Jeremy Corbyn: A Principled Man in Power
This is the first time an outspoken Palestine supporter and peace activist has headed up Britain’s Labour Party.
When I met him three years ago, newly elected shadow cabinet leader Jeremy Corbyn was speaking against Israel’s occupation of Palestine on a central London stage.
He said: “We have to stand up against a nuclear armed power called Israel! We have to stand up against their occupation! We have to stand up to the rights of Palestinian people!”
Activists read out letters of support for Gaza at the event. Afterwards, Jeremy told me that during his 28 years in Parliament, he had seen a huge increase in the numbers of MPs who understand the Palestinian issue and are open to debating it. At the House of Commons in November last year, 274 MPs voted to recognise a Palestinian state with just 12 against. However Jeremy was the only one on the stage at that Gaza Letters event and he one of few parliamentary figures at marches where campaigners voted with their feet to free Palestine.
In a statement about his election on September 12, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: “The landslide vote for Jeremy as Labour leader demonstrates yet again how much support exists for human rights for all, and reflects a determination that together we can create a better, more just world.”
Jeremy was quickly on another central London stage just three and a half hours after he stepped into his new role. This time he was at a Refugees Welcome Home rally. There, he said generations of refugees around the world are victims of various wars. He added: “I’ve been in Parliament a long time and I’ve seen many decisions taken and in moments of clamour and moments of fervour: Go here, invade there, bomb there, do this, do that. It’s the easy situation.” The Stop The War Coalition, which organised the rally and of which Jeremy is chair, opposes what it calls the British establishment’s disastrous addiction to war and its squandering of public resources on militarism.
Since he was voted in, the British tabloid press has slammed the new leader as ‘a great leap backwards for Labour’ (Daily Mail) and ‘a danger to Britain’ (Daily Express). In a tweet, Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security.’ His election has stirred controversy among other MPs who give him two years maximum before he gives up his seat. Other critiques have included debates over whether he will wear a tie at his first appearance on the front bench at the House of Commons (The Independent) and why he has appointed a vegan to take charge of farming policy (The Telegraph).
Is the outpouring of criticism because of fears that a principled man – who would put peace before cash, humanity before the individual – is in a position of tangible power? Jeremy is now on a stage where he has the institutional power to realistically push through his far left-wing views on an international scale. This is the most dangerous stage yet and as such the one that holds the greatest potential for impact. He is now not just preaching to the converted, he is preaching to the masses and has control over the world’s actors in a way that his peace activism and government work never before afforded him.