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.

Like this article? Left Foot Forward relies on support from readers to sustain our progressive journalism. Can you become a supporter for £5 a month?

241 Responses to “Why is no one challenging Jeremy Corbyn on foreign policy?”

  1. yougottaproblemwiddat

    The shame is Britain having to look to Hamas for an example of positive social work.
    Once, briefly, Britain was the example others looked up to.

  2. AlexisWolf

    DemSoc93, well said thank you. It seems to me that anyone who writes about JC being anti Semitic or being ‘friends’ with the likes of Hamas is on the same level as the red tops. It is as revealing of the author as to LFF where their agenda lies. It is no wonder that with every attempted puerile smear under the guise of “very serious argument” that it just boosts JC’s lead. Keep writing, keep talking.

  3. Cole

    Jeez. Sounds like you might be supporting Corbyn.

  4. Faerieson

    Well, you’re not fighting Tories now.

    As an interested Corbynite, I would say that his appeal has a lot to do with suggesting an alternative to this awful adherence to a neoliberal agenda, whereby inequality accelerates, rather than is ever challenged. We look to groups like Labour to lead this challenge, not to act as apologists for its continuation. The self-serving Blair stands as irrefutable evidence, as to precisely how divided we have already become.

  5. laffin4j3zuz

    To all the Israel defenders https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpQdg4D78Jc Worse than Bliar and Campbell.

  6. Cole

    I’m fighting to make sure we don’t have a Tory government for decades to come – which is precisely what will happen if Corbyn is elected. But maybe you don’t care because you’re too busy hawking your conscience around.

  7. Fred Wyropiquet

    wildcolonialboy rejected:
    “after 9/11 we should have sat on our hands and not sought to remove the Al Qaeda training bases in Afghanistan?”
    There never was the opportunity to do that. Blair brilliantly got international support for Bush to do the one thing that made sense. Without Blair, Bush would have dropped (big) bombs on anyone, anywhere in a frenetic attempt to avenge 9/11. Afghanistan was the one true target with international support and a realschance of doing good. Of course the USA made a total hash of capturing Bin Laden and others and then decided to add Iraq to the list. Too many people, Corbyn at the top of the list, think that, because war is bad, all who go to war are evil and do evil. And fail to ask what would have happened without the war. Regretably what would have frequently happened is another war – sometime a war worse than the one actually fought.

  8. Faerieson

    Maybe I care more than you think! I certainly care enough not to want another Blair Tory lite. Now that he’s left office, as a multi-millionaire, what would we say was his legacy?

    Your route might see a Labour government, but who would notice the difference? It certainly won’t be addressing the inequalty issue, probably instead hoping to cash in!

  9. Shan

    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.

    Agreed. Nor will he be defeated by silly bits of twisted smear.

    # Of course he will be willing to talk to Putin. Russia is a world power. Cameron has to talk to Putin too.
    # Hamas and Hezbollah are both groups Corbyn has said loud and clear he deeply disagrees with. But as a senior statesman and skilled diplomat he was willing to talk with them. ‘Friend’ is a diplomat style courtesy. Twisting such clear facts is dishonest.
    # Corbyn has never said or done anything anti-Semitic. The supposed association with a Holocausr denier is a claim made by the denier only. Anyone can say they have an association, or a letter – if so where is this letter? It’s never been produced.

    # Galloway has said he supports Corbyn. Corbyn has not said he supports Galloway.
    # Corbyn is openly against NATO and he’s far from the only one. There’s a lot of British people don’t like being an American poodle. Nor do they like pouring billions into American weapons of mass destruction. Especially when other European states don’t have to. Our government is impoverished because we have to pay out so much for American arms and bases,

    Now if you want to attack Corbyn do it honestly, based on real information.

  10. stevep

    We had a Tory government for decades, it was first called Conservative and then New Labour.
    Britain has moved too far to the right in a sort of “Bad cop”, good cop” semi-one party state since 1979.
    At least Jeremy Corbyn will seek to redress the balance if he becomes leader.
    Don`t be too sure about him keeping Labour out of power for decades, he`s popular for a reason with Labour supporters and his honesty and integrity may well be popular with the electorate, too.

  11. stevep

    And Trolls.

  12. Tadni

    The moment a point of view (in this case, the belief that Corbyn should lead the Labour Party) becomes orthodox, anyone who steps out of line is decried as a heretic.

  13. stevep

    “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Goes the saying.

    Plenty of protests, gatherings and potential uprisings were brutally suppressed by the British establishment, at home and in the wider Empire.

    They use the (predominantly right-wing) media to do the job now with lies, distortion, character assassination and propaganda taking the place of boots, whips, guns and gallows.

    They also rely on right-wing Trolls infiltrating left-wing websites.

  14. Jon Stone

    Ah, yes, reductive generalisations. And everyone who disagrees with you supports terrorism. Obviously.

    You’ll forgive me if I mentally mark you down as a fanatic and tune out now.

  15. robertcp

    You have said what I was going to say.

  16. DemSoc93

    People shouldn’t just be calling you names, they should be engaging with your argument, whether they’re on the left or the right. I can only apologise for the poor manners of some comrades.

    What I would say is why are you fighting for a Labour government? What do you want it to do differently from a Tory government? It’s a serious question. Because the other three candidates seem to be OK with abstaining in the face of a welfare bill that will harm many ordinary people. And who have backtracked on the very moderate, barely even social democratic policies that Miliband was advancing. Victory is excellent, but victories can be hollow. To accuse Corbynites of not wanting power is just as bad as calling someone who has fought the Tories for years a Tory. We want power, we just think there has to be reason for having it other than “to stop the other guys having it”. What do we want power for? For social change or merely to things slightly less nastily than the last lot? As long as the party turns first to newspaper millionaires and business men to console them they won’t change too much and then to the people it is heading toward extinction.

    There’s no sure path to victory. Not with any candidate. The next election will be the throw of dice. I’d rather throw the dice with my heart in it (as well as my head, Corbyn has been very policy focused). And I will be honest, I couldn’t enthusiastically campaign, and neither can I imagine will the new members or returning members doing so, for the lukewarm offerings of the other three. I don’t know why the other three want to be leader of the Labour Party other than it’s because they want to be leader of the Labour Party.

  17. DemSoc93

    And who will save those who suffer? Burnham, Cooper or Kendall? Who abstained in the face of a Tory welfare bill that make the vulnerable suffer more? What on earth do you even want power for? The other three don’t seem particularly interested in getting at the root cause of the suffering of the vulnerable – neoliberal economics, the logic of cut this, privatise this.

    I’m sick of being likened to some kind of mad communist for advancing views not miles to the left of Clem Attlee and fairly close to the architect of the NHS, Nye Bevan. You know they say the left of the righteous ones, but this leadership election I have seen the left candidate stick to policies and the soft left and right mercilessly go after people. Go on, calling the emergence of a new mass movement a “little emotional spasm”, go on calling it “self indulgent leftist posturing”. Go on, I dare you. The only effect of your pontificating is to propel Jeremy into the lead.

  18. verticalaudio

    Freedom of speech now includes incitement to racial hatred? News to me. but hey..who am i to argue?

    Have read plenty of Chomsky thanks and much to learn there. Btw, i imagine you might struggle with the source texts if you think my words were “CrapSpeak”….that was Chomsky lite for your sake.

    Very interesting re “not using plight of Jews to attack Corbyn”. I’m looking forward to you telling the readership of the Jewish Chronicle. You might want to read the lead article published today where that paper calls Corbyn to account, asks him (again) to deny the allegations put to him, and sets out why British Jews feel under attack and threatened by him and people like you – his supporters. Mind you, it’s probably just trolling ranting Jews, eh?

    Or, will the Jewish Chronicle piece actually be taken at face value by you as a minority position that you will “have the greatest respect for”?

    I look forward to finding out, but i think i can guess.

  19. laffin4j3zuz

    Ukraine had the CHOICE between EU and Russia, Russia offered the far better deal and they went with Russia and West Ukraine went on a murdering rampage to get their way, big difference.

  20. Woody

    So if the Israeli government was to Nuke the West Bank and I took up an anti-Israel position, that makes me “happy with a position that states that all ethnic and national groups are entitled to self determination apart from Jews”? Just to be clear, being anti-Israel doesn’t mean one wants the country to be destroyed.

    And you claim to be using “logic”…

  21. Dee

    I may have a beard but I’m no ‘Corbynite’. Would Attlee and Bevin be turning in their graves at how NATO has helped Islamists and the spread of weapons in Africa?

  22. laffin4j3zuz

    You maybe not confused but you sure are ignorant of the whole conflict and the EU is hardly free, who votes people into power in the EU, NO ONE, and I dont see anyone in Crimea complaining over Crimea being annexed or invaded as you put it, its the only invasion where people were celebrating and lighting skies with fireworks unlike in Iraq where your buddies killed 1.4 MILLION Iraqis and add on the 500k that died in sanctions in 1991 that nearly tops 2 million dead in total, a figure Hitler would be proud of since you used him in your post, how many died in Crimea? zero?

    Its funny West Ukraine wanted to join EU so much they killed more people in a few days in doing so than the entire Crimea conflict? The first journalist killed in the murderous riots was a pro Russian journalist killed in cold blood in his car by Svoboda neo nazis.

    And you mentioning Hitler pissed me off, have you seen Svoboda’s logo? Its pretty much a swastika.

    In the end the reason the whole conflict started was for the simple fact Russia offered a far better financial deal than the EU/IMF, please research more.

  23. Daniel Johnston

    Never in that conversation did I identify as anti-zionist, and during the conversation that stemmed from it I stated *twice* that I don’t hold, support or condone anti-semitism or anti-islam views. The article is about UK foreign policy, as were my comments, not France. Judaism is as much a religion as Islam and I think it’s safe to say that most people who could be considered “anti-semitic” don’t see the distinction between “Jew” and “Semite”.

    I too happen to believe that religious beliefs are up to some amount of criticism, I’m not religious myself and I think the world would be safer and more scientifically advanced without religious values holding us back. That said – we live in a free society and people should be able to hold their beliefs without being discriminated against, or lumped together with issues caused my minority extremist groups.

  24. Cole

    Calling the Labour government ‘Tory’ is just silly and insulting. Of course it had its faults – Iraq being the worst – but it was massively better than the alternative.

  25. stevep

    You obviously love the Jews and by extension, Israel.

    That`s great. I love Italy and the Italians but that doesn`t mean I support the historical policies and actions of Benito Mussolini. But I do understand how they came into being.

    They happened because of ignorance and intolerance whipped up into racial hatred, same thing with the rise of the Nazis in Germany. People being criticised, imprisoned and finally, executed for having views contrary to the prevailing doctrine.

    It wasn`t only the Jews that suffered, but intellectuals, Trades Unionists, Dissidents, Communists, the mentally disabled, ethnic minorities etc. But that`s forgotten history, because people like you only concern yourselves with one aspect of the story.

    If your reply is anything to go by, you are falling into the same old trap, trumpeting your own doctrine to the violent exclusion of others.

    And your point of view seems to be becoming increasingly narrower with each reply. The faint echoes of jackboots on cobbles resonate through the years with each sentence.

    Why not just come right out with it and call me a Jew hater as well as Jeremy Corbyn to justify your argument and your intolerance of free speech.

    Nothing could be further from the truth in my case and almost certainly, Jeremy Corbyn`s. I`m no enemy of the Jews or Israel and neither is he. Despite what the Jewish Chronicle might say.
    It`s hardly likely to be an impartial and unbiased source of information, in the same way as The Morning Star commenting on Cameron wouldn`t be.

    You claim to support the position of the Jews and yet you seem to support the very thing that led and still leads to their persecution, intolerance of the views of others.

    Incidentally, I wasn`t referencing Chomsky when I accused you of “CrapSpeak”, but the achingly trendy way you tried to put it across. Perhaps ambitious young TV reporter speak might be more accurate. I`m surprised you didn`t try to squeeze the word “Quintessential” in there somewhere.

  26. Cole

    The term ’emotional spasm’ phrase was actually Nye Bevan’s – on a previous occasion when Labour was in danger of veering to the unelectable left. Probably the Corbynites think he was a Tory – and probably Attlee too because he helped set up NATO.

    I’m sympathetic to some of Corbyn’s views on the economy (though suggesting reopening coal mines is classically bonkers), but his views on foreign policy, neatly outlined in the article above, are abhorrent.

  27. DemSoc93

    I know where emotional spasm comes from. Presumably you think Bevan and Attlee are hard left dreamers consigning the poor and needy to their doom with the welfare state and progressive taxation.

    Abhorrent is a strong word for making mountains out of molehills, as most of the LFF articles on Corbyn’s foreign policy have done, as I said above.

    In any case, now you’ve caricatured my view and I yours, will you be answering any of the questions I asked?

  28. stevep

    I expect I could think of far nicer things to say about it, but I`m struggling.
    Let`s just call it quits and say that it was the biggest waste of a landslide majority in parliamentary history.

  29. Lamia

    You are obviously beneath arguing with.

    You are obviously unable to refute the point that Russia has annexed other countries’ territory in the past few years. Not surprisingly really, because it’s an unpleasant fact.

  30. Pete Yelding

    Right so this article has pretty much misunderstood every aspect of Corbyn’s extremely progressive approach to foreign policy. If you look back to his C4 interview with KGM he explains how he was using the tern of phrase ‘friends’ in relation to Hezbollah and Hamas, which translates across many languages and cultures, especially arabic, very simply as a polite and honourable starting point for a conversation. It is actually quite laughable that the mainstream media and those that absorb it back home on this tiny (much tinier than it thinks) Island often lack don’t recognise extremely useful diplomacy with regards to forming positive relationships in the international, extremely volatile (which we have a lot of responsibility for) political climate. This very simple (completely un-radical by the way) approach to unbiased international diplomacy is also apparent in his words about Russia. Think about the life time of anti-Russia propaganda we have had dangled in front of us from the UK and US (every baddy in the bond films, in fact many action films as a trivial example) – after a while any kind of public altering of that narrative is deemed as outright support. What is overlooked here is, again much more progressive, an understanding that our perception of international affairs or to quote Malcom X our “Yard Stick” isn’t the only one and to enforce that as the only way is in fact harking back to the imperial days where we foolishly championed ourselves as the bastions of moral values and civilisation. In reality these are entirely flexible and undefinable as absolutes. The only way to solve this is to establish relationships with others that are not so reductionist as right or wrong – this some times results in holding your own to account for not listening to the other side and taking an assertive stance on that for a greater good…

    Now a spectator journalist would decry that as “cultural relativism” and would jump to accuse Corbyn of such also. This term often finds itself in the same paragraph as “post-colonial guilt” and is much like a lot of the right wing’s rhetoric nothing more than a get out clause for avoiding having to engage consciously with messy areas of neo-liberal pro-Western supremacist consequences. Corbyn’s approach to dealing with international affairs is far more likely to aid peace and equality across the globe than hinder it. As some one very much concerned with international affairs, in fact Corbyn’s foreign policy is the only one I see as useful and more immediately feasible from any of the parties, not just the mainstream.

  31. Pete Yelding

    To add – apologies for a few typos – didn’t see them till after I posted “Tern of phrase” for example. Oof. I hope the gist of my post carries more weight than a few mis-types to other readers.

  32. paulcanning

    He thinks we ‘provoked’ Putin and that we can dictate Poland’s foreign policy. That’s not interpretation, that’s what he said. He wants ‘peace’ at the expense of Poles and Ukrainians.

  33. paulcanning

    Like who? Peter Hitchens?

  34. paulcanning

    You seriously believe no one in Crimea is complaining? oh My. Try Amnesty or Human Rights Watch …

  35. laffin4j3zuz

    HRW ahahahahahaha, how much did Soros give them again? Try again.

  36. Lee Hyde

    I am an avowed anti-Zionist (though I am at least sympathetic to the tone struck by Labour Zionists) and I will happily go on record to show my disdain of Anti-Semitism (whilst reserving the right to interrogate it’s origins and history in Europe and the Middle East respectively). To that end; Anti-Semitism is an appalling character flaw exhibited by only the most deluded, gullible and hate-filled pieces of scat on the shoe of humanity. I’m certain that most if not all genuine Anti-Zionists (including the man who introduced me to the meaning of the both’ Zionist’ and ‘Semitic’) would resoundingly agree with that sentiment.

    So, erm, it seems as if you might have a bit of a straw man on your hands there.

  37. Cole

    Oh, Amnesty and HRW are Tories too, I guess…

  38. Kiosk

    Yeah but… “people like Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore”. It was worth reading all the way down the comments just for that phrase. Hilarious stuff.

    (As is “I`m no enemy of the Jews” – but I don’t expect you to understand why.)

  39. Austin Phillip

    If One Thing I Hate More Than Right Wing Knuckledraggers

    It’s Left Wing Knuckledraggers


    Corbyn Is Correct On Russia …

    Not Only About The U.S Coup In Ukraine

    See Pilger – See Kissinger – See Mearsheimer

    See Cohen – See Chomsky

    But The Idea We Are Somehow Going To Start A War

    With Russia A Nuclear Power In Benefit Of U.S Hegemony .

    Because It Makes Left Wing Intellectuals

    Feel All Moral …. Is Not Only Delusional / It’s Dangerous

    I Am Almost Certain . Russia A New Country

    Finding It’s Own Way In The World ..

    Will Not Be Taking Advice From The Same

    Sanctimonious Liberals Who Helped

    Murder Almost 1 Million Muslims In The Arab World

    Get A GRIP

  40. Jiesheng Li

    Jeremy Corbyn will isolate the UK and give the Falklands, Gibraltar and perhaps even Ascension Island away. But that’s how it is.

  41. yougottaproblemwiddat

    I’m not the one blind to unpleasant facts.
    What was Victoria Nuland doing in Ukraine again?
    Awfully far from home…
    Was some Chinese operative there trying to pick local rulers as well?
    You know, dangerous China.
    Oh, no?
    Awfully far from home…

  42. yougottaproblemwiddat

    Why would that be funny for a “left-wing” site?

  43. verticalaudio

    I’m not young, not trendy and can’t stand TV. But thanks anyway. Makes me feel much more metropolitan and cool.

  44. djkm

    Exactly. His opponents are taking the wrong tack as to why he would be a terrible leader. His populist rhetoric regarding nationalisation and the like isn’t the problem, and in some ways, it’s commendable. It’s everything else about the man that’s the problem. His foreign policy, his ‘friendship’ with anti-semitic groups; this is far more of a danger to the party than his leftist national policies.

    And reading through the rest of the thread here, I’m still staggered at “the left’s” desire to implicitly support fascist dictatorships by insisting that the war in Iraq was illegal, and that heads need to roll.

  45. DemSoc93

    By ‘we’ he means NATO, right? I have to say I don’t really follow foreign affairs in any great detail.

  46. stevep

    Who said it was funny? I didn`t.
    It says “Left Foot Forward” on the tin and states it`s intention to explore progressive left-of-centre issues. Why would right wingers want to add to the debate except to disrupt.

  47. stevep

    I`m sure you will illuminate me with your wisdom if I wait long enough!

  48. stevep

    You`re welcome.

  49. yougottaproblemwiddat

    Maybe they enjoy pieces such as the one we’re commenting on, offered explicitly with the aim of defeating the front-runner and only truly left-wing candidate by punishing him for not supporting right-wing aggressive expansionism.

Leave a Reply