I don’t have a vote because although I’m a member of an affiliated organisation (which has sent me a mailshot about the election) I didn’t register for a vote because I am a member of the Scottish Green Party. So I’m just waiting for 12th September, like everyone else who doesn’t qualify for a vote, which is 99.0472% of the population of the UK.
610,753 people do have a vote, and according to most polls the majority currently plan to vote Jeremy Corbyn.
The direct and straightforward method of just telling the 600K+ not to vote for Corbyn lest Doom Ensue will of course be tried: Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have both speechified that Corbyn will destroy the Labour Party forever and ever if he wins.
But a more effective method is to launch the idea that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t a nice person: that he ignored reports of child abuse, he’s pro-IRA, he’s pro-terrorist and anti-Semitic, he’s a pro-Putin Russian apologist, and he was responsible for some squatters disturbing Janet Daley in the 1970s (That’s all of the smears I’m currently aware of. I’m sure there’ll be more.)
All the people who do not want Jeremy Corbyn to be elected leader of the Labour Party, and – if he is elected – who will want to destroy his political career and ensure there’s a by-election in Islington North before 2017, will want to present Jeremy Corbyn to the electorate as a person who for thirty-three years has been presenting himself to the Labour Party and to the voters in Islington as a social-democratic moderate, the kind of person who’s kind to pigeons and uses public transport to get to work, but who is really so evil that he should be a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule to the whole of the UK.
We can assume, given the content of the smears so far, that Jeremy Corbyn has never cheated on any of his wives (he’s been married three times and divorced twice but there don’t seem to be any negative stories coming from either of his ex-wives) or misappropriated money or even kicked puppies. His MP expenses record is so clean that in other circumstances the Telegraph would be praising him as one of the saints.
The oligarchs who own most of the British press don’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be elected. They didn’t want Ed Miliband elected either – most of them are non-doms and Miliband had come out in support of Leveson’s reforms – but from their perspective, one Corbyn would be even worse than two Milibands.
Pundits, politicians, and pirates of the right who prefer the Overton Window just where it is and don’t want Jeremy Corbyn moving political discourse in the UK leftward.
The Labour MPs who are happy with the party as Tony Blair made it, who think the Iraq war was a good thing and extremism is another name for Islam, who think talking about left-wing politics too much loses you votes: they really don’t want Corbyn elected.
It would be wrong to assume that Jeremy Corbyn is flawless. He’s been a Labour Party politician now since 1974, over forty years: I have no doubt that he has in that time done and said things I wouldn’t agree with. And while probably if there were any major scandals lurking in his closet forty years would have got them into the press at some point, the absence of evidence for any such scandals doesn’t mean there weren’t any: just that so far, failing any evidence of any scandal, the British press, pundits, politicians, pirates, and Labour MPs are all making hay out of nothing.
Dealing with these in reverse order of evidence:
Smear #1: Corbyn is a pro-Putin Russian apologist
The accusation that Jeremy Corbyn is a Russian apologist appears to be sourced in an interview Jeremy Corbyn did with Russia Today on 17th June. Corbyn never mentions Russia during the interview, though they discuss the Iraq war. The Guardian’s Media Monkey suggests “the red terror hysteria” derives from “an overenthusiastic headline writer at the Times”: “Corbyn hints at closer ties to Russia in rethink of security”, which
seems to have interpreted the original article’s restrained intro (“Britain should try harder to get on with its international opponents and treat them with more respect, Jeremy Corbyn has told Russia Today”), coupled with Corbyn’s appearance on a channel not known for its balanced attitude towards the west, as an indication he wanted to invite Vladimir Putin round for tea.
The interview itself is excellent: well worth a listen.
Smear #2: Corbyn is pro-IRA
The accusation that Corbyn is pro-IRA is sourced in meetings held in the Houses of Parliament, hosted by Jeremy Corbyn, with Gerry Adams and other Sinn Féin members with spent convictions. Betty Boothroyd was once asked to investigate a complaint that one of them had been allowed to go to the lavatory unsupervised and had stayed there for 20 minutes. Andrew Neil points out to Corbyn on his Sunday Politics show on 19th July – that a properly loyal British MP would not have been objectively pro-peace process in November 1984.
For that is Corbyn’s real sin with regard to Northern Ireland: that he was in favour of peace and an end to the Troubles years before the SDLP and then members of John Major’s government met in secret with Gerry Adams, keeping their peace planning secret because Major depended on the DUP to keep his tiny-majority Tory government from falling.
Jeremy Corbyn said
“I maintained contact with Sinn Fein and believed that there had to be a political, not a military, solution to the situation in Northern Ireland.”
By 2013, this belief was so uncontroversial that David Cameron could celebrate it publicly. In 1984, it was hugely controversial. In 2015, the Spectator and the Telegraph are trying to take proof of Corbyn being right, and knowing it, and sticking to what he knew was right, in the face of popular opposition, and in the end being proved completely right as first John Major and then Tony Blair follow through on the political solution to the Troubles – as “evidence” that he’s pro-IRA.
The smear process began when Stephen Nolan, on BBC Radio Ulster, asked Corbyn if he would condemn only the IRA bombings. The Belfast Telegraph (owned by Denis O’Brien, incidentally) reported this as Corbyn refusing to condemn the IRA, when in fact Jeremy Corbyn responded:
“I condemn all bombing, it is not a good idea, and it is terrible what happened.”
So, not pro-IRA, then. Just uncomfortably right about the peace process and ahead of his time in being so.
Smear #3: Corbyn is anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist
That Corbyn is anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist is the straightforward tactic of guilt by association.
As discussed in his interview with Russia Today, Corbyn was one of the few MPs prescient enough to see that while Saddam Hussein was a brute and his regime was awful – at a time when many politicians were cheerfully supporting the political realism of selling arms to Iraq – the war on Iraq by the US would achieve nothing good with or without UK support.
He has also steadily supported the Israeli/Palestinian peace process.
Corbyn’s been attacked on these grounds before.
On 29th June 2011, a meeting took place in the Houses of Parliament, “Building Peace and Justice in Jerusalem”, sponsored by Corbyn and hosted by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, of which Corbyn is a member. One of the speakers invited to this event was Raed Salah Abu Shakra, born in Umm al-Fahm, the largest Muslim city in Israel, just west of the West Bank. Raed Salah has three times been elected mayor of Umm al-Fahm: he was also jailed for two years for raising money for Hamas. (Hamas’ extensive social and welfare services are estimated in World Policy Journal as having an annual budget of between $50-70 million US dollars.)
On 21st June 2011, the Community Security Trust emailed a report prepared by Michael Whine to Theresa May: the report included quotes and other material which had been edited to insert anti-Semitic remarks, and which framed Raed Salah as a dangerous anti-Semite. (There is no suggestion that the CST or Michael Whine doctored the quotes or knew that the quotes had been doctored.) On receiving this report, and aware that Raed Salah had been invited to this meeting on “Building Peace and Justice in Jerusalem”, Theresa May instructed the UK Border Agency to find reasons to ban Raed Salah from the UK.
Michael Weiss, Research Director of The Henry Jackson Society, a British neoconservative anti-Muslim think-tank that receives large donations from undeclared corporate sources, wrote venomously in the Telegraph on 29th June:
“Hats off to Theresa May for throwing the frothing hate-cleric Raed Salah into jail, where he now awaits deportation back to Israel.”
Jeremy Corbyn provided support to Raed Salah, believing him to have been unjustly accused on the basis of false information, and on 26th September 2011, Corbyn was proved right: the UK Border Agency dropped their case against Raed Salah, accepting that the evidence against him had been manufactured.
You might ask, whatever the evidence against him, why did Jeremy Corbyn want Raed Salah to attend a meeting on “Building Peace and Justice in Jerusalem”? Raed Salah had direct experience of united Jewish-Arab action for peace.
Raed Salah was last elected Mayor of Umm al-Fahm in 1997. In 1998, as recorded in Issue No. 86 (October/November 1998) of the Newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, the citizens of Umm al-Fahm met with a violent response to their protests against a planned land-grab:
For three days the town was a battlefield; several hundred inhabitants were wounded, some of them severely, by the semi-military “Border Guards” using clubs, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and in at least some cases live ammunition – as brutal as they could come without actually killing somebody.
Very soon, members of various peace groups made their way to the area, to bear witness and express solidarity – first from nearby Kibbutzim, followed by delegations from Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem organised by the Hadash Communists, Gush Shalom, Peace Now, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Democratic Women and Bat Shalom. All were stunned by the police brutality, some became personally embroiled in the confrontations, getting more than a whiff of tear gas (the already experienced locals offered onions, smelling which seems to be an effective antidote).
Dozens of activists from Peace Now and Gush Shalom, joining local youths in a vigil with banners reading No to Confiscations – No to Racism! were doused to the core by police water cannons turned on them, and chased by the relentless police for more than a kilometre – a large group remaining together throughout the chase, Jews and Arabs chanting in unison ‘Today, we are all Umm-El-Fahm!’ even while the Border Guards wielded their batons.
Members of the Israeli High school Teachers Union were also caught in one of the riots – subsequently publishing a sharply-worded condemnation of the government, very rare for this usually strictly “non-political union”; and the twelve visiting Labour Knesset Members denounced the police’s conduct as “shocking and shameful” and demanded an impartial investigation.
The compromise with which the clashes ended represents at least a partial victory for the townspeople: while the confiscation is not abolished, the army would not take possession for the next three months, and the landowners would be free to complete the olive harvest. With a modicum of common sense, the government should quietly let this status-quo continue indefinitely, rather then risk a repeated outbreak next January.
To demonstrate the continuing solidarity, the olive harvest was carried out on October 9 as joint Jewish-Arab action. A full Gush Shalom bus arrived, as well as a caravan of more than sixty cars, many of them from the Kibbutz Movement. Conspicuous among the olive-pickers was Giora Forman, veteran combat pilot and former Deputy Commander of the Israeli Air Force, who warmly shook hands with the owners of the land.
Alan Johnson, who works for the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (a pro-Israel lobbying body) wrote in Left Foot Forward in June that Corbyn wouldn’t get his vote, because
Labour’s best traditions also include anti-fascism and internationalism while your support – to me, inexplicable and shameful – for the fascistic and antisemitic forces of Hezbollah and Hamas flies in the face of those traditions. In particular, your full-throated cheer-leading for the vicious antisemitic Islamist Raed Salah is a deal-breaker.
Johnson then repeats the various doctored quotes produced in 2011 to justify banning Raed Salah from the UK, which were shown to be false a few months later. Johnson doesn’t appear to be aware that they were proved to be edited to introduce anti-Semitism: nor does he reference the 1998 joint Jewish-Arab peace action in Umm al-Fahm, in response to Israeli police brutality: perhaps this kind of thing never interested him. Alan Johnson seems to regard the blog Harry’s Place as a useful direct source on Raed Salah.
Criticism of Israel should not be assumed to be anti-Semitic. Criticism of and opposition to Israeli government policy should never be assumed to be anti-Semitic: as the list of Israeli-Jewish organisations in the quote above indicates, there are many, many Israeli Jews who stand in opposition to their government’s treatment of Muslim citizens of Israel like Raed Salah, and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
Raed Salah was brutally traduced with doctored quotes and lies. Jeremy Corbyn’s support of Raed Salah when he was – as even the UK Border Agency agreed – unjustly banned from entering the UK, has been used to paint him as an anti-Semite, both now and in the past.
[Update: In March 2014, Raed Salah was sentenced to eight months in jail for incitement to violence in a speech he made in 2007. Last night a Channel 4 interviewer appeared to feel Jeremy Corbyn should have been aware that Raed Salah was to be arrested, charged, and convicted in 2014, and refused to support Raed Salah in 2011. The conviction appears to have been part of attempts by the Netanyahu government to outlaw the Islamic Movement in Israel of which Raed Salah is a leading member. Channel 4 video in the comments.]
- Fling mud if you must, but don’t call Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite
- Mail Corbyn Holocaust Smear Busted
- On Louise Mensch’s attempt to smear Corbyn as anti-Semitic by association
- And a thoughtful critique of Jeremy Corbyn’s connections: Jeremy Corbyn and his friends
Smear #4: Corbyn ignored child abuse
On 23rd July, Labour MP for Bassetlaw since 2001, John Mann, wrote an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn:
At an event I hosted this year in Parliament of 200 child abuse and exploitation survivors, we received public testimony of the scale of abuse in Islington from a whistle-blower who was a leading light in uncovering child abuse in Islington during the 1980s and early 1990s. This social worker confirmed to me that she and others met with you in the early 1990s to raise her concerns about child abuse and cover-ups in Islington. You said that you would raise the matter with Virginia Bottomley, then at the Department of Health, but no indication of whether you followed this up was ever given.
In 1986 MP Geoffrey Dickens [Tory MP from 1979 to 1995] raised serious concerns about child abuse in Islington.
Your response was to complain to the Speaker about him visiting your constituency without informing you. I have faced such complaints myself in pursuing corruption issues.
John Mann has form in calling out the abuse committed by Liberal MP Cyril Smith. Jeremy Corbyn was far from being the only MP who didn’t take Geoffrey Dickens’s accusations of high-level paedophilia seriously (Tam Dalyell acknowledges he suspected Dickens of “mere publicity-seeking, perhaps in collusion with a tabloid”): Dickens’s habit of “mis-saying “fido-pilia” did not help his cause” – he was “dismissed as a joke.”
Dickens was right and Jeremy Corbyn was wrong. That doesn’t make Corbyn pro-child abuse: it means, like many other politicians at the time, he catastrophically failed to take seriously the reports we now recognise as valid. I don’t see any excuse for this, and I’m sorry to say it: in this instance, Jeremy Corbyn was wrong, and I hope he’ll acknowledge that.
Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East since 2001, hopefully soon to be Corbyn’s deputy leader, was viciously attacked in 2012 for using Parliamentary privilege to talk of a ‘powerful paedophile ring’ with links all the way up to Number Ten Downing Street: you can still listen to Andrew Neil attacking Harriet Harman over Watson’s actions.
Tom Watson admitted honestly two years after he stood up in the House of Commons and became the foremost MP to attack paedophile coverups at Westminster, that had he been told “10 years ago”
that senior members of the establishment used to systematically abuse young boys in the 1980s, and that a powerful elite covered up their crimes, he wouldn’t have believed it for a minute.
“Oh no, I would have dismissed it. I was a very believing, small-‘c’ conservative individual who had trust in a lot of public institutions, and believed everything I was told by politicians.” Then came the phone-hacking scandal, however, in which Watson played a chief investigative role. “I lost faith in a lot of individuals, having come through that, and I’m a much more sceptical person at the end of it.”
John Mann is, I don’t doubt, honestly aggrieved that MPs in the 1980s and 1990s were less willing and less likely than today to believe that the victims of child abuse were credible and their reports should be acted on. So am I.
But I am quite sure also that Mann is aware that in picking on Jeremy Corbyn as the par example of the MP who didn’t listen, he isn’t doing so because Corbyn is the worst example: he’s doing so because Corbyn is surging ahead in the Labour leadership election and John Mann wanted to be in the contest but couldn’t get the nominations.
No, not quite.
Smear #5: Jeremy Corbyn said Osama bin Laden’s death was a tragedy
This from the Daily Mail is so blatant a lie it’s almost funny.
What Jeremy Corbyn actually said in 2011 was:
“There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest him and put him on trial, to go through that process”. He went on: “This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy.
“The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died. Torture has come back on to the world stage, been canonised virtually into law by Guantánamo and Bagram.
“Can’t we learn some lessons from this? Are we just going to sink deeper and deeper?
“The next stage will be an attempted assassination on Gaddafi and so it will go on. This will just make the world more dangerous and worse and worse and worse.”
Interestingly enough, Paddy Ashdown said exactly the same thing as Jeremy Corbyn: Osama bin Laden should have been tried, not summarily executed.
Seymour M. Hersh wrote of the events in 2011: the US assassination of Osama Bin Laden appears to have been a political killing, in part because of the political complications of putting a Saudi national, a prisoner of the Pakistani military, on trial for his crimes: and in part because killing Osama bin Laden was electorally good for Barack Obama. Jeremy Corbyn can have known nothing of this – Seymour M. Hersh published his investigative account in May this year – but, as Peter Oborne pointed out:
Most people would agree that on the most intractable foreign policy issues of our time Corbyn has tended to be right and the British establishment has tended to be wrong. What Corbyn does or thinks today is likely to be vindicated a few years later. Hard though it is for the British establishment to stomach, Corbyn’s foreign policy ideas have generally been more balanced and far-sighted than those of his opponents.
Gaddafi was assassinated in October 2011, a few months after Jeremy Corbyn’s comment.