The Blog

Jeremy Corbyn and the Kurds

If Corbyn wins, he will surely be asked as the Leader of the Opposition to support further arming the KRG and persuading Baghdad to stop sabotaging the Kurdish economy.

Jeremy Corbyn may win the Labour leadership contest, and some British Kurds who support Labour may vote for him. Corbyn has supported the Kurds. In the 2013 Commons debate on recognising the Kurdish genocide, he recalled being one of the first to condemn Halabja and urged the British government to boycott Saddam's arms fair in Baghdad. A good call. He also hosted a meeting to mark the assassination in Vienna by Iranian agents of the Iranian Kurdish leader, Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou.

He combines this, however, with full opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and British airstrikes against Daesh in Syria, which are honourable if wrong positions in my view. He has also presented programmes, standing in for George Galloway, on Press TV, the propaganda arm of the Iranian regime, which is highly dubious, at the very least.

Last year, Corbyn visited Tehran last year with former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and others. Corbyn told me he mentioned the rights of the Iranian Kurds. MPs who visited Tehran were later quizzed by the Foreign Affairs Committee but none mentioned the Kurds. But Corbyn also told the Commons that he 'constantly raised issues of human rights and human rights concerns' in Tehran and said that 'any future relationship with Iran must include a tough human rights dialogue to insist that it signs up to and obeys all the human rights conventions and has a genuinely independent judicial system...'

Corbyn's attraction for many is that he stands apart from Labour leaders who accepted unpalatable policies pioneered by Mrs Thatcher from the late 70s and now. This came to a head when the Conservatives recently introduced welfare reforms, which aimed to stir Labour divisions by presenting a Bill that contained the good, the bad and the ugly. Supporting or opposing the Bill would lose friends and the formal position of abstention led to a rebellion by a fifth of Labour MPs. This bitter debate bolstered those who want a clean and clear position of principle, and warm to Corbyn.

Corbyn is the beneficiary of a long brewing anger with Labour that is powerfully mixed with fury over Blair - the supposed war criminal who joined a disastrous neocon war against Iraq - and especially for many young people saddled with huge debts to pay for their university tuition and who cannot easily rent, let alone buy houses, or get decent jobs.

Labour could go the same way as social democratic parties elsewhere in Europe in a process sometimes called 'Pasokification.' The once powerful socialist Pasok party in Greece has been destroyed by the anti-austerity and radical left party Syriza and socialists in Spain, where half of its young people are unemployed, are being eviscerated by the leftist Podemos movement - We Can.

Labour candidates who argue for realism and winning elections are sullied by a supposedly unprincipled quest for power. There is a great enthusiasm for Corbyn's straight-talking policies and the beliefs that ending austerity, nothing wrong with borrowing to boost economic activity, and making the rich pay more for the failures of British capitalism could galvanise enough people to get a Labour majority in five years time. My reading of the electoral realities makes me doubt this. Labour has lost Scotland and needs, without it, to gain over 100 seats many of which are held by Conservatives. Labour must attract very many of those who voted Conservative last time. They didn't back Ed Miliband's mildly leftist manifesto and will hardly be convinced by an even more leftist programme.

Labour members may have shifted left and that will be supplemented by the influx of new members and supporters who believe that British capitalism needs a good stuffing. And they are not alone. One of the most interesting interventions last week was that of the Chief Economist at the Bank of England - the fount of economic orthodoxy - who bemoaned the British model of the Firm, which is all about short-term profits rather than taking the long view.

Labour may choose Corbyn. Given scant support among Labour MPs, some of whom lent him nominations needed to make the ballot, but a wider party base keen on Corbyn, there will be trouble ahead. If Labour then descends further in the polls under Corbyn, I assume a fresh leadership election or a split.

If Corbyn wins, he will surely be asked as the Leader of the Opposition to support further arming the KRG and persuading Baghdad to stop sabotaging the Kurdish economy.