By Campaign Agent Luke Walpole
With the resumption of the campaign after the attack in Manchester, Jeremy Corbyn’s latest speech outlined the shortcomings of Britain’s current counter-terrorism strategies and provided insight into how a Labour government would seek to right these wrongs.
Corbyn opened with an overview of the attack which many have shared; it marked a “sombre time in the country’s history” and ensured that the “whole nation [was] united in shock and grief.” Yet the Labour leader saw rays of optimism amidst the destruction. The emergency services, once again “did our country proud”, and the city of Manchester, in particular, reflected “a mood of unwavering defiance [and] a powerful message of solidarity and love.” Indeed, Corbyn concluded by suggesting that “it is our compassion that defines the Britain I love.”
The Labour leader, whose party has closed the gap to 5% (if polls are to be believed), soon moved on to more practical measures. “There is no question about the seriousness we face,” he suggested, before making the candid claim that in relation to our emergency services, “austerity has to stop.” Labour’s pledge to put “more police on the streets” will likely prove popular, as will Corbyn’s pledge to ensure that the police will always have access to the resources they need.
Yet it was the foreign policy angle that every journalist and political commentator have been waiting for. “The War on Terror is not working” he began. Consequently, by stating that Labour’s “approach will involve change abroad and at home”, it was clear that Corbyn was suggesting that Britain’s foreign policy missteps are at least partially responsible for the rise of extremism in the country itself.
To take off my hat of objectivity for a moment, Corbyn here hit upon a topic that people are often unwilling to discuss. However, we simply, as a nation, need to accept that our influence in the Middle East has caused long-term insecurity, and continues to foster hatred for the West en masse. From the Sykes-Picot agreement in the early 20th century, through to the Iraq War and bombing in Libya, we cannot contend that foreign policy decisions operate in a vacuum. ISIS filled the political vacuum left by Saddam Hussein, and the collateral damage of these wars have left deep psychological scars. This in no way, shape or form, excuses terrorism, but surely any anti-terrorism strategy has to evaluate root causality?
However, Corbyn was keen to reiterate that this does in no way excuse the reprehensible actions of the terrorists. “No rationale… can remotely excuse or explain” such atrocities, but, he argued that “An informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective responsive.” The goal of foreign policy should be to build long-term peace and security; in short, to “fight rather than fuel” terrorism.
By homing in on a strategy which advocated increased spending on the emergency services, the police, and to soldiers serving abroad with a “smarter” foreign policy doctrine, Jeremy Corbyn hopes to convince those who doubt his credentials as a prospective leader of the country. Certainly, his comments on groups such as the IRA have been deployed to suggest his ‘soft’ approach to terrorism. Whether this speech will assuage the doubters, however, will soon become clear.
Note: italics indicate where subjective opinion has been expressed
Image rights: Chatham House @ Flickr