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A Foreign Policy Unfit For The Fringes

07/06/2017 11:57 BST | Updated 07/06/2017 11:57 BST

This week, Britain once again goes to the polls for a General Election, with perhaps the worst crop of leaders in a generation. Theresa May, despite attempts to portray herself as a "strong and stable" leader has at times seemed like a robot on message, and her attempts to de-Thatcherise the Tory Party have (perhaps obviously) proven controversial. Many within the party do not necessarily believe that "the community" stands above the individual, for instance - and her social care policy debacle hardly helped matters. In normal circumstances, Tory strategists and MPs and members would likely be on the defensive with knives out, but these are no ordinary circumstances. For any in the country, as bad as some of the Conservative campaign has been, that doesn't mean it's been worse than the prospect of a Labour victory under Jeremy Corbyn.

There are many reasons to dislike Corbyn and his reinvention of the Labour Party: the cult of Momentum, which has called for deselections of MPs who vote against Corbyn (despite the latter being Labour's most rebellious MP in history); the naïve belief that hundreds of billions of pounds can be raised by increasing corporation and capital gains taxes when Hollande's attempts to do something similar led to capital flight (a situation which Brexit uncertainty would only exacerbate); the party's commitment to a Land Value Tax which would devastate the housing market; and its pledge to make working people pay for middle-class students' degrees, Mickey Mouse or otherwise. But in my view, all of this pales in comparison to another issue: that of foreign policy. The election of Corbyn, McDonnell, and Abbott to the highest offices of the land would herald a disastrous shift on the international stage, and elevate the ideology of "Stop the War" - one unfit for the political fringes - to the heart of a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Much has been made of the related issue of Jeremy Corbyn's support for the IRA during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Contrary to recent assertions, there is ample evidence that Corbyn did indeed meet the IRA; attended IRA rallies; and even stood to honour IRA members who were shot dead trying to blow up a police station. Indeed even former IRA-member-turned-informant Sean O'Callaghan has argued that the support of Corbyn and McDonnell (who famously praised the "bombs and bullets" of the IRA) had a positive effect on the group's morale. Nor were either Corbyn or McDonnell actually working for peace, as some have now claimed. Doing so would have also required speaking to Unionists, and certainly not opposing both the Good Friday and Anglo-Irish Agreements.

For many voters, the issue could be seen to be receiving disproportionate attention - most of the material dating as it does from thirty years ago. However, when the entire electorate of Northern Ireland is effectively disenfranchised in General Elections owing to a combination of its unique political landscape and negligible number of seats, it becomes more important to bring these issues to mainland Britain. Moreover, the record of the Labour leadership team on subsequent similar issues is ultimately little better. To begin with, all three of Corbyn, Abbott, and McDonnell opposed proscribing terror groups - including Al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which would go on to perpetrate the Mumbai attacks) - in 2001. Of course much has also been made of Corbyn infamously calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends". While, to his credit, Corbyn has said he regrets that statement, his "clarification" that it was "inclusive language" remains laughable. Being "inclusive" and trying to negotiate peace does not need to involve inviting terror groups to Parliament - and, again, would also require talking to Israelis and the Israeli government, which Corbyn has not done. Iinstead, he helped peddle the conspiracy theory that Israel was interfering in UK politics during Netanyahu's most recent visit to the UK, and called for Hamas to be de-proscribed in 2009.

While electing a leader that holds these views would be unlikely to do the UK any favours, the argument could at least be made that simply holding views won't necessarily translate into, for instance, the UK pivoting towards Hamas instead of Israel. The same cannot be said for other stances of Corbyn's team, not least on the issue of Trident. Despite the retention of Trident being official Labour Party policy, you could be forgiven for thinking that it wasn't, or at the very least that there would fast be attempts to change that should Labour win the election (speculation made more credible by Corbyn's continued refusal to back the policy). More importantly, Corbyn still refuses to say whether or not he would ever use the nuclear deterrent, when in order for it to be a deterrent at all, one must at least maintain a posture that - in the last ditch - it would be used. Contrary to snide assertions from some of Corbyn's supporters, people who want to keep Trident and have a leader who would use it in the all-but-unthinkable circumstances where that would be justified do not want to kill millions of people, but instead want the deterrent to be able to prevent the starting and escalation of wars - which it ceases to do if it will never be used.

But perhaps most relevant of all in the foreign policy stage is the Labour leadership team's aversion to any kind of military intervention. Corbyn and Abbott's links to Stop the War Coalition - which blamed France for the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the Paris shootings - are well-known; Corbyn is its former Chair who has since continued to attend fundraisers (even after it blamed France for ISIS attacks on her soil), and Abbott remains a Patron. Indeed, Corbyn himself wrote for StW saying that Britain should not even supply arms to Ukraine to prevent its territorial integrity being compromised. This is perhaps fitting for a man who also doesn't believe that military intervention is appropriate to stop British territory being taken by Argentina in the Falklands; to stop genocide in Kosovo; to end a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone; or to prevent the potential massacre of hundreds of thousands of people by Gadaffi in Libya. Nor does Corbyn attempting to clarify that he supports UN-backed actions inspire confidence, and not simply because Sierra Leone and Libya were both backed as such. As the leader of a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Corbyn would have a veto over backing such actions; when he cannot back the bombing of brutal fascists in Syria - and instead calls for those who fight for ISIS to be allowed back to the UK - there is every reason to believe that it would be exercised at any available opportunity.

So when the new Labour Party calls for "a more peaceful world", do not believe it. You do not create such a world by allowing tens of thousands of Yazidis to be slaughtered in Sinjar; allowing sovereign territory to be illegally annexed; or by sitting back while genocides, civilian massacres, and brutal civil wars rage - congratulating yourself on the fact none of the casualties has been caused by a British airstrike. Yet, had Corbyn's ideology been running Britain since the Falklands War, all of this could have transpired. That the opposite has occurred, and thousands - if not millions - of lives saved as a result is a record that both the Conservative and Labour parties can be proud. That every indication suggests Corbyn's leadership team would not continue it in the face of another Gadaffi, or the ticking time-bomb of the plight of Burma's Rohingya Muslim population, renders them unfit for office.