I’m not a socialist, but I was over-the-moon when Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party. An outsider, an independent mind, a long-time principled campaigner, a kind of British Bernie Sanders. He was the sort of guy we needed to shake our politics up. I’m tired of these career politician clones; I have a lot of time for principled folk of all political stripes.
How disappointed I now am.
The past week has seen Corbyn throw away much of his respectability.
First there was the biggest non-issue in history: David Cameron’s finances. The guy is a wealthy plonkstain, for sure, but he didn’t do anything illegal. The headlines should be: MIDDLE CLASS MAN MAKES SOUND INVESTMENTS AND MODERATE GAINS. Corbyn demanding that Cameron should publish all of his records and be subject to a parliamentary official probe was the worst kind of political opportunism and wholly unbefitting a so-called man of principle. And no, I’m not even a Tory!
And now he’s chucked his credibility in the bin. The man is a lifetime opponent of the EU (here’s a great article outlining his consistent opposition to the EU). Yet since becoming Labour leader he has had a magical change of mind. This is the lowest and most see-through political opportunism ever. To save his own skin, he has sold out a core principle which he has always fought for. At a time when our nation’s future hangs in the balance, he has chosen career politics over the nation’s welfare and over his own principles.
The man has lost my respect. Not because he is now in favour of us staying in the EU, whereas I am a Brexiter. But because he has jettisoned his principles for political expediency.
His statement about the EU was full of non-sequiturs. Take the following.
EU membership has guaranteed working people vital employment rights including four weeks paid holiday, paternity and maternity leave, protection for agency workers, health and safety in the workplace. Being in the EU has raised our environmental standards… and protected consumers from rip-off charges.
I won’t take the time to rip his argument to shreds in this post as it would turn into a lengthy screed. But it suffices to say that a lot has changed since we joined the European Community in 1973, 43 years ago! Y’know, two years after decimalisation, and six years before Margaret Thatcher even became PM! The implicit point in Corbyn’s statement is that we wouldn’t have developed equivalent or better standards in the last almost half century without being a member of the EU — otherwise, his statement makes no sense. However, he is quite wrong. That we have been a member of the EU means that, like other members, we have developed these standards within the framework of the EU. Correlation is not causation. The UK would very likely not be stuck in a 1973 timewarp had we not joined the European Economic Community — or had we left it in 1975 as Jeremy Corbyn himself campaigned for! We would have developed our own, likely very similar, standards.
It is said that a week is a long time in politics. Indeed it is. The days when Corbyn seemed like (read: was) a man of unwavering principle, above the muck and grime of day-to-day politics, are long gone.
© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry
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