Much talk since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party has focused on the sudden ascent of the far-left of the party, and furthermore how this group of people are more interested in being victorious regarding internal battles within Labour rather than winning external elections. I’ve talked about these issues myself. But now I’m actually starting to wonder if there isn’t some sort of towel throwing in exercise going on here. In other words, is Jeremy Corbyn intentionally trying to make Labour unelectable?
It sounds totally daft to say, however much you dislike Corbyn’s politics. But the guy is surrounded by people like Simon Fletcher, people who whatever you think of their ideology are genuine political operators. Given that as context, let’s look at what Jeremy Corbyn has had to say since the Paris attacks last Friday night:
1. That shoot to kill policies, even if terrorists are running rampant through London with Kalashnikovs, are wrong (although he has since tried to clarify this, but it’s still not clear what we wants Labour policy on this to be).
2. That “Jihadi John” should not have been killed via a drone strike, but rather been arrested and brought to trial.
3. That he admires manholes.
Baffling is putting it mildly. Corbyn has done himself considerable, further political harm with all of this. He would have been much better off hiding from the press for the past four days. Now it must be said here that there is a legitimate debate to be had regarding all of the three points above. Shoot to kill has its upsides and considerable downsides (just ask John C de Menezes’ friends and family), so raising some worries about it is far from wrong. Whether blowing people up is the best way forward for western democracies to deal with criminals is also worthy of discussion. And hey, who doesn’t love a good manhole? But can’t Corbyn see that bringing all of this up in the context of hundreds of people dead on the streets of Paris after a terrorist atrocity, with the spectre of something similar happening in London in the near future, is not the best time to question these things? It’s as if he wants to feed into the Tory narrative around Corbyn being weak, an Islington hippie who won’t be able to stomach the choices every prime minister must make, someone who will not be able to keep the country safe. I mean, nothing Cameron could ever say will have the same effect as Corbyn himself essentially telling the nation: “I think we should try and arrest terrorists first, even if they’re in the process of mass killing people”.
There is something admirable about a politician, in the midst of panic and calls for revenge, standing up and asking everyone to take a deep breath. But that isn’t what Corbyn has done here – or at least that’s not how it’s been received if that was his underlying intention. Instead it just feels like another own goal; another in what is starting to feel like a never ending series of own goals.