To all intents and purposes Labour’s position on Libya is still the same; that is, the party backs the government in the pursuit of UN Resolution 1973. But last night’s Nato air strikes, which killed Gaddafi’s youngest son and three of his grandchildren, may mark a divergence in the extent of its support.
Though there are highly critical voices raised today, they belong mainly to coalition MPs who are already on the record as sceptics of the action. John Baron, the only Tory to vote against intervention, told me that the UK has now “lost any sort of credibility when it comes to taking the moral high ground“. Peter Bone, another Tory backbencher, said the action was further proof that Nato was seeking regime change in Libya, which was “certainly not envisaged” when MPs debated the initial action several weeks ago.
Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary, sounded broadly supportive on the Andrew Marr Show this morning.
But listen carefully and the first signs of Labour discomfort are emerging. One senior Labour figure said to me: “We regret the death of civilians, even those related to Colonel Gaddafi.”
And now Jim Murphy, shadow defence secretary, has just said it is “right” for the alliance to target command and control networks. But:
“Ministers must be clear that there has been no decision to target individuals, which would be beyond the terms of resolution 1973, in order to allay the country’s inevitable concerns about changes to military tactics and increased scope of UK military action,” he said. “This is an incredibly complex situation, but people are entitled to a better explanation of the government’s intended endgame.”