Jeremy Corbyn in West Kirby in 2017. Photo: Flickr/Andy Miah Jeremy Corbyn in West Kirby in 2017. Photo: Flickr/Andy Miah

Lindsey German on the smearing of Jeremy Corbyn

You can tell you’re in an election campaign when you start seeing front page headlines about Jeremy Corbyn being a security threat. Sure enough, the Mail on Sunday obliged, running a near identical story to one it used during the 2017 election, where former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, pronounced that Corbyn couldn’t be trusted to run the country.

This goes alongside Tory attacks on Corbyn for being a terrorist sympathiser, claims that he is antisemitic and the repeated calls from the right for him to commit to all-out nuclear war.

Then yesterday we had the return of Tony Blair. Not to directly attack Corbyn over foreign policy (he realises that this would rebound on him) but to call for tactical voting to deny neither the Labour leader nor Boris Johnson a majority. While Laura Kuenssberg calls this ‘pretty remarkable’ it isn’t really. He has always bitterly opposed Corbyn and would love to form a new centre party but the raw material just isn’t good enough.

While Blair recoils at ‘populism’ and calls both manifestoes ‘fantasies’, he seems blissfully unaware of his own role in creating present-day politics. Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of Labour precisely because he represented a break from the extreme centre consensus which had belligerent warmongering masquerading as humanitarian intervention at its heart.

Corbyn’s opposition to the Iraq war was from the very beginning and he played a leading role in opposing it in parliament. Blair on the other hand, along with Campbell and Dearlove, whose agency was criticised in the Chilcot report into that war, were up to their necks in the duplicity which led to a war based on a false prospectus, which has left the country still in a terrible state and with more than a million dead.

Johnson and his party, let us never forget, had absolutely no problems with any of this and voted for the war pretty much to a man and woman. Johnson now adopts an obsequious and devoted attitude to Donald Trump, who will be in London next week promoting more military spending worldwide.

The Lib Dems did at least oppose the Iraq war, even if they supported it once it began. How do they now feel at being supported by the arch warmonger Blair and his sidekick Alastair Campbell (out canvassing for Luciana Berger yesterday)?

It says a lot about the Lib Dems’ opportunism that they allow themselves to be associated with Blair. No surprises that he won’t advocate a Corbyn government, he still represents warmongers, whose hawkish vested interests are threatened by a peace warrior.

The narrative at the time of the Iraq war (and at the time of every intervention) was that anyone not agreeing with Blair must be a terrorist supporter or a supporter of dictators such as Saddam Hussein. Corbyn (and the rest of us) are neither but want a foreign policy which is not based on (highly selective) foreign intervention from the biggest imperialist power and its closest allies.

This is the sort of slur which the right-wing press and politicians have been engaging in since the jingoism of the Boer war, the defence of mass slaughter in the First World War, and the (fake) Zinoviev letter in 1924 aimed at tying Labour to revolution.

Luckily many people in Britain can see through these lies, and a majority don’t find Blair’s war justified. Labour doesn’t help itself by accepting some of the right’s arguments over defence spending, Trident and Nato. But Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has enabled Labour to apologise for the Iraq war and to support justice for the Palestinians. That alone puts him in a very different and much better place from Blair.

And, while Blair bemoans the present situation and wonders where opposition to neoliberal policies and distrust of politicians comes from, he only has to look in the mirror.

Chuka Umunna made a speech on foreign policy which seems to have been eminently forgettable, even for those covering it. He berated Johnson for closeness to Trump and for racist remarks. He then continued:

‘And likewise, with Jeremy Corbyn, Jeremy Corbyn has done things which, arguably, amount to anti-Jewish racism.’

No one will be surprised at this – it’s now totally routine to call this lifelong anti-racist an antisemite. But let’s compare and contrast. Johnson has personally said and written a number of overtly racist things, including picanninies with watermelon smiles, Muslim women looking like letterboxes, and citing fear of young black kids in corners while he is jogging. His former party chair, Baroness Warsi, has claimed the party is rife with anti-Muslim prejudice, and just last week a Tory candidate was suspended for, among other racist expressions, Holocaust denial.

To the best of my knowledge, Corbyn has never been accused of making an antisemitic statement, and his personal involvement in allegedly antisemitic incidents have been misconstrued. Yet Johnson is rarely called a racist, while Corbyn is regularly. Just one example of the ‘lies are truth’ school of politics. Where is George Orwell when we need him?

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.