As Damian Green writes this morning, politics is a choice. Indeed, British politics is a more stark choice than it has been for some decades – on tax and spending, on economic policy, and on the fundamental question of freedom versus statism.
It is remarkable that one challenge of taking on the Corbyn-led Labour Party is that there are so many reasons to be concerned about its views that things that would ordinarily be serious and major scandals are downgraded due to the sheer quantity of them. The links to and approving comments about terrorist organisations, both here and abroad. The barmy and damaging attacks on business and wealth creation. The re-emergence of anti-semitism in frontline British politics. The sustained apologism for vile and violent dictatorships.
It is the latter issue that is the current focus for much of the press, sparked by Maduro’s latest round of election-rigging, beatings of protesters and kidnapping of opposition leaders in Venezuela. As this site has repeatedly reported, Corbyn and those around him have a long and unlovely history of lavishing praise on Chavismo – despite the fact the trajectory of this strong-man socialism was obvious from the outset. Even as the evidence of abuses of power grew, they carried on citing Venezuela as proof that “another way is possible” and as an inspiration for a socialist “alternative” in Britain. Now that the nature of the regime can no longer be denied even by such slavish fans, they are trying to simply ignore it.
There was a truly extraordinary moment on Newsnight last night, when Chris Williamson, a close Corbyn ally and shadow minister, refused to say whether he thought himself closer ideologically to Chavez and Maduro, or to Tony Blair. Imagine it – not being able to identify more closely with a democratically elected Prime Minister of this country, indeed of your own party, than with a thuggish collectivist tyrant on the other side of the world.
The truly troubling thing is that it was extraordinary but not a surprise. Even after all that has gone on in Venezuela of late, the Labour Party’s only comment on the matter has been to call on “all sides” to stop fighting – as though the civilian pro-democracy protesters were morally equal to the heavily armed tyranny which is fighting and killing them.
For the good of Britain, and many others around the world, the Opposition must not be allowed to get away with this. Our country must be a champion of freedom in all circumstances – to do so means upping our own game in foreign relations (particularly on Saudi Arabia), but also defeating at home those who would cast our nation as an ally of any tyrant, terrorist or thug so long as they cite the requisite left-wing, anti-American verses. Politics is indeed a choice.