Friends ask why I shall not vote for Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader. Some of his economic policies are attractive. It is welcome to find a politician who doesn’t think the industrial north of England can be rebuilt without decisive new investment in plant, infrastructure and training. Questioning Trident is surely, too, something that needs to be part of public debate. The truth is, though, that much of the economics is wishful thinking. There’s a good dissection here and here, and the idea that there is a hidden treasure of tax evasion to be easily accessed is queried here. Some of it is plain contradictory: you can either use tax receipts frm evaders and the rich to plug the fiscal gap, or expand the economy, but, er, not both. However, at least he is asking the right questions even if giving the wrong answers. The problem comes in his views on foreign policy. Leaving NATO and the EU seem comparatively mild stuff beside these features:
- He seems intensely relaxed about the anti-semitic Raed Salah, who spreads the blood libel about Jews making bread from the blood of Christian children, and claims all the Jews who worked in the Twin Towers were told to stay home on 9/11, proof that it’s all a put-up Islamophobic plot.
- He congratulates the repulsive George Galloway on his by-election win. Let’s just remember Galloway’s conduct towards his (Asian female opponent) in the General Election.
- He believes that the Ukraine crisis was encouraged by NATO and western interests. To which one can only say, with Homer Simpson, “Doh”.
- Tabled a Commons motion defending Slobodan Milosevic.
- Makes a speech praising the achievements of Gaddafi and pretty much any other loathsome tyrant who claims to be anti-West.
- He gave a minutes silence for IRA members killed in a shoot out with British security forces in 1987 and still refuses to condemn the IRA’s actions. Readers will remember that during the Gaza fighting last year, much was made of the difference between Israelis killed and Palestinians killed. The IRA killed six times as many people as the army.
The idea that someone with these views could be electable is fanciful. More fanciful, however, is the idea that someone with these views occupies the high ground of moral principle in the leadership campaign. The defence that ‘we have to talk to people we disagree with if we are to achieve peace’ is valid, until we remember that Corbyn refers to Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’. And, truth be told, it’s not his job to broker Middle East peace; that’s what governments and diplomats do, and it is tricky stuff. That’s why the rejoinder that Tony Blair also met nasty people is so fatuous: that was his job as Prime Minister. Corbyn did it out of his own free will. Let’s hope he is naïve rather than nasty, remembering all the time the judgement of Henry Adams on Robert E. Lee: “it is always the good men who do the most harm in the world”.
The campaign itself is a pretty devastating disproof of the idea that ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’. One can only hope that whoever wins grow into the job. Andy Burnham seems like the deputy marketing manager of a photocopy company; he was Health shadow for five years, and never laid a glove on the most ideological and shambolic Ministerial record of that period. Fish in a barrel would be safe with Andy at the trigger. Liz Kendall seems pleasant and clever, but in the wrong party. I’ll vote for Yvette Cooper, who is experienced and carries no baggage (apart from marriage to Ed Balls), and might at least give the Tories something to worry about.