The funny thing about peaceniks, with their apparently simple grasp of good and bad, is just how cunning they really are. They understand that, to most well-meaning folk, preaching pacifism can sound morally superior and it is therefore an easy way to gain the upper hand. The bland, edgeless rhetoric in which they deliver their doctrine also makes it tricky for the well-intentioned to grasp the sinister dissonances that lurk behind it.
All of this helps explain how, in very recent political memory, Jeremy Corbyn got so close to the levers of power. The Islington North MP, who had long been at the vanguard of far-Left anti-war politics in the UK as former head of Stop the War coalition, somehow managed to secure a following so significant that, after many years as an extreme and obscure backbencher nobody much cared about, he was able to become Labour leader. Corbyn had a real shot at becoming Prime Minister – a genuine possibility that we should all weep with gratitude did not come to pass.
Indeed, it was a possibility that arch-Europhile Keir Starmer avowedly threw himself behind. Since taking the reins of Labour, Starmer has tried to exonerate himself from his years of complicity with a would-be Corbyn regime. He insists that he has restored the Labour Party’s values, including support for Nato, for Israel’s right to defend itself, and against anti-Semitism. This is all welcome. But for trying to get Corbyn into No 10 he can never be forgiven.
This would always have been the case, but Russia’s war against Ukraine has highlighted it as never before. A Corbyn premiership would not just have seen Britain’s defences dismantled. As the former leader’s comments in a radio interview last week suggested, it would have enabled and emboldened Putin. Let us not forget: Corbyn doesn’t want us (well, the West) to have any serious means of self-defence. The man that Starmer stood by and campaigned for would prefer Trident and Nato to be binned.
And yet there was Sir Keir at PMQs last week, pearl-clutching about partygate, pontificating about Boris’s alleged crimes. I couldn’t help but think that, for a man who batted for a Corbyn premiership, portraying the current PM as the devil incarnate seemed a bit rich.
After all it is Boris who has been Ukrainian President Zelensky’s staunchest ally, and it is Britain who, under the PM, has offered Kyiv what is arguably the most full-throated, unequivocal support of any country in Europe. The story would have been very different under Sir Keir’s former candidate for the highest office.
A refresher on Corbynite political morality. Russia continues to commit unimaginable atrocities in Ukraine and threatens the whole West with ballistic missiles literally called ‘Satan’, but to Corbyn, this is the moment to express his long-held fantasy of a world without Nato. The moral derangement of his anti-war position means the former Labour leader seemingly can’t find it in himself to condemn Russia properly, even now.
“I would want to see a world where we start to ultimately disband all military alliances,” he told John Pienaar on the airwaves last week, using the bland verbiage characteristic of the expression of superficial virtue.
He continued: “The issue has to be, what’s the best way of bringing about peace in the future? Is it by more alliances? Is it by more military build up? Or is it by stopping the war in Ukraine and the other wars … and ask yourself the question, do military alliances bring peace? Or do they actually encourage each other and build up to a greater danger?” Asked if he admired Zelenksy, Corbyn said, in his slithery, vacant way, “I’ve never met him. I don’t know.”
None of this is acceptable. It is morally reprehensible. It says: let Russia, and any other antagonist of the West, have at it.
Corbyn may be an unambiguous wrong’un, but one thing you can say for him is that he’s consistent. None of these positions are new. Until he became leader, he led Stop the War – formed in 2003 after the invasion of Iraq – and continues to be involved. This is very much the devil we know.
And what a devil it is. Stop the War, under Corbyn, was alarming in its views on terrorism; anything directed against the West, in fact. Thus as the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq, complete with beheadings, torture and kidnappings, swung into gear, Stop the War said it believed in “the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary.” Chilling stuff.
Stop the War also appeared to support the Russian annexation of Crimea and published articles comparing those who fought Franco to Isis fighters. Syrians who had been victims of Assad’s brutality were actually silenced at a Stop the War meeting in Parliament meant to discuss the case against military intervention.
After the Paris terrorist attacks of 2015, which killed 130 people, an article appeared on the site that said France was “[reaping] the whirlwind of Western support for extremist violence in the Middle East.” No wonder that by 2015, as Corbyn became Labour leader and stood down from the directorship, Stop the War was already considered to be a sect.
There is nothing new about the slithery immorality of Corbyn’s positions on the West, on war, on terrorism, on Israel, or about the way he and his cronies cloak their malign cause in the language of virtue. But it is for just that reason that Starmer had no excuse – not even his obsession with remaining in the EU – for pushing for a Corbyn premiership.
Compared to the cataclysmic moral crimes that Corbyn as PM would be committing, Sir Keir should count his blessings – we all should – that the worst crimes of the man who actually made it to 10 Downing Street appear to be misdemeanours with cake and ale.