HAS ANY MAN been treated more unfairly than Jeremy Corbyn? Over the last week, he has been repeatedly smeared by the British media and political establishment, first by accurately reporting his obfuscatory remarks on Russia, and then by placing a picture of him in front of a Soviet-themed backdrop on Newsnight. The gathering momentum that would have swept Corbyn into No. 10 at the next election has been stalled. Never mind that he has a long-standing, well-documented antipathy towards the West, and never mind that the BBC put Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in front of the same background just days earlier: the [Tories/media cabal] and their [media/Tory] – delete as appropriate – puppet masters have finally got their wish.
That this story has been allowed to fester, distracting in some measure from the very real threat posed by Russia, speaks to the profound mistrust that now exists between people and politics. The British public is now unable to separate truth from fiction: Vladimir Putin, surely fresh from celebrating his election win a day early, must be rubbing his hands in glee.
Putin is aided by the almost eschatological hatred the British left has towards some of the West’s foundational principles. In their quest to dismantle free-market capitalism and military adventurism, they have long entertained dictators, demagogues, theocrats and even terrorists. They seem to consider any reaction against Russia a purely political move. On RT (yes, that RT), Ken Livingstone pointed out that the Tories are behind in the polls, with local elections just a few weeks away. Earlier this week, Jeremy Corbyn’s response to Theresa May’s ultimatum was to shrug his shoulders and rant about donations to Conservative candidates. This set the stage for a later intervention by Seumas Milne, his far-left adviser, who suggested that Britain’s intelligence services were perhaps overstepping the mark, saying ‘there is a history between WMDs and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly.’ More troubling still, he tried to lay the responsibility on malicious actors from another post-Soviet state – a claim reiterated by the Labour leader on occasions. There has been a very tangible, concerted effort from the office of Jeremy Corbyn to draw the blame away from Russia.
Privately, Labour backbenchers have long held doubts about Corbyn’s foreign policy stance. This week, they almost universally came out in support of Theresa May’s response, submitting an EDM to the House of Commons that implicitly rejected that of Corbyn. In his inaction, we perhaps have the stirrings of a rebellion against the leadership.
But this should come as no surprise to anyone. Jeremy Corbyn has long been a staunch critic of the West, and in particular its foreign military entanglements. It began with his naive fascination with Sinn Féin and the IRA. Since his days spent hosting Gerry Adams at his parliamentary offices in the 1980s, Corbyn has visited Bashar al-Assad, praised his ‘friends’ in Hezbollah and Hamas, and made a string of appearances on Iranian state television. Unsurprisingly, one of his favourite ports of call has been RT – formerly Russia Today – the Kremlin’s state propaganda mouthpiece. Corbyn briefly turned the thuggish John McDonnell into the Labour Party’s moral compass when he quashed the shadow chancellor’s suggestion that Labour MPs should boycott the channel.
Corbyn’s foreign policy has always been his biggest weakness. In fact, he’s been demonstrably wrong on every major foreign policy issue of the last 40 years. Even his opposition to Iraq – a conflict based on faulty and at times fabricated intelligence gathered by a government desperate for war – was predicated on overlooking the heinous human rights abuses committed by Saddam Hussein.
Obfuscation – blaming Britain while meekly sidestepping the apportion of blame to its enemies – is a common theme in Corbyn’s foreign policy views.
In 2003, he joined other high-profile left-wing politicians, including George Galloway and the late Tony Benn to found the Stop the War Coalition. This insidious, far-left organisation, launched to protest the Iraq War, has always been a rather transparent vehicle for undermining British foreign policy; as recently as 2014, it came out in support of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, for no other reason than that it was opposed by the West. This highlights Corbyn’s most dangerous aspect: when he allowed to indulge his antagonism for the West, he is driven into the arms of its enemies, from Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy, to theocratic Iran. The worst thing is, he seems quite happy to be there.
George Orwell knew this. In 1945, in his essay Notes on Nationalism, he recognised that pacifists were driven less by a genuine desire for peace, but whose ‘real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism.’
‘Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of the western countries. The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia and China.’
This kind of obfuscation – blaming Britain while meekly sidestepping the apportion of blame to its enemies – is a common theme in Corbyn’s foreign policy views. It is there when he criticises Tories accepting donations from Russian businessmen, but suggests the Salisbury poisoning could have been committed by gangsters; it is there when he slams British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but appears on Iranian state television; and it is there when he abjures racism in all its forms, but turns a blind eye to rampant antisemitism as long as it is done in the name of opposing Israel. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that his worldview, coloured by his association with the likes of Tony Benn and by a long tradition within the British left, effectively instructs him to hate the West.
His supporters – the cult of personality formed around his leadership, and the naive youngsters let down by broken promises and buoyed by Corbyn’s utopian vision for Britain – don’t care. When his limp response to a poison attack on British soil is objectively reported, they jump to his defence, accusing the BBC of photoshopping his hat or inventing increasingly convoluted ways of explaining the incident away. It works as a distraction technique because the British public is disillusioned by a political mainstream occupied entirely by an increasingly damaging Brexit, unable to pick out the grains of truth from the fast-paced, 24-hour, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it social media news cycle, and attacked on all sides by malicious foreign actors. Jeremy Corbyn is impervious to criticism simply because nobody knows what’s true anymore.
I don’t want to give Jeremy Corbyn too much agency. Rather than an insidious plot to undermine the West, his attempts to grapple with this latest international incident betray his total ignorance and naivety. Corbyn is dangerous not because he’s evil, but because his stupidity, his keenness to cultivate friendships with terrorists and dictators, and his unadmitted antipathy towards Western values would risk turning Britain into a global pariah. David Cameron was right when he called Corbyn ‘a serious risk to our nation’s security, our economy’s security and your family’s security.’ It’s just a shame that he left his party and this country in such a shambles that many people would rather risk a Corbyn government than stick with the status quo. Cheers, Dave.
Picture credit: Jeremy Corbyn campaign in West Kirby – image by Andy Miah via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)