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30 January 2017

Jeremy Corbyn has a lengthy track record of defending oppressors, not their victims

The Labour Party leader has demonstrated his ignorance about Ireland, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

Jeremy Corbyn speaking during PMQs at the House of Commons last week. Photo: PA
Jeremy Corbyn speaking during PMQs at the House of Commons last week. Photo: PA Wire

At the beginning of Prime Minister’s Questions last week, Theresa May said this: “I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending our thoughts to the friends and family of the police officer who was shot in Belfast over the weekend.”

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland does a superb job in keeping us safe and secure, and has our fullest support.”

Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn had little option but to echo her.

“I join the Prime Minister in expressing condolences — I’m sure of the whole House — to the family of the police officer who lost his life over the weekend in Northern Ireland,” he said.

He said nothing about the PSNI and went straight on to matters Brexit.

One of his harassed spokespeople later said that he had meant to say “nearly died”.

Corbyn strews gaffes and errors wherever he goes and it can be hard to make sense of them.

Not least because he’s known to be privately anti-EU but to have been forced by his colleagues to campaign (tepidly) for Remain, observers are still trying to work out what this meant: “Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle, but I don’t want that to be misinterpreted, nor do we rule it out.”

What can we learn from the exchange about the injured policeman?

Well, that for all his long-expressed concern about Northern Ireland, Mr Corbyn didn‘t know the facts about a major event from three days previously, and that praising the police still sticks in the craw of this long-standing terrorist supporter.

Much more clear was his virtue-signalling tweet on Saturday implicitly criticising President Trump’s orders restricting entry from Muslim countries: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Mr Corbyn is not the brightest, and he has a startling ability to give hostages to fortune, so there were plenty of responses reminding him that among the sides he has chosen over the years have been the Chavez regime that has ruined Venezuela, the murderous bigots of Gaza’s Hamas, Bashar al-Assad, gay-hanging Iran, President Putin, whatever he does, and of course violent Irish republicans. In 1984 he was on the board of the hard-left Labour Briefing, which supported the IRA after the Brighton bombings where it had murdered four and just missed the prime minister.

“You should have stood up for Britain when it was fighting the IRA Jez,” said one response. “Physician heal thyself.”

Another post showed a 1987 news report featuring Mr Corbyn telling a London meeting in support of the terrorists killed at Loughgall: “I’m happy to commemorate all those who died fighting for an independent Ireland.”

And much was made of a 2016 tweet from Labour Councillor Gareth Snell, now Labour candidate to fight a key by-election in Stoke-on-Trent next month, about the “IRA supporting friend of Hamas”.

There’s plenty of dirt to dig on Mr Corbyn, but of course — unlike most of his colleagues and traditional Labour voters — he doesn’t see it as dirt.

He not only appointed to his inner circle Seumas Milne, accused by critics of Stalinist sympathies, and Andrew Murray, who succeeded Mr Corbyn as chairman of the virulently anti-West Stop the War Coalition, but in December last year added Jayne Fisher, head of Sinn Fein’s London office for many years. She’s to be in charge of “stakeholder engagement”, whatever that is, and is “very lovely”.

It’s hardly a surprise that Baroness (May) Blood later that month told Talkback that she believed “he’s helping to destroy the Labour party”.

As President of the Labour Party of Northern Ireland (LPNI), after years of unsuccessfully pleading with HQ to allow it to stand candidates, she wistfully hoped that he “will slowly come to realise we’ve got to be recognised”.

Like the Labour Party in Great Britain, Mr Corbyn’s powerbase is mostly among new, naive members who haven’t a clue about politics, but worship the Marxist dunderhead they elected leader who hasn’t had a new thought in 40 years.

The only consolation is that at times this useful idiot must be as much of an embarrassment to newly respectable Sinn Fein as he used to be an asset.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards