Elections are often fought with the help of slogans, and in the last PMQs before the vote, the Conservatives highlighted theirs. 'Strong and stable leadership' they cried, time after time, conveying not only their opinion of their own merits, but also not-so-subtly emphasising the perceived weaknesses of the opposition. Jeremy Corbyn has been described as 'weak,' 'feeble,' gutless,' and most recently a 'mutton-headed mugwump', all designed to etch into the public consciousness that his leadership qualities are neither strong nor effective enough to be Prime Minister.
But what is true strength? Is it simply the willingness to drop bombs and fight wars, or is it something more profound? When under great pressure to stand down as Labour leader in 2016, and attacks were levelled at him from amongst his own party, he declared in a speech: 'There is no pressure whatsoever. Real pressure is when you don't have enough money to feed your kids, when you don't have a roof over your head...'
This is what strength really is. It is the ability to maintain morality and decency even in the face of a personal crisis. It is the capacity to genuinely empathise with those less fortunate, and the capability to continue promoting the same positive values even when vast numbers of people turn against you. Great leaders in history do not simply ride the waves of the prevailing views of society for the sake of attaining votes, rather they create their own ripples of hope and change through the positive messages they bring, even if society opposes them at the time.
Let's not forget that while the UK was preparing to go to war with Iraq, Corbyn stood firm, on the right side of history, predicting the misery that invasion would bring with an eerie degree of accuracy: 'It will set off a spiral of conflict, of hate, of misery, of desperation, that will fuel the wars, the conflicts, the terrorism, the depression, and the misery of future generations.' How we all must wish that that gutless mutton-headed mugwump had been our leader back then.
Today the stakes are even higher. The threat of nuclear war is building day after day, and with growing divisions, world leaders are falling headlong into it. After Prime Minister May said last year that she would order a nuclear strike that would kill 100,000 people if necessary, defence secretary Michael Fallon recently declared that even using them as a 'first strike' could not be ruled out.
This attitude is foolish, not strong, as it deepens the rifts between our nation and those who may be a threat to us. Such rhetoric exacerbates geo-political instability in an already unstable world. A nuclear deterrent can only be successful for so long, until eventually our luck runs out. World peace cannot be established simply by threatening war, rather it must be achieved by Corbyn's approach - leading by example in scaling down on nuclear weapons, repairing relations with Russia, avoiding mindlessly bombing countries like Libya and Syria. War, after all, is weakness not strength. It signals the failure of diplomacy, the inability to further negotiate. It requires no courage from those who declare it, only from those who are forced to endure it.
And what of Saudi Arabia? Is it strong to sell arms to an army which is tearing apart Yemen, killing innocents? Is it courageous to sit silently whilst our ally carries out regular human rights abuses, such as beheading innocent people, punishing individuals for their religious beliefs, and imprisoning political dissidents? True strength in this regard is to speak out against all violations and abuses, regardless of who it is that commits them, and to stop the mass slaughter of civilians as far as is possible.
If we vote for Conservative strength then the drumbeats of war will beat ever closer to home. We will declare our military might and power, boast of our nuclear weapons, drop yet more bombs on foreign nations and continue to prop up dictatorships, not realising that all our actions will ultimately come back to us like an echo, or even stronger.
On the 8th of June, I'll be voting for a strong and stable leader, but it won't be Theresa May.Suggest a correction