“We’re ready and champing at the bit for an election”, Jeremy Corbyn wrote to Labour Party members last week. He must have been using the royal “we”. No-one I know in the Labour Party thinks he will win the next general election. Meanwhile 38 people who had lost love-ones, killed by the IRA, wrote to Mr. Corbyn asking for an apology for his repeated failure to single out IRA murders during the Troubles for condemnation, "giving succour" to the Republican movement.
Contrary to Mr. Corbyn’s belief that he can repeat his performance in the June 2017 election – which he and his coterie and followers seem to forget he lost – the political situation has become significantly different. Boris Johnson is an engaging campaigner. Theresa May wasn’t. The Conservative Party are now aping Labour’s sky-high financial commitments to public services. The Johnson and Swinson BREXIT positions will be clear in their manifestoes. And given the mind of the country’s polarised voters, who seek resolution and clarity, Corbyn’s laboriously acquired non-position on BREXIT will be a recipe for defeat. He is tarnished by his past. Quite simply he lacks political judgement.
The political charge sheet against Mr. Corbyn has filled up. The first charge was that he was an IRA sympathiser not a peace-builder. Two weeks after the Brighton bombing in October 1984 - aimed at killing Mr. Corbyn’s parliamentary colleagues and notably Margaret Thatcher - he met in the House of Commons with two former, convicted, IRA volunteers, Linda Quigley and Gerard MacLochainn, to discuss prison conditions. The insensitivity, or political stupidity, of this meeting after five had died and 31 injured by the IRA bomb beggars belief. Between 1986-1992 he attended official Irish Republican commemorations of dead IRA members. Peacemaking?
Mr. Corbyn, aspiring to be Prime Minister responsible for the country’s security, has not provided any evidence to support his belated explanation for this behaviour, that he was working for peace rather than supporting the IRA. Seamus Mallon, the former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, and Deputy Leader of Labour’s sister Party, the Social and Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), is damning: “I never heard anyone mention Corbyn at all. He very clearly took the side of the IRA and that was incompatible, in my opinion, with working for peace”.
Let’s be charitable to Mr. Corbyn. These were heady ideological times on the Left and he was only a back-bench MP. Perhaps he believed himself to be a potential mediator. It was a time of liberation struggles around the world and, perhaps, he did not realise that the IRA were rivals of the burgeoning 1960s human rights movement that could have brought about change. IRA violence, at first ostensibly to protect the Catholic community, shut down democratic redress for Catholic and Nationalist grievances. The Provisional IRA did not, as had many of the national liberation struggles worldwide, taken up armed struggle as a last resort against tyranny. That is why the Irish Catholic bishops opposed them. The Provos ruthless violence pre-empted a peaceful struggle for human rights; and their strategy was rejected by the Official IRA. In a democracy there were other options as the SDLP tried to demonstrate.
Time moved on leaving Mr. Corbyn beached on the shoals of the 1970s. The second charge that he was anti-Semitic, exposed in March 2018, happened in 2012. Tower Hamlets Borough Council (with, note, a strong Muslim presence) ruled that an anti-Semitic cartoon by a graffiti artist, Kalen Ockerman, put up on a wall in Hanbury Street in London’s East-End, had to be removed. It depicted Jewish bankers counting money on a monopoly board resting on the backs of naked black workers. Ockerman complained on Facebook about the mural’s removal. Mr. Corbyn defended him on grounds of freedom of speech. "Why? You are in good company. Rockefeller destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin”. The mural by Viera, a celebrated Mexican artist, was commissioned for the Rockefeller Centre in New York and removed as a result of a public outcry in 1934.
After this exchange on Facebook came to light, Corbyn admitted that freedom of speech does not justify reproducing Nazi anti-Semitism. As leader of the Labour Party, he regretted that he “did not look more closely” at the mural. Even on cursory inspection, the grotesque beaked noses of the bankers copied the worst of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda. Had he viewed it through his anti-capitalist spectacles and simply missed its gross anti-Semitism? How could he not have noticed the similarities to Nazi portrayals? We will never know.
Time passed. With an election in the offing, Mr. Corbyn is stranded in his BREXIT dilemmas like a sick whale floundering in the Thames. The Times last week, harpoon at the ready, went on the attack with an investigation about his views on an Iranian Charity. Before he became leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Corbyn waxed lyrical about the London-based organisation, the Iranian Human Rights Commission (IHRC). The investigation turned up that the three directors of the Charity had unsavoury views about the West, Zionists, Sadiq Khan, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the European Court of Human Rights. One director– who would have believed it? – thought Iran had a wonderful record of “standing against injustice”. He saw the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, as an example to the world. The IHRC “represents all that’s best in Islam”, declared Mr. Corbyn in an interview. “I like the sense of values surrounding it”. Ignorance is not bliss in public life. Might it not have been prudent to have “looked more closely”? The defence case might be that the Charity Commission has recently spent two years investigating the Charity and required no changes. But the ill-informed accolades are offensive to many, many Muslims. Can the Labour Party afford a leader as careless in his judgements as this?
We all make mistakes and we try not to be like the Bourbons who “learned nothing and forgot nothing”. But Mr. Corbyn’s repeated inability to “look more closely”, to demonstrate good political judgement and clarity of thought, has not been remedied by the passage of time, nor by the demands of leadership. The team he has assembled around him do not inspire confidence. He does not defer to wiser counsels. Today his ingrained ideological assumptions, his persistent lack of prudential judgement, form a major element of the BREXIT impasse. While he remains leader of the Labour Party three possible paths forward to resolve BREXIT, a Jonson agreement with the EU and a people’s referendum Mr. Corbyn makes more difficult, and a temporary government of national unity he makes impossible.
Sir Keir Starmer must now be given full authority to lead on BREXIT and allowed to perform his role as Shadow Secretary for Exiting the European Union.
Opinion polls suggest the public have concluded that Mr. Corbyn is part of the problem not part of the solution. For the common good, for the country, for the Labour Party, for all suffering under austerity, he should do the right thing and step aside gracefully now. “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is Vanity” (Ecclesiastes 12.8).
See TheArticle.com 14/10/2019