Jeremy Corbyn recently passed a major milestone and celebrated his first hundred days as Labour’s leader.
His reign has not been without its problems. Never ending claims about how his leadership was doomed and its end is just a matter of time have been voiced for some time. Despite this some polls suggest that Labour is now polling better than it did when Ed Miliband was leader.
The right wing attacks and smears have been incessant. They may have become too extreme and may now be counterproductive. A recent example is this Sun front page where Corbyn was described as a hypocrite for accepting further funding after being appointed a Privy Councillor. The only problem was that the two matters were not linked. The otherwise toothless Independent Press Standards Organisation has ordered a front page apology.
The Oldham East by election result was a helpful endorsement. The vote was meant to be very tight but the result was an overwhelming victory for the Labour candidate.
Syria proved problematic with many within caucus wanting to support the Conservative’s proposal to bomb Syria. Corbyn gave labour members the opportunity to vent their spleen and then agreed to a free vote on the subject which given the current state of the caucus was, I think, the only realistic option he had.
Various Labour MPs have shown appalling discipline and loyalty and have chosen to publicly criticise Corbyn at every opportunity. MPs like Simon Danczuk who was recently discovered to have sent a series of inappropriate texts to a 17 year old girl. The anti child abuse campaigner and ardent critic of Corbyn has openly attacked the membership and publicly described Labour as the nasty party. Obviously he was fearful for his position with membership of the party doubling in the last year and members expecting MPs to actually follow a left wing line. Ridding the party of MPs who are openly disloyal and who engage in totally inappropriate behaviour should be an easy thing to do.
The nasty meme is one that has spread. Singular instances of inappropriate things being said on social media are conflated to provide evidence of a mass conspiracy.
The reality is that some of these MPs are detested because on the important issues, such as Syria and Trident, they are making the wrong decision.
Take Trident for instance. Trident is an example of cold war mentality. Four submarines each carry sixteen missiles each with multiple warheads. The fleet needs to be replaced by 2025 at an anticipated cost of £25 billion. A decision needs to be made next year.
The Scottish National Party is unanimously opposed to the spend both on the grounds of cost and because the idea of ever using the missiles is barbaric. They are only meant to be fired in retaliation and their use would clearly show that deterrence had failed.
And take Syria. To put things very simply continued interference by the West in the Middle East over the last few decades has not worked. Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and now ISIS present clear evidence of the futility and stupidity of covert and military intervention. Corbyn is the one world leader who is saying this clearly and distinctly.
This passage from an article by Freddie Gray in the Spectator sums things up well:
What strange people we Brits are. We spend years moaning that our politicians are cynical opportunists who don’t stand for anything. Then along comes an opposition leader who has principles — and appears to stick by them even when it makes him unpopular — and he is dismissed as a joke.
Jeremy Corbyn has been ridiculed in recent days for the feebleness of his foreign policy. It is widely agreed that his positions on terrorism and Isis show how unelectable and useless he is. At the same time, we say he is a grave threat to national security.
But what has Corbyn said that is so stupid or dangerous? In the wake of the attacks in Paris, he declared that Britain ‘must not be drawn into responses that feed the cycle of violence and hate’. He has urged his country not to ‘keep making the same mistakes’ in the Middle East, something he has been saying for decades. ‘Enthusiasm for interventions has only multiplied the threats to us,’ he says, not unreasonably. He has said he will not support airstrikes in Syria unless it is clear that military action will help us achieve our strategic objective of defeating Isis.
If you look at Corbyn’s actual words — rather than the Twitter feeds of the organisations he is affiliated with or the outbursts of his crazy fans — his response to the difficult and frightening problem of terrorism has been sensible, cautious and moral. Like a good Christian, he thinks violence should be a last resort, as he showed with his reluctance to embrace a ‘shoot to kill’ policy for security services in Britain, and his statement that it would have been ‘far better’ for the serial beheader Mohammed Emwazi (‘Jihadi John’) to have been tried in court rather than taken out by drones.
The battle for control of the Labour Party is a fascinating one. On one side are careerists and professionals who clearly believe that political power is only a matter of being slightly more beige than the other side.
And on the other side is Corbyn and grassroots members of the Party, whose numbers have surged since the election and are now approaching 400,000. Conservative membership numbers are now thought to be in the vicinity of 150,000 although it has the decided advantage of huge funding.
He may succeed, he may fail. But at least with Jeremy Corbyn you what you see is exactly what you get.