Jeremy Corbyn talks about changing the world. But would his Britain just end up protesting from the sidelines?by Steve Bloomfield / May 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
The Morning Star has never been an influential newspaper. During the Cold War the far-left journal was bolstered by a bulk order from the Soviet Union, though now its daily circulation is no more than 10,000. Its columnists rail against American imperialism, wars in the Middle East and poverty in the global south. And up until he ran to be Labour leader in 2015, one of those columnists was Jeremy Corbyn.
For his critics those columns are a goldmine of material. Corbyn had called for Nato to be abolished, blamed the west for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and denounced the way the United States tackled terrorism—points of controversy that have often dominated his leadership. But the Morning Star columns went wider, too. He wrote about the stand-off in western Sahara, the crisis in the Great Lakes and atrocities in Sri Lanka; he highlighted the case of an arrested Ethiopian opposition leader, abject working conditions in Qatar and the plight of Kurds in Turkey.
Foreign policy is Corbyn’s passion. While the ins and outs of NHS reform don’t tend to interest him, a conversation about healthcare in Latin America can last for hours. He’s been to more countries than he hasn’t, meeting a kaleidoscope of activists and trades unionists—Corbyn is not the type to hobnob with the ambassador or pop in to see the foreign minister. All of which has helped to form a worldview which focuses on human rights, and tends to ignore conventional wisdom.
Like most of Corbyn’s views, he has held these for all his political life. What’s surprising is the ease with which his once-fringe policy positions are becoming accepted within a Labour Party that still does not, for the most part speak—or think—in his anti-western, pro-developing-world rhetoric.
A party that less than a decade ago believed in intervening to prevent a humanitarian disaster now objects to the use of force in almost all circumstances. A party that just a few years ago was staunchly pro-European and, at least at the top, a wide-eyed believer in the so-called “special relationship,” is now coolly keeping its distance from both the European Union and the US. A party that was a strong backer of Nato is now openly sceptical of the western military alliance and seems keen to find common ground with Vladimir Putin.