Mea Culpa Maxima! I was wrong about Jeremy Corbyn. I’m Sorry

Humble pie is the dish of the week. The relish with which it is being served is almost as great as the delight with which some are eating it.

As one who stridently predicted that Corbyn would lead Labour to a historic defeat, there has been a fair amount of pie chez Kirby this week. So forgive the excessive use of the perpendicular pronoun.

Justifying mistakes is an inelegant pursuit. I will not attempt to excuse my mistakes. I hope I am big enough not only to admit them but also learn from them.

There is something else I am sorry about. It is that, when I criticised Jeremy Corbyn, I did so on the grounds of competence and electability. I am sorry that pragmatism obscured my beliefs.  

Schadenfraude is not my thing so let me make one thing clear: winning seats from the Tories changes nothing. Corbyn is not fit to be prime minister and the moral indifference to his profound failings from new converts is - putting it lightly - disappointing.

truth is one of the pillars of democracy

During the election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn was asked about his past connections with the Provisional IRA. Repeatedly, he said that he was trying to search for peace. Yet he opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985.

Compromise is inherent in any peace process but Corbyn put his belief in a united Ireland - not a dishonourable position in itself - second to the cause of peace and democracy: he may not have gloried in slaughter but he only advocated an end to violence on his terms. Thus, while the constitutional nationalist party, the SDLP, voted in favour, he allied with the extreme Sinn Fein to oppose.  

He may have condemned IRA violence but equally he has entered morally dangerous territory by equating actions of the British army with a terrorist organisation that murdered as a matter of policy. He argued the only way to secure an end to violence was an united Ireland. The hand of history - and Tony Blair and Jonathan Powell - proved him wrong. The idea that he contributed to this is grossly insulting.

Corbyn is trying to rewrite history. Bread and butter issues, such as tuition fees and the NHS, may win votes but truth is one of the pillars of democracy. There is little difference between Corbyn’s explanations on Ulster and Donald Trump’s dishonest claim to have opposed the Iraq War.

On foreign policy, Corbyn assumes the mantle of morality but offers no more than simplistic platitudes. When questioned about whether he would use Trident, he replied that he wanted to create the circumstances where it would not be necessary to use it. Disingenuous at best, it is the answer of one who has never had to grapple with anything but utopia.

He claimed to have been on the right side of history because he voted against the Iraq War and intervention in Libya but he also opposed Blair's intervention in Kosovo, denying the genocide of Slobodan Milosevic. He opposed British intervention in Sierra Leone, preferring a UN solution. He said the same about Syria in 2015, then when there was a UN resolution he opposed it anyway.

Any internationalist should surely want to intervene to stop indiscriminate slaughter. The question should be the nature of our intervention not the necessity of intervention itself.

If Corbyn is happy in his opposition to humanitarian intervention, he then needs to explain how he would stop human rights abusing leaders, such as Qadaffi, from committing mass murder. All Corbyn does is fall back on platitudes.

After the Manchester bomb, he claimed that foreign intervention in the Middle East had fuelled terrorism in Europe. But it is the Stop the War coalition, of which Corbyn was chair, that helps to frame extremists' grievances by defining such interventions as neo-imperialist. The hypocrisy is matched by the faintly conservative “realism” of the argument: we should not act abroad on humanitarian grounds because we potentially endanger ourselves. It is hardly George Orwell.

Most of all, the idea that there is a single cause for terrorist attacks is staggering in its myopia. Corbyn denies the complexities of extremism to create a narrative that fits his own ideology.

Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion

It is absurd for the left to attack Liam Fox over his comments about Rodrigo Duerte when Corbyn - with all the unconstrained freedom of a backbencher - himself praised Iran’s “tolerance”. It is ridiculous for them to attack Theresa May for allying herself with the DUP when its leader has stood on platforms with terrorists, misogynists and homophobes. It is laughable for them to attack the bigotry of Nigel Farage when antisemitism goes unpunished in the Labour party. 

Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion. But again, again, again and again Corbyn has allied himself with those who agree with his anti-capitalist agenda whatever their bigoted views.

The pretence that these are right-wing smears neglects that people such as Peter Tatchell have criticised Corbyn for his associations and inaction. If human rights themselves are indivisible, then surely a belief in human dignity should be absolute not just convenient. Not for Corbyn. Ideology trumps the human.

Attlee served under Churchill in World War Two. Ernest Bevin oversaw Britain’s nuclear deterence. Michael Foot condemned Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands. The idea that Corbynism represents Labour going back to its roots is just miserable in its conceit.

None of this may matter to some now Corbyn stands closer to power than ever before. But it does to me. I’m sorry I did not make that clearer before.

Graham Kirby

More about the author

About the author

Educated at Durham University and UCL, Graham is Disclaimer's editor and a regular contributor. He has written for numerous publications including Tribune, Out Magazine and Vice. He has also contributed to two books of political counterfactuals for Biteback Media, Prime Minister Boris (2011) and Prime Minister Corbyn (2016).

A democratic republican lefty, he struggles daily with the conflict between his ingrained senses of idealism and pragmatism.

Follow Graham on Twitter.

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