30 July 2015

Jeremy Corbyn’s greatest hits


With a private poll putting Jeremy Corbyn ahead in the Labour leadership race by 20 points, and the major trade union Unison endorsing the anti-establishment candidate, it’s clear that the MP for Islington North (my constituency, incidentally) is not going anywhere any time soon. The Corbyn obsession is beginning to morph into mythology, with tales of how he once petitioned Tony Blair to move the Royal family out of Buckingham Palace and into a “more modest” dwelling, and Tristram Hunt calling him “the Syriza of Britain” (and not in a good way). Now that Corbyn looks like the favourite to win, here’s a selection of his views on topics from trains to terrorists, entirely in his own words.

On Nato, Russia and Ukraine

“The EU and Nato have now become the tools of US policy in Europe.

On Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion. But it is not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied.

And there are huge questions around the West’s intentions in Ukraine.

The obsession with cold war politics that exercises the Nato and EU leaderships is fuelling the crisis and underlines the case for a whole new approach to foreign policy.”

On the IRA

Last week, Corbyn was photographed with Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, in a meeting reminiscent of 1986, when he met with convicted IRA terrorists three weeks after the Brighton bomb. Here’s his altercation with BBC presenter Andrew Neil:

Corbyn: “They were former prisoners who had come out of prison, women who had come out of prison to Parliament, actually to a meeting that had been arranged long before, to talk about prison conditions and rehabilitation of prisoners. Is there anything wrong with that since they had a spent conviction?”

Neill: “Their organisation had just tried to blow up the British Government, did you not think about that?”

Corbyn: “Of course I thought about it and I wanted a peace process.

I do believe ultimately that Ireland should be reunited, but I also never believed there was going to be a military victory for either side in Northern Ireland.”

On Hamas and Hezbollah

When called out for his use of the word “friends” when welcoming representatives from the terrorist organisations Hamas and Hexbollah, Corbyn’s defence was:

“I’m saying that people I talk to, I use it in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk

I spoke at a meeting about the Middle East crisis in parliament and there were people there from Hezbollah and I said I welcomed our friends from Hezbollah to have a discussion and a debate, and I said I wanted Hamas to be part of that debate.”

On nationalisation

“The 1997 Labour Government refused to renationalise the Railways.

In a few short years, we had gone from an efficient if under-resourced public corporation to the highest ever level of subsidy and the most profitable operators in Europe. Incidentally, the fare levels are amongst the highest.

The case for taking the leasing companies into public ownership is overwhelming.”

On austeriy and tax

“Austerity is about political choices, not economic necessities.

Paying tax is not a burden. It is the subscription we pay to live in a civilised society.”

On Venezuela

It is pretty clear to most that Venezuela’s socialist experiment, where people queue in the streets for toilet paper and hospitals lack basic medicines, is a failure. Corbyn has other ideas:

On Marxism

“I haven’t really read as much of Marx as I should have done. A bit but not that much. Marx’s transition of history and the analysis of how you go from feudalism to capitalism and move on to a different stage is fascinating. We all owe something to it. Probably inside you even you do. I think you do.”

Maybe he should do a bit more reading before making too many assumptions.

Rachel Cunliffe is Deputy Editor of CapX.