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. 

The Greens are offering a real choice in policies in Brighton Pavilion

With the hype around the Leaders debate this evening – the one that excludes the Green Party – there is a danger that the launch of the Green’s manifesto this morning at the Metropole Hotel will be overshadowed.

The three ‘big beasts’ of the Party, are presenting the manifesto.  Darren Johnson, the party’s national spokesperson on trade and industry and its candidate for Lewisham Deptford, is chairing the event. The party’s manifesto will be introduced by Caroline Lucas who is tipped to win the Brighton Pavilion constituency, and Cllr Adrian Ramsay, deputy leader and candidate in the party’s Norwich South target seat.

So here is a brief outline of my understaning of the key points from the Green manifesto: Key pledges include a “living wage” of £8.10 an hour, a “citizen’s pension” of £170 a week and £44bn of investment in transport, housing and energy schemes.

Of course the cynical national media will dismiss the manifesto as pie in the sky, but what the manifesto does do, and to a more limited degree does the Lib Dem manifesto, the Party is calling the lie that the cuts that the Tories and Labour will implement must be in public services.  Trident, and an increase in the top rate of tax, for a start, will go some way to redress the public finances.

Politics is the art of priorities. There is a choice between cuts in public services and cuts in Trident, between investment in Green technologies and war in Afghanistan.  The policies of the Greens enjoy the most support by the 100,000 or so people who have completed the VoteForPolicies survey.  The challenge for the Greens is to persuade voters that they can win seats in parliament.  That battle is being won in Brighton Pavilion.

A word of thanks to Charlotte Vere

I don’t often have the chance to offer thanks to Charlotte Vere, but she has done something that deserves thanks and praise.

Yesterday she tweeted about Caroline Lucas’ appearance on BBC’s Straight Talk with Andrew Neil.  I for one would not have known that Ms Lucas was appearing on this programme, but thanks to Ms Vere I was able to watch it.

Once again I was struck by Caroline’s poise and command, even in the face of hostile questioning from Neil.  Compared to other political leaders, she comes across as genuine, principled and worth supporting.

It was fantastic to hear her commitment to the abolition of Trident, for being a party of the left, for redistribution, and so on.

What was a shame was Charlotte’s observation that the “wheels came off” when the opposite was true.  Andrew Neil was aggressive with Ms Lucas, yet she showed characteristic grace and good humour.  She also showed characteristic competence and authority

She also clearly charmed the brute that is Andrew Neil and it won’t be long before she joins Itchy and Scratchy (Abbott and Portillo) on the sofa on This Week!

But a special thank you to Charlotte Vere.  Please keep us posted on other appearances by Caroline Lucas.  It can only strengthen her candidature.

You can watch Caroline here

Still doing the right thing ….

Throughout the week Labour has continued to alienate people when doing the right thing. By macho postering, when saying post office privatisation, ID cards and even Trident may not go ahead, they don’t say they are doing it for ethical reasons. Rather, they are doing it because of financial constraints and then pledge to go back when these schemes become more affordable. Brown and Manleson are a disgrace.