In the aftermath of the Manchester suicide bombing, there was an agreed pause in electioneering. As soon as it started again, everyone was soon attacking Jeremy Corbyn, for making a supposedly insensitive statement about why Britain is one of the countries targeted by terrorists. Given the high level of emotions concerning the terrible attack, loss of life, and many still requiring treatment, it might be understandable to condemn the Labour leader for his speech. He was accused of being thoughtless, and that his speech was poorly timed too. When that failed to get enough backlash, they dragged out the old accusations that he supported the IRA, decades ago.
But let’s look at the substance of what he said, and forget the heated atmosphere for a moment. He was not blaming British troops, as has been alleged, rather the policies of this country in slavishly supporting America, and becoming involved in foreign wars against Muslim countries. Many of his own colleagues were quick to attack him, and the opposition parties queued up to have their say about him too. I am not in his party, and I doubt he will win in June. But what he said was true.
If you send the armed forces of your country thousands of miles, to become involved in proxy wars that are not your business, you can expect a backlash at home. France, Russia, Britain, and many other countries who have chosen to involve themselves in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen have seen the repercussions of their decisions arrive on the streets of major European cities, and in some US states too. If, as it is claimed, the Jihadists and militants seek to destroy the western way of life, then why are there no attacks in Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Finland, Slovenia, and so many other countries I could list here? You don’t have to be an expert strategist to work out that only those nations happy to become embroiled in the wars in troubled lands are those being attacked in return.
And it doesn’t end with actually sending troops. Supporting countries like Saudi Arabia in their wars against their old and new enemies, or taking sides in favour of Sunni or Shiite against the other, is little different to being physically involved in the fighting. It seems to me that Corbyn was not only correct in his assertion that we must stop fighting, and start talking, but that his timing was actually just right, following a painful reminder of the consequences of not doing so.
Of course, a cynical person might also see that the so-called ‘unelectable’ socialist was doing quite well in the polls recently, and pulling back the previous big lead the government was enjoying. His tax policies, nationalisation policies, and big-spending promises about health reforms and better housing were beginning to capture the imagination of voters, after all. His latest speech about terrorism was a good one, designed to try to set this country on the road to peace, at the expense of money lost to the arms industry, and a cooling down of our relationship with America.
And we couldn’t have that, could we? That just wouldn’t do.
The UK general election campaign is up and running again, after attention was focused on France over the weekend. I have just been watching Jeremy Corbyn giving a heartfelt speech on the BBC News. His rather stumbling style is quite endearing in many ways, and the absence of slick oration and stage-managed key points also refreshing to see.
He came up with some great ideas of course. A better NHS, a fairer society, the end of privatisation of industry and utilities, and increased taxation on the rich. Yesterday, his shadow chancellor made a speech about how Labour might pay for all their promises, despite pledging not to raise taxes on anyone earning £80,000 a year, or less. This is far higher than the average wage in this country of course. I suspect that the majority of the population would consider someone wih an income of £80,000 to be very well off indeed. So, Labour attempted to sweep in the affluent middle classes yesterday, then Corbyn returned to appeal to the poor and hard-working this morning.
Listening to the Labour leader today, I found myself liking most of what he had to say. He has in roots in the Socialist origins of that party, yet current trends have forced him to temper his one-time radical enthusiasm. Bold claims to build one million new houses are best taken with a pinch of salt though, as are some of his other rather fantastic promises. But he can afford to make such promises, as he knows he is unlikely to ever be in a position to have to deliver on them. He can boast of a minimum wage increase, huge additional investment into the NHS, and getting a Brexit deal that leaves the UK in a strong trading position. He might just as well say that he will pay for a holiday in Florida for every family in Britain, or give every pensioner free electricity, and a new car. He can say anything, because he will never have to prove the truth of his words.
Jeremy Corbyn enjoys huge support within his own party. He has won two leadership elections, and survived the backstabbers among his Labour colleagues in Westminster. But the hard truth is that the Labour Party has never been in a worse place, and never before faced a potential defeat of such proportions. OK, they will probably get my vote, but that will make little difference in a county dominated by the government party. UKIP may have also lost any influence in the country as a whole, but their votes will not be going to Labour. They will be bolstering Conservative majorities instead.
As Jeremy made his speech today, he must have been encouraged by the cheering from the audience, and the whoops of delight as he drove home each point. The applause was genuine, and the enthusiasm palpable. You might have believed that he could become a real leader, a man of substance.
But he was preaching to the converted.
For Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the knives are well and truly out. He would do well to consider the fate of Julius Caesar, as his colleagues collaborate to unseat him from his job. He may not come across as much of a firebrand any more these days. He is older, and perhaps tired of the machinations he has experienced during a long career in politics. He may not look the part either, with his casual attire, and an appearance that could be described as scruffy. In parliament, he has failed to make his mark as an orator, and lacks the necessary spite to take on his opposite numbers.
But like him or not, he was elected leader. And by the membership of his party, not as a result of a general election, or because he was chosen by his parliamentary party. There was a time when this would have been considered adequate, and his detractors would have had to like it, or lump it. But then came the EU Referendum. Labour fastened their colours to the ‘Remain’ camp, and lost. Instead of accepting this defeat as part of the political changes in this country, many of them sought to pile all the blame onto one person. Jeremy Corbyn. It was all his fault, they claimed. He wasn’t assertive enough, failed to get the Remain message across, and was lukewarm in his condemnation of those wishing to Leave.
Some of them are now in the process of trying to force through a new leadership election in that party. Two front runners have emerged, both with very similar ideas and policies. Not surprisingly, similar ideas and policies to the now discredited Tony Blair too, though they both deny being Blairites. One of these is the abrasive 55 year-old Angela Eagle, MP for Wallesey. She is well-known in parliament for having an identical twin sister who is also a Labour MP, and for being openly lesbian, and married to another woman. She claims much of her ‘Northern working-class roots.’ She was born in the north, that is true. It was in the Yorkshire town of Bridlington, a peaceful seaside holiday resort on the east coast. She then went on to study Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at the prestigious Oxford University, before going to work for the Confederation of British Industry. This is hardly the stuff of cloth caps and mining communities, even if her parents were factory workers. She has also hinted at the possibility of a second EU referendum during discussions and debates.
The second candidate for Jeremy’s job is Owen Smith. Smith is the 46 year-old MP for Pontypridd, in Wales. Born in Lancashire, he went on to study History and French, at Sussex University. He later worked as a producer for the BBC, and as a lobbyist for the international drug giant, Pfizer, where he earned £80,000 a year to promote their products. Once again, hardly the ‘dirty hands’ man-of-the-people working class hero we might have once expected to emerge from the Labour Party, and hope to lead it. He has clearly stated that he would like the Labour Party to promise not to trigger Article 50 to leave the EU, and that he thinks that a second referendum would be a good idea.
So where does that leave the opposition? If either of these people succeed in ousting Corbyn, we face a return to the Blairite politics of years gone by. Cosy with business, supporting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and impossible to tell apart from the softer Tories sitting across on the other side of the House of Commons. Worse than that, they intend to try to overrule the democratic process and betray more than 17,000,000 of the people in the UK, by attempting to change the result of the recent referendum.
And we thought we lived in a democracy.
Despite predictions of a moderate winning the election to become leader of the Labour Party, an outsider has confounded expectations, by becoming the front runner. Jeremy Corbyn has been the M.P. for Islington North in London, since 1983. Before that, he was prominent in Haringey Council. He has always been regarded as a rebel, and to the Left of the party line. He lives in his constituency, takes little money for expenses, and espouses causes, both domestic, and international.
During his political career, he has campaigned in favour of nuclear disarmament, and the dissolution of The House of Lords. He supports re-nationalisation of the railways, equal rights and pay for workers, and the return of the six counties to Ireland. He has a long association with the Trade Union movement in the UK and abroad, and once worked for the National Union of Public Employees. On the international stage, he has been outspoken against Israel, and fought for fair treatment of the people in Chile. He is also a well-known for his support of the government in Venezuela, and for his views on animal rights and welfare.
So, his Socialist credentials are fairly sound, it would appear.
If this is the case, why do so many people think that his becoming the leader of the Labour Party would be a disaster? Well for one thing, times have changed. We live in an acquisitive society, overwhelmed by avarice, where selfishness has replaced selflessness. Huge multi-national companies control almost every job, and international financiers control our economy. The politics of the so-called ‘man in the street’ has moved further to the right than ever before, with immigration and terrorism replacing health and education as the main concerns. If this is the case, then the mild-mannered Corbyn is certainly not electable as a leader of the nation. The doomsday scenario is that Labour would return to being a party of the far Left, with an agenda unpopular with almost everyone, save for those who voted for Corbyn.
His opponents claim that Labour would become a minority party; a party of protest, a party that would never again see itself in power. Of course, they are lamenting their own demise, their own inability to achieve that power, whatever the cost to their principles or background. They claim that the opposing parties are delighted, that they want Corbyn to win, so that Labour will lose whatever vestige of power it still clings to. But is politics really only just about winning? Perhaps most people see it that way. I do not.
Corbyn offers at least a partial return to the roots of Socialism in the UK. Nationalisation, equality in education and in the workplace, fair treatment for the poorest in society, as well as the sick and disabled. Ridding the country of nuclear weapons, and tackling the energy crisis. Reopening the mines, closed by spiteful politicians and businessmen as supposedly unprofitable, as a punishment to the miners after the strike. He offers respect to all, regardless of social position, sexuality, or creed, and a chance to rebuild the economy without reliance on invisible industries, or foreign companies.
This might all seem to be just an unworkable ideal, but it is not. It is all possible, if you are brave enough to take on the gainsayers, and conglomerates. It might well be that the time for this has been missed, and all the stories of the Labour Party becoming an anachronism under his leadership are true.
But at least it would restore its honour, and its self-respect.