Jeremy Corbyn, Member of Parliament for Islington North, was recently elected leader of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, initiating a dramatic lurch to the left for that party. Some see him as the British Bernie Sanders, both avowed socialists who came out of nowhere to receive unexpectedly large degrees of support.
Yet unlike Sanders, Corbyn espouses a number of positions and attitudes that are, quite frankly, deeply disturbing given his newfound prominence in British politics. If ever acted upon, his positions would seriously undermine the stability of modern Britain as well as the long-cherished Anglo-American friendship.
Corbyn seeks to move the Labour Party from the Tony Blair-style social democracy it has generally embraced in the post-Thatcher decades back to the committed and avowed socialism of the 1970s. He seeks to nationalize all railroads, banks and utilities. He even wants to “reopen the coal mines closed by Margaret Thatcher,” as noted in a Washington Post editorial.
The Labour Party under Corbyn seems committed to refighting the battles of the 1970s and 80s. Of course, the public sector trade union policies of the 1970s Labour government led to the Winter of Discontent of 1978 to 1979, when hospitals treated only emergency patients, corpses went unburied and refuse collected in London’s parks and squares.
During Thatcher’s government, the miner’s union strike of 1984 to 1985 represented a concerted and powerful attempt by organized labor to force the government to continue to subsidize an unprofitable industry. Yet Corbyn apparently thinks these events are only bumps in the road for an otherwise sound economic plan. The return to outdated, failed industrial policies is not good for the Labour Party and it is not good for Britain.
Far more frightening are Corbyn’s statements regarding foreign policy. Corbyn wants to withdraw from both NATO and the European Union and primarily blames U.S. expansionism through NATO for the crisis in Ukraine, rather than the Russian invasion of the Crimea and Russia’s shipping of arms to eastern rebels. Corbyn has referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” although he has since said he meant it in a throwaway, offhand way. However, he insists we must continue to negotiate with these groups as a vital part of the peace process with Israel.
It does not matter to Corbyn that these are both terrorist groups that continue to attack Israel and have called for a Jewish genocide; these are people he wants at the peace table. Corbyn chairs the Stop the War Coalition, a group that opposes all military action affiliated with the War on Terror. In the midst of the Iraq War, this group, as reported in The Guardian, issued a statement that “reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognizes once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary [italics mine], to secure such ends.”
The man endorsed any and whatever means used by Iraqi insurgents. Evidently, armed insurgency, car bombings, perhaps even terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States would all have been justified in his book if the Iraqi insurgents deemed them necessary.
Whatever one’s thoughts on the Iraq War, these comments are unacceptable. Were all these statements not enough, Corbyn stated the unthinkable while commenting on ISIS: “Yes they are brutal, yes some of what they have done is quite appalling. Likewise, what the Americans did in Fallujah and other places is appalling…” Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, likened the American military to ISIS. Of course, some of the conduct of our servicemen abroad during that conflict was disgraceful and disturbing, but to compare our military to a group who is beheading religious minorities, burning men alive, throwing homosexuals from towers and conducting crucifixions is the grossest of false equivalencies.
Yet the flood of resignations from Labour’s shadow cabinet in the wake of Corbyn’s election is a good sign. Hopefully, the more responsible members of the party will be able to salvage this distressing situation and restore more competent leadership. If he manages to hold onto control until 2020, let us hope the analysts are right and he is doomed in a general election. The international order cannot bear that man at the helm of our greatest ally in Europe.
Brian McCarty is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.