Jeremy Corbyn Attacked Over First World War Comments, But The Full Picture Is Very Different


The right-wing press have launched a scathing attack on Jeremy Corbyn claiming a video from 2013 shows him calling WWI commemorations "pointless".

Only it doesn't.

The papers - the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Telegraph - concentrate on one line from the speech in which the Labour Leader says: "I'm not sure what there is to commemorate about the First World War."

They then go on to claim Corbyn "denounced" the money that was to be spent on - amongst other things - the huge display of ceramic poppies that filled the moat around the Tower of London last year.

Response to the articles was harsh.

The full text of the video (above) however, paints a more nuanced picture.

Corbyn says: "[Scottish socialist and first Labour MP] Keir Hardie was a great opponent of the First World War and apparently next year the government is proposing to spend shedloads of money commemorating the First World War. I'm not sure what there is to commemorate about the First World War other than the mass slaughter of millions of young men and women, mainly men, on the Western Front and all the other places.

"And it was a war of the declining empires and anyone who's read or even dipped into Hobsbawm's great work of the early part of the 20th century, written post World War, presaged the whole First World War as a war between monopolies fighting between [inaudible] markets.

"The reason I say this is next year the government are planning this celebration and I think that's an opportunity for us. It's an opportunity to discuss war and discuss peace and to put up an alternative point of view."

Despite this, even MPs were quick to level accusations at Corbyn.

Tory MP, Tom Tugendhat, said: ""Commemoration of sacrifice is not glorification of war, as anyone who has fought knows only too well. Not to remember would be a betrayal of that courage."

Ukip MEP, Mike Hookem, said: "He is lucky that he lives in a country where he can enjoy free speech but it's thanks to those men who fought for our freedom in 1914-1918 that he can.

"Once again Jeremy Corbyn has shown how out of touch he is with the nation's sentiments during the centenary of The Great War."

Corbyn's comments did have support though.

As Labour leader, Corbyn is due to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.

While commemorating the event in his constituency of Islington over the years he has worn a white poppy - a symbol of peace - alongside a red one, but will only wear red at the Cenotaph.

Corbyn has made no attempt to hide his socialist and republican credentials much to the chagrin of the right.

In September he was forced to defend his decision not to sing the national anthem during the Battle of Britain memorial service.

Last month he was blasted by The Telegraph after he failed to attend his first meeting of the Privy Council despite a number Tory MPs doing exactly the same thing over the years.

That includes:

  • Iain Duncan Smith, then newly-elected leader of his party now work and pensions secretary (19 September 2001)
  • Michael Fallon, former minister for business and enterprise now defence secretary, and justice minister Damien Green (10 September 2002)
  • David Lidington, minister for Europe, who "apparently had better things to do than show up and kiss hands" (15 December 2010)
  • Sir John Randall, deputy chief-whip (9 June and 21 July 2010)
  • Chris Grayling, Grant Shapps, Nick Herbert and Theresa Villiers, ministers for work & pensions, communities, justice, and transport, respectively (9 June 2010)

Last but not least, that list also includes, David Cameron.

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