Jeremy Corbyn has warned plotters against his leadership that he is “not going anywhere” over his opposition to bombing Syria, as he urged MPs to listen to Labour members.
The Labour leader is facing a rebellion among shadow cabinet ministers, with the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, and the deputy leader, Tom Watson, among those in favour of extending airstrikes against Isis.
He has also consulted members about their views on whether David Cameron has made the case for bombing the Isis stronghold of Raqqa and received 70,000 responses through an online form.
Speaking to the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Corbyn warned of inevitable civilian casualties and the risk of making the situation “worse, not better”.
He said he would not describe himself as a pacifist but military action should only be used as an absolute last resort.
Trying to achieve a political settlement in Syria and cutting off Isis funding, oil trading and weapons supply should be the priority, he said.
His clear statement of opposition to airstrikes is likely to be backed up by the membership and he is also seeking the support of Labour’s ruling national executive committee in a bid to persuade MPs to come round to his view.
Corbyn said there would be a “decision as a party” on opposing airstrikes and he would then decide whether to impose the whip on MPs.
Watson, the deputy leader, has been trying to broker a deal with Corbyn to allow a free vote, as it is possible that key shadow cabinet ministers would have to resign if the leader insisted they vote against airstrikes.
There have been reports that some MPs are plotting to remove Corbyn if it comes to this, having consulted lawyers on whether they could exclude him from the ballot paper in a new contest.