Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t get my vote, by Jean Calder

(This is the complete text of my column published on 5th September 2015 in the Brighton Argus which was edited to remove the paragraph relating to Sinn Fein and the IRA)

I didn’t have a vote in the labour leadership election and I’m was glad of that. People assumed I’d want to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, but they were wrong.
I like Corbyn’s anti austerity agenda, his respect for unions and the public sector, his rejection of privatisation and Trident and his scepticism about the European Union. However, I have some serious doubts about him. 

Despite apparent support for women’s rights, other policy positions he’s taken put their rights at risk. He appears to have been a broken reed in the Islington child abuse scandal, when desperate whistle-blowers first sought his help. I believe the stance he takes now on aspects of foreign policy put human rights at risk.

Much of what Corbyn has said about the plight of Palestinians and the brutality of Israeli state forces and illegal settlers is absolutely true. However, in rightly expressing solidarity with the Palestinians, he has also made common cause with Islamists who have no interest in establishing a just and democratic state (certainly not one offering equality to women, homosexuals or Jews). They want a caliphate, a theocratic fascist dictatorship. 

Corbyn has said it’s important to “talk” to people like Hamas and has offered the Peace process in Northern Ireland as an example. However, facilitating negotiation between participants in conflict is different from sharing a platform and giving the appearance of uncritical support for individuals such as Raed Salah of Hamas who has repeated the ‘blood libel’ against Jews (that Jews use Christian children’s blood in rituals) and says it is un-islamic to support women’s equality. 

It’s also absurd to equate violent islamists with the IRA. The IRA and Sinn Fein were not fascist organisations. Both were committed to Irish re-unification and British withdrawal, but crucially also to the maintenance of a democratic, non-sectarian secular Irish state. They was not imperialistic or expansionist. Hamas, in contrast, fights for a world-wide caliphate.

I question Corbyn’s attitude to Isis. In 2014, Corbyn said of Isis. “Yes, they are brutal,”..… “Yes, some of what they have done is quite appalling, likewise what the Americans did in Fallujah and other places is appalling.” Furious commentators have focussed on his comments on Fallujah and whether he should have equated Isis’ brutality with that of the Americans, but my concern is rather different. 

I make no defence of US conduct of the Iraq war. I question why Corbyn uses this to deflect attention from Isis atrocities. Above all, I want to know why he said only “some” of what Isis had done was “quite appalling”. I’d like to know which of Isis’ activities Corbyn thinks are acceptable. I see none – just brutal occupation by a so-called state in which men buy and sell naked children into sex slavery in public markets, pray before they rape them, stone women, throw gay men from high buildings and execute subject peoples and those they consider apostates with mediaeval cruelty – while abroad, waging war on civilians. 

Corbyn says the rise of Isis has been assisted by American and UK foreign policy. He’s right, but it didn’t create ISIS and it doesn’t excuse it – any more than the Treaty of Versailles caused or excused the rise of nazi Germany.  

There are some political forces with which no just government can safely negotiate because they are just too violent and dangerous to humanity. Hitler’s Germany was one, Pol Pot’s Cambodia another. Isis’ caliphate is yet another. At some point Isis, and crucially the fascist theocratic ideology that drives it, will need to be fought and beaten – not contained as Corbyn suggests. 

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Mike Weatherley and Caroline Lucas will both be voting for a referendum on Europe

Mike Weatherley, the MP for Hove, is one of 66 MPs named in an article in the Times who are supporting a motion calling for a referendum on Europe. Mike is not quite a full-blown Eurosceptic. He said: “The vote on Monday, triggered by the people requesting a debate via the e-petition, will hopefully be the start of a long overdue debate. I have supported the call for an extended debate which will hopefully end up with us renegotiating our terms with Europe.”
 
The motion currently reads: “This House calls upon the Government to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the UK should: (a) remain a member of the EU on the current terms; (b) leave the EU; (c) renegotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.”

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, has tabled her own amendment which gives a wider renegotiation of the UK’s membership of the EU as an option.

Her amendment seeks “to build support for radical reform of the EU, increasing its transparency and accountability, refocusing its objectives on co-operation and environmental sustainability rather than competition and free trade, and enabling member states to exercise greater control over their own economies.”

Ms Lucas said: “I support a referendum on our membership of the EU because I am pro-democracy, not because I’m anti-EU – and because I want to see a radical reform of the way Europe operates. The EU has the potential to spread peace and make our economies more sustainable, and to promote democracy and human rights, at home and throughout the world. But it must urgently change direction, away from an obsessive focus on competition and free trade and towards placing genuine co-operation and environmental sustainability at its heart.”

If Mike was able to support Caroline’s amendment it would be well received in Brighton and in Hove. Most people would agree that the current arrangement is bonkers and the on-going crisis in the Eurozone (a separate but related issue) shows that an arrangement based on free trade and competition is flawed. Europe has a choice: continue as we are and see our living standards continue to decline while bankers profit, or co-operation and sustainability.

It would be great if Laour MPs could also support Caroline’s amendment. Unfortunately, Ed Miliband is requiring his MPs to vote against a referendum and to line up alongside David Cameron. Could someone remind me, what is the point of an Opposition?