Britain doesn’t do extremism. For decades, even centuries, this has been an important part of our national self-image. Our country, unlike much of Europe, overwhelmingly rejected the totalitarian appeal of both fascism and communism. The sound of jackboots was more likely to make us laugh than applaud or shudder in terror. Outside of Northern Ireland the view that political debates should be sorted by ballots, not bullets and bombs, has been almost universally upheld. Following last Thursday’s General Election this position is no longer credible. The gains made by the Labour Party mean that Jeremy Corbyn, a man who has openly sympathised with several terrorist groups and spent a career defending anti-Western dictatorships, is quite possibly our next Prime Minister. Many of those closest to him, an assortment of far-left cranks and fanatics, are even worse. The near universal consensus in UK politics, that violence and totalitarianism should always be rejected, no longer applies. British exceptionalism is dead, and by God we’re going to miss it.
Let’s start with political violence. One of the absolute taboos of British politics, since before WWII, has been that mainstream politicians don’t condone, sympathise with or apologise for those who carry out acts of violence for political purposes. Terrorists that is. They may on occasion have to meet and talk with them, as Major and Blair did with the IRA, but that’s a world away from appearing to approve of their actions. This taboo is at its most potent with reference to opposition politicians. To put it plainly the Tories offered nothing but condemnation to those who would use violence against Labour MPs, and the vast majority of the Labour Party returned the favour.
There were, however, exceptions. Shortly after the 1984 IRA attack on the Conservative Conference in Brighton, which killed five including a Tory MP, Corbyn invited several prominent republicans to visit Parliament. This was when the IRA and republican politicians were joined at the hip, and one of those invited had previously been sentenced to six years in prison for conspiracy to cause explosions. At the time Corbyn was a member of the editorial board of Labour Briefing, a fringe left-wing publication, whose first edition after the Brighton bombing stated that ‘the British only sit up and take notice when they are bombed into it’. The same edition also printed a letter praising the ‘audacity’ of the attack and asking ‘What do you call four dead Tories? A start’. Labour supporters shouldn’t underestimate how morally fucking appalled Conservatives are that Corbyn responded to the murder of a Tory MP, and attempted murder of the Prime Minister, in this manner.
Jeremy Corbyn and Gerry Adams pictured at a Republican Bobby Sands/Connolly memorial event.
Alas past sympathy for the IRA extends beyond Corbyn, whose associations have been detailed in depth by both myself and more experienced writers, to include key members of his team. In particular Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who’s enthusiasm for the IRA makes Corbyn look like an Orangeman, praised the ‘bombs and bullets’ of the IRA for bringing ‘Britain to the negotiating table’ and claimed that it was time to start ‘honouring’ those involved in the republican ‘armed struggle’ (IRA campaign). John McDonnell also praised the rioters who ‘kicked the shit’ out of the Millbank building containing the Conservative Party headquarters in 2011, and repeatedly called for ‘insurrection’ against the elected Government between 2010 and 2012.
Meanwhile some of those closest to Corbyn, and to a lesser extent the man himself, have shown a worrying level of sympathy towards socialist dictatorships (and indeed dictatorships in general provided they are anti-Western). Between 2009 and 2012 Corbyn was paid around £20,000 for appearing on Press TV, the English language propaganda channel of the Iranian Government, at a time when Iran was essentially a hostile power to the UK. Iran was (and remains) an authoritarian theocratic dictatorship. And one which, of particular note given the current fixation with the DUP’s considerably more moderate position, actually hangs homosexuals. At the time Press TV had lost its UK broadcasting licence after broadcasting the ‘confession’ of an opposition journalist who had been tortured. Concurrently Seamus Milne, now Corbyn’s communications director, spent a career covering for just about any authoritarian dictator (provided they claim to oppose the liberal-democratic-capitalist ‘West’) whilst Andrew Murray, who helped run Corbyn’s election campaign, was until a few months ago a key member of the Leninist Communist Party of Britain who has expressed ‘solidarity’ with the tyrannical North Korean regime.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell speaking beneath a flag of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) at a rally in London on 1 May 2017.
Jeremy Corbyn has a good chance of becoming our next Prime Minister. Should Brexit talks turn sour, as they may well, and the economy suffer it seems likely that the public may well turn to Labour. But Corbyn’s mild mannered appearance, his understated humour and fondness for drain covers, disguise something rather more sinister. Corbyn and his allies have demolished the convention that those at the top of British politics utterly and unequivocally condemn political violence. Indeed some of his close allies have done so to such an extent that, when coupled with their consistent sympathy for certain dictatorships, it’s reasonable to ask what their attitude to Parliamentary democracy really is. Conservatives should be sure not to reply in kind. Our hostility to the far-right must remain absolute and unequivocal. But it’s also time for every Labour MP to answer a crucial question. Are you really, given his past associations and those of his team, prepared to support Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister? Because for the first time it feels like it really could happen.