A few weeks ago, Theresa May made a bid for the moral high ground by lecturing her opponents: “Politics Is Not a Game”. Indeed it isn’t. But she then played a cynical game by calling an entirely unnecessary general election. Following the tragic events in Manchester on Monday, she resumed hostilities by playing games with politics and the nation’s security.
At the G7 meeting yesterday, she is reported as saying “Jeremy Corbyn has said that terror attacks in Britain are our own fault”. No he didn’t. She went on to lecture Corbyn thus: “there can never be an excuse for terrorism, there can be no excuse for what happened in Manchester”. Corbyn doesn’t need the lecture, as his own words prove.
What Corbyn Did Say
I’ve read Corbyn’s speech in full. It’s available here courtesy of the New Statesman. It’s worth reading in full, but to counter May’s untruths, here are a few key extracts from his speech.
Corbyn spoke first of the shock and grief in the country and of people coming together and rallying around. He praised the public and people in public services:
“The people who we ask to protect us and care for us in the emergency services, who yet again did our country proud: the police; firefighters and paramedics; the nurses and doctors; people who never let us down and deserve all the support we can give them. And the people who did their best to help on that dreadful Monday night – the homeless men who rushed towards the carnage to comfort the dying, the taxi drivers who took the stranded home for free, the local people who offered comfort, and even their homes, to the teenagers who couldn’t find their parents.”
He went on to present his political vision of striving for peace whilst recognising the need for strong action when needed:
“I have spent my political life working for peace and human rights and to bring an end to conflict and devastating wars. That will almost always mean talking to people you profoundly disagree with. That’s what conflict resolution is all about. But do not doubt my determination to take whatever action is necessary to keep our country safe and to protect our people on our streets, in our towns and cities, at our borders.
There is no question about the seriousness of what we face. Over recent years, the threat of terrorism has continued to grow. You deserve to know what a Labour Government will do to keep you and your family safe. Our approach will involve change at home and change abroad.”
He then states that Labour in government would reverse cuts to police and emergency services. And then comes the part for which he was vilified – judge for yourselves:
“We will also change what we do abroad. Many experts*, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home.
That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and implacably held to account for their actions.
But an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people, that fights rather than fuels terrorism.
Protecting this country requires us to be both strong against terrorism and strong against the causes of terrorism. The blame is with the terrorists, but if we are to protect our people we must be honest about what threatens our security.”
(*He could have also mentioned Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.) The emphasis above is mine, but you get the point. He then makes a clear statement of support to the armed services and gives them a clear commitment:
“I want to assure you that, under my leadership, you will only be deployed abroad when there is a clear need and only when there is a plan and you have the resources to do your job to secure an outcome that delivers lasting peace.”
There follows some sections about unity, coming together and British values:
“Because when we talk about British values, including tolerance and mutual support, democracy is at the very heart of them. And our General Election campaigns are the centrepieces of our democracy – the moment all our people get to exercise their sovereign authority over their representatives.”
Near the end, he states his hopes for the conduct of the debate in the remaining days before the election:
“So, let the quality of our debate, over the next fortnight, be worthy of the country we are proud to defend. Let’s have our arguments without impugning anyone’s patriotism and without diluting the unity with which we stand against terror.”
Some hope, given the abuse already heaped upon him by May, other Tories and the usual rabid elements in the press!
Reading the whole piece, I was left with the impression of a carefully thought out, intelligent and balanced set of arguments. This clearly is a moderate and nuanced speech which could have been made by any number of mainstream politicians in other parts of Europe. But not by “Team Theresa” with their shrill, ranting comments and their disowning parts of their own manifesto. The narrowing of the Tory lead in the opinion polls is clearly rattling them.
Who’s playing games with politics right now? It’s Corbyn who is looking statesmanlike, possibly even “strong and stable”. Dare one say it, even Prime Ministerial??