21/09/2015 07:35 BST | Updated 18/09/2016 06:12 BST

Corbyn Should Stick to His Guns on Defence Policy

Life's been rather scary over the last week, as David Cameron has warned that Labour's new leadership poses a threat to "our nation's security, our economic security and your family's security".

Taking Cameron at his word, I have checked all the locks in my house, as you never know when Jeremy Corbyn might try to break in through an upstairs window. I have no children of my own, but I phoned my sister and encouraged her to keep her children indoors. They are both grown up now, but you can't be too careful with Corbyn on the loose. I'm also a bit worried about next door's cat, as I fear that John McDonnell may be loitering behind a tree with the aim of kidnapping furry animals.

The government has an interesting idea of "security". A few days after Cameron's warning, ministers welcomed to London an event called Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi). This is a euphemistic name for the world's largest arms fair. Representatives of some of the world's nastiest regimes, such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, are invited to do business with arms dealers at London's Excel Centre.


Someone standing in a queue at a food bank might feel that security lies in knowing that you will always have enough to eat. If you're worrying about the cost of heating your home as the winter approaches, security may have something to do with a roof over your head and sufficient warmth to keep your children from crying with the cold. If you're in a precarious job and fear redundancy, you might feel insecure as the welfare state that should keep you safe is torn to pieces by the Tories and their allies. 

In the eyes of the cabinet, we don't need food, shelter and community to feel secure. We need billions of pounds spent on a nuclear missile system that could kill far more people than the Hiroshima bomb. But then most of the cabinet have never had to worry about putting food on the table, paying their bills or losing their jobs.

Security means similar things to many people across the world: food, shelter, love, community, the freedom to live without fear, a society that supports you when things go wrong. These needs are shared by the vast majority of people, whether they're in Manchester or Moscow, Belfast or Buenos Aires. This gives us far more in common with each other than with our governments and with the global elite, who are the real beneficiaries of high arms sales and a militaristic attitude to conflict. 

In the light of this, Corbyn should not back down. Sadly, he has already said he won't wear a white poppy on Remembrance Day, although a white poppy honours all victims of all wars (a red poppy, according to the British Legion, honours only British military dead, not civilians or other nationalities). The best way to honour the dead is to work to prevent more death.

I hope this is not a sign of a more general willingness to retreat on "defence" issues. Corbyn and his colleagues must continue to pose a threat to security - the security of the rich and powerful. "National security" is a euphemism for the security of the those who wield power. We need to put it behind us and focus instead on real security and shared humanity.