Jeremy Corbyn has come under pressure from the media and his own MPs to say something negative about what is happening in Venezuela and to denounce Nicolas Madura. It is sad that one of the leaders of Britain’s two major parties has to be cajoled into saying a failing dictatorship is bad news, but there we are. It’s good for Jeremy Corbyn that it is the media and Labour MPs that are the ones applying this pressure: they are the two groups of people Corbyn cares about the least in the whole of humanity.
Let us play devil’s advocate for a moment. Why should Corbyn be shamed into doing this? Is this just “trolling of the worst kind”, as one shadow cabinet member put it (I cannot recall who, but seriously, who cares)? After all, the Tory government does deals with folks like Saudi Arabia, who are not exactly models of liberal democracy, right? But there’s the rub – I can’t recall any Tories saying that Saudi Arabia is a perfect model of liberal democracy. Meanwhile, what has Jeremy Corbyn said about Maduro’s (and before him, Chavez’s) Venezuela?
“Thanks Hugo Chavez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world,” Corbyn said upon the dictator’s death. He has praised Maduro and gone as far as to say that Chavism is a genuine alternative for Britain and other European countries (“Chavez showed us that there is a different and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice and it’s something that Venezuela has made a big step towards”). He and those around him have directly supported groups like the Venezuela Solidary Campaign (who, as I type this, have an interview between Corbyn and Maduro on the front page of their website), and even gone to Venezuela itself as if it were a trip to a spiritual holy land.
It is one thing for Theresa May to continue having friendly relations with the Saudis and all of the implications that brings; it is a very different thing for Theresa May to be a devout Wahhabist and say that the Saudi’s society is a model for Britain to look up to and attempt to emulate. Corbyn should be pressured on this because his own personal political vision has often borrowed a lot from the Venezuelan model – with Caracas falling apart, does he still claim that Chavism would be a good thing for the UK? I would really like to know what the leader of opposition has to say on the matter.