Why is no one challenging Jeremy Corbyn on foreign policy?

Jeremy Corbyn's leadership bid was supposed to inspire debate, yet none of the other candidates have challenged him on foreign policy

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s latest opinion on foreign policy is that the UK should show more respect to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Like his other announcements, they are going unchallenged by his rivals in the Labour leadership contest.

Like French far-right leader Marine Le Penn and UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Corbyn thinks that NATO, rather than Vladimir Putin, is at fault for the crisis in Ukraine.

Indeed, Stop the War Coalition, of which Corbyn is chair, regularly pushes pieces so blinkered they could well have been written by the Kremlin itself, such as the ridiculously titled ‘Why the United States launched its proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.’

Moreover, Corbyn expressed regret that Poland was allowed to join NATO, claiming that, ‘We should have gone down the road Ukraine went down in 1990’ (because that has worked out so well).

There’s more. Corbyn’s associations with anti-Semites include: his ‘friends’ Hamas and Hezbollah, his praise for a blood-libel-spreading, 9/11 conspiracy theorist Islamist preacher, who he even invited to take tea on the terrace of the House of Commons, moonlighting for George Galloway on Iranian government propaganda channel Press TV, allegedly donating money to a pressure group run by a holocaust denier and deemed too extreme by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and defending a priest who shared on social media an article entitled ‘9/11: Israel did it’.

As far as I am aware, none of the current Labour leadership contenders have sought to challenge Corbyn’s views on these issues.

It is staggering that Labour Party figures accuse Corbyn of wanting to return to the days of British Leyland or a ‘Soviet-style’ economy simply for wanting to bring the railways into public ownership (something Andy Burnham claims to support), but will say nothing about his repeated association with anti-Semitic figures or his anti-NATO, pro-Russia, pro-Hamas, pro-Hezbollah stances.

Even in Alistair Campbell’s blog urging people to vote for anyone but Corbyn, there is no proper attempt to challenge Corbyn’s ideology; he simply says Corbyn would be bad for the Labour Party.

If Corbyn can still be defeated it will only be through convincing the party members and supporters why he is wrong – not simply saying he is wrong over and over again.

Whether one agrees with him or not, to the vast majority of people Corbyn comes across as a genuine character, with deeply held convictions (and a record for being the most rebellious Labour MP to back this up). He speaks to Labour members and supporters outraged by the fact the party leadership made such a mess on the welfare bill. Like them, he opposed it and like them, he does not want to tack further to the right.

It is perfectly understandable that party members and supporters are more inclined to vote for someone who comes across as a conviction politician – someone who talks about wanting to turn the party back into a social movement – rather than vote for someone based on whether or not the Tories will fear them.

Put bluntly, people voting for Corbyn know he will not do a Nick Clegg.

By contrast, rival candidates come across as though they are continuing Ed Miliband’s strategy of Balkanising voters: thinking that if they can simply say the right thing to different groups of supporters then they will secure their nominations – clearly this did not work for Ed and is failing epically at present.

There are very serious arguments to be had over many of Corbyn’s views and it’s puzzling that his rival candidates haven’t offered a more extensive critique of them; simply attempting to scare party members into not voting for Corbyn, just saying that he is bad, has failed.

Several MPs claimed they were backing Corbyn not because they support him, but in order to ‘broaden the debate.’ Even at this late stage, can we actually have that debate?

Lorin Bell-Cross is a researcher at BICOM and assistant editor of Fathom Journal. He is writing in a personal capacity. Follow him on Twitter.

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