With barely two weeks to go until the election of a new Labour leader, a
British establishment project has been launched to stop Jeremy Corbyn at any
Plan A involves halting Corbyn before he reaches the winning post.
Blair, Peter Mandelson, David Blunkett, Alastair Campbell and most of the
leading Blairites have already been deployed.
Their mission looks like failing.
So Plan B is also in place in the
event Corbyn wins. The intention is to make it quite impossible for the MP for
Islington North to lead the Labour Party.
Most of the mainstream media as well as the majority of Labour MPs and
party donors are part of this conspiracy to nobble the front-runner.
Even though I do not share many of his views, the purpose of this
article is to make the case for Mr Corbyn. My argument will be a familiar one
to those who follow political events across the Muslim world.
Western powers always assert that they support democracy. But the
truth is different. The West only likes democracy when democracy produces the
right result. When it produces the wrong result the West dislikes democracy
very much indeed.
In Iran in 1953, in Algeria in 1992, in Egypt in 2011, Muslim leaders
swept to power on a powerful popular mandate.
However, Iranian nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953,
as much as Mohamed Morsi in Egypt in 2011, failed to fit in with Western
agendas and both were soon swept away in coup d’etats.
(The same happens in Europe. In 1992 Danish voters opposed the
Maastricht Treaty and European monetary union. They were made to vote again.
Likewise the Irish voted down the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, and were
made to vote again in order to secure the correct result.)
Some Labour strategists envisage that Jeremy Corbyn should be duly
defenestrated if he becomes Labour leader in 15 days time - so that Labour
supporters can be made to vote again.
I am not a Labour voter, let alone a
member of the Labour Party with a vote in the current election.
am certain this would be a disaster for British public life.
Mr Corbyn is the most interesting figure to emerge as a leader of a
British political party for many years.
This is because he stands for a distinct set of ideas and beliefs which
set a new agenda in British politics.
If he wins on 12 September, he will
be the first party leader to come from right outside the British mainstream
since Margaret Thatcher in 1975.
Thatcher defied the British economic and social establishment, outraging
powerful interests within her own party and the country at large as she did so.
If he becomes Labour leader, Corbyn will come up hard against the
British foreign policy establishment.
For two decades both main parties have shared the same verities about
British foreign policy. They have regarded Britain as automatically subservient
to the United States.
This in turn has meant that we have interpreted the
partnership with the Gulf dictatorships - such as Saudi Arabia and UAE - as
central to Britain’s Middle East focus, while taking the side of the Israeli
state against the Palestinians.
No matter which party was technically in power, British foreign policy
has remained unchanged. David Cameron is indistinguishable in foreign policy
terms to Tony Blair. Indeed, the former prime minister has become one of Mr
Cameron’s most valued foreign policy advisors.
Jeremy Corbyn would smash this consensus.
To understand the background, it is helpful to read a work by Britain’s
greatest 20th century historian, AJP Taylor.
In 1957 Taylor published The
Troublemakers, a compelling study of the dissenting tradition in
“A man can disagree with a particular line of British
foreign policy while still accepting its general assumptions,” wrote
Taylor. “The Dissenter repudiates its aims, its methods, its principles.”
Corbyn is the most prominent modern representative of the British
dissenting tradition as identified by AJP Taylor.
This means that his
antecedents include Tom Paine, author of the Rights of Man
supporter of the American revolutionaries against the British redcoats at the
time of US independence.
They also include William Cobbett, who had to flee Britain to find a
home in the United States in the days when the US lived up the principles of
its founding fathers and really did support freedom, justice and democracy.
John Bright, the liberal politician who more than anyone else stopped Britain
intervening in the American civil war on the side of the confederacy, is another.
AJP Taylor’s dissenters are by no means always right. Most of them were
against war with Hitler.
But they also opposed the Boer War and World War One
(Ramsay McDonald resigned the chairmanship of the Labour Party and Lord Morley
resigned from the cabinet in protest against the war with Germany in 1914) and
the 1956 seizure of the Suez Canal.
In general they are Little Englanders,
opposed to foreign adventures of any kind.
They tend to be unpopular and isolated.
But Taylor noted that “if
you want to know what the foreign policy of this country will be in 20-30 years
time, find out what the Dissenting minority are saying now”.
Let’s now examine Jeremy Corbyn’s own record.
He opposed the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq. He argued for talks with the IRA long before this became
official policy. He has been ridiculed for talking to Hamas and Hezbollah.
one of the deeper ironies of modern history Tony Blair is now (as Middle East
Eye recently revealed) in discussion with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, in which
enterprise he has the backing of David Cameron.
Most people would agree that on the most intractable foreign policy
issues of our time Corbyn has tended to be right and the British establishment
has tended to be wrong.
What Corbyn does or thinks today is likely to be
vindicated a few years later.
Hard though it is for the British establishment
to stomach, Corbyn’s foreign policy ideas have generally been more balanced and
far-sighted than those of his opponents.
This certainly does not mean that he is always right. I believe that he
has been naïve about Vladimir Putin, ruler of an authoritarian state which is
founded on corruption and violence.
He has been unwise to contemplate British
withdrawal from NATO.
Denis Healey, who as Labour’s international secretary played a role in
shaping Clement Attlee’s successful post-war foreign policy, was withering when
Tony Benn (another antecedent of Corbyn) proposed this idea: “deserting
all our allies and then preaching them a sermon”. Corbyn is open to a similar charge.
I would defend Mr Corbyn’s personal talks with terrorists. But terrorist
and extremist groups need to be confronted, and their ideology rejected, even
when one seeks dialogue with them.
Nevertheless Corbyn is our only current hope of any serious challenge to
a failed orthodoxy.
Blair and Cameron have both adopted a foreign policy based
on subservience rather than partnership with the United States, which has done
grave damage to British interests.
In the Middle East this approach has ensured that we are confronting a
growing terrorist threat in the region with an ever-decreasing base in popular
support, and actually hated by an ever-growing population who identify Britain
with their oppressors.
There is no country in the Middle East, or around the
world, where Britons are safer, or can do business more securely, as a result
of Blairite policy.
Mr Corbyn’s critics always claim that they want democracy. But do they
really? They only want democracy, so long as democracy does not threaten the
interests of their powerful backers. They want a democracy which leaves
everything the same.
Corbyn is mounting a direct and open challenge to the
British system of government of international alliances as they have worked
since Tony Blair became Labour Party leader.
If he wins, he must be allowed to
lead his party and to make his case.