representatives know what they think and feel, also glad to see that the lobby event didn’t descend into threats and violence. But back to the point I made above, this was a small protest and I wonder if all the people that were there to protest at the local surgery were actually people from the constituency.…

      1. Rich B, I saw 89% in the Daily Mirror, Guardian and Independent but the polls do go up and down. And I fully agree with your point re popular support and capital punishment – something I could never support. Parliamentary democracy is peculiar – on something like war – given the western intervention of the last 20 odd years I do think our opposition is valid and popular. Indeed it is international. I am very much guided by the “dialectic” in matters philosophical and political in that – nothing changes for the progressive without the demand and the struggle. ie there would never be “struggle” for a return to the death penalty – this would be agitated for by a tiny minority of bigots – the same people who would be “pro-life” ie anti-abortion yet probs for more guns and attacks on abortion/family planning clinics. It is our constant campaigning that forces politicians to listen. Think of of all progressive legislation – all of it has come from our struggle – equal pay act, equal marriage, health and safety, hate crimes, the right to a divorce, employment rights, trade union rights (eek!) lgbt rights and wide recognition. If we build strong, united, diverse and loving communities and society we can stop the fascists (which we have done re bnp/edl/bf then we can stop corruption and build a green economy too. ONE LOVE xx

  6. Trevor Wainwright How many of them voted for him if they bothered to vote at all, how many are actually from his constituency how many are eligible to vote, how many are foreigners?

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