Jeremy Brier is a barrister, writer and former Parliamentary Candidate.
Jeremy Corbyn has the reverse problem of Gordon Brown. When it came to getting his message across, Gordon Brown (you remember him) simply couldn’t get the media to report what he said accurately. So, despairingly, he began to make his own little Youtube videos in order to communicate to the public directly without any media slant getting in the way. It was a big mistake of course. What politicians say rarely becomes more attractive when they say it straight into a camera with faux-earnest eyes and a mouth that opens and closes like an asphyxiating goldfish. Nor did anyone bother to watch it.
Corbyn has the opposite concern: not that the media slant what he is saying but they report it all too accurately. His actual words are so extraordinary that they are a story all by themselves, no need for sub-editing.
Consider yesterday’s offerings. We began with the fact that he collected Manhole Covers as a hobby, something which he told Lorraine was “zany” but which the rest of Britain regarded as just weird and a bit strangely creepy and briefly thought they were reading a spoof article. (Pausing on this small point just for a moment, can we all please note that when faced with a mere rumour of this bizarre fetish he did not seek to deal with it quickly and move on, citing more important matters of state to address, but instead chose to launch into a lengthy description about how drains were of great historical and social interest.)
And then, when he moved onto foreign policy, we all wished he’d go back to drains.
First, he told us he was “not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy”. That was “dangerous” apparently and instead we have to work towards “preventing these things happening”. Let’s put that last comment in the pile marked “an obvious given so obvious no one need say it”. Pretty much every non-insane person in Britain can agree that we would rather not have these things happening. But supposing (as recent events rather acutely suggest) that sometimes we cannot prevent these terrible incidents occurring, let us reflect on what is Corbyn’s preferred approach. His view is that the police should not to shoot the terrorists with the intention of killing them. He is not at all happy about that, he tells us. Presumably, in the event of an armed terror attack, the police are just to look really really sternly at the jihadis and shake their heads slowly but firmly. Given his recent comments that he’d never press the nuclear button (even if we came under attack) this shouldn’t be a surprise: noble Jez would lie back and take the bullets, dying with his pacifist principles intact. Which would be fine if he was just an irrelevant backbencher with a point to prove; but now he’s taking us all with him.
He was also questioned about whether or not he would bomb ISIS. The BBC reported that Corbyn “declined to answer what he called a “hypothetical question”of whether he would ever back military intervention against extremists”. First of all, in what way is it a hypothetical question? It is a clear and pressing matter of urgent international importance. It is about as hypothetical as deciding what to have for lunch. You may not have checked the contents of your fridge yet and it’s only 10am, but you have a pretty good idea of what’s on the menu. Moreover, let’s suppose it is a hypothetical question. Why on earth should than prevent the Leader of the Opposition answering? Almost every rational decision a politician embarking on war has to take involves a balancing of competing hypotheticals. Can he not cope with that? Of course he can. Try asking him a hypothetical about Israel: I bet he’ll give you a straight answer.
The answer was just dissembling doublespeak for: I wouldn’t intervene, but I don’t want to split my party yet.
But the real question I have at the end of all this is not about Corbyn – a principled pacifist who simply won’t be able to withstand the media telling the truth about his extremist views – but about the Labour Party. Where are the voices of all those loud, proud Labour MPs whose views are diametrically opposed from their leader and who represent voters and members who think he’s dangerous electorally and, much worse, a danger nationally? (And that’s a genuine, not a hypothetical, question). Where are they?
For the last few months they’ve kept quiet, saying he has a “mandate” and bringing him down now will make it “worse”. I’m beginning to think they’re wrong. Every time Corbyn speaks, the damage he does to Labour’s reputation on national security becomes closer than ever to irreparable.