I take the view that whether or not, assuming he is confirmed leader of the Labour Party on Saturday, you might believe Jeremy Corbyn could bring and eventual election victory for Labour at the next General Election that this matters a great deal less than the potential damage that he could cause to the public perception of UK defence and security during the next four and a half years.
We know from what the would-be next Labour Party leader has already said that he would seek to take Britain out of NATO, that he would scrap the UK nuclear deterrent, cut the defence budget and, perhaps the most ridiculous idea of all, allow voters to opt out of defence if they so choose. He has also said that he could not think of a situation in which he would allow British troops to be deployed. His actual words on this are worth recording here: Asked recently in what circumstances he might back deployment of British troops Corbyn said “I’m sure there are some, but I can’t think of them at the moment”. On the matter of opting out of taxpayers opting out of certain elements of taxation on the grounds of conscience he was reported by the Daily telegraph to have said “British taxpayers have a right of conscience not to participate in the armed forces in time of conscription and should have a similar right in time of peace to ensure that part of their tax goes to peace, not war”. How stark staring bonkers is this. Would that through conscience the rest of us could opt out of paying a raft of other costs that we might consider a waste of resource and that should be paid for by individuals rather than the State.
The point of all this is not to worry now about the next election and whether or not the British public would buy into such ideas but to understand the damage that is done by just talking such damaging and ridiculous notions not only to the public and our allies but also to members of our armed forces. Even if Mr. Corbyn is elected leader I doubt that much of what he has said would make it into an election manifesto. There are thankfully sufficient numbers of Labour MP’s who would rail at the thought of Britain leaving NATO, of Britain scrapping its Trident nuclear deterrent capability and of our failing to deploy troops under the obligations we have to support the other 27 nations if one of them was attacked. Some may not care that we would under the Corbyn plan we would automatically lose our seat on the Security Council and lose the huge amount of credibility and respect that we still command around the world for our diplomatic skills and our system of democracy and fairness. They would see this as total capitulation to the Left and a Britain heading for where every other European government that has tried it has now abandoned it.
It is not my job to involve in politics and for the most part I attempt to tread cross party lines. Labour has a place in our society and it has the right to choose to elect a left leaning leader. But I really do worry that with our state broadcasting system hardly to be described as anything other than biased toward the left and with Corbyn also likely to garner support of the left wing press that public opinion on the need for strong defence and security could be damaged. The vast majority of the British public share the view of our need to have strong defence and security in the form of the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force together with all the other elements that form our national security and national integrity too. Would Mr. Corbyn care about British Foreign Policy? I doubt it very much. I believe that the majority agree the need to retain our nuclear deterrent capability and they certainly share the view of our need to stay in and play the leading role in NATO supporting our allies that we do. They also share in the view of the need to meet our international and humanitarian obligations and the huge amount of work done by politicians, diplomats and our armed forces to maintain peace and stability. Finally I would say that the absolutely share the view and understand why we do and must always stand up for freedom wherever and whenever this is challenged and of why to protect freedom of the individual we must of necessity sometimes involve ourselves in foreign conflicts. Mr. Corbyn appears to believe in none of these things.
To conclude, let me use a few passages from an address that I gave to Leadership Conference in London earlier this week:
“William Hague in his first Daily Telegraph column yesterday called Corby’s rise a symptom of the Left’s slow drift into irrelevance. The left, he reminded, now has no model abroad still in power and the common ideology is gone. He called Labour a tribe lost in a desert with no star to follow and no inspirational leader to point to a new one. He is in my view absolutely right but that doesn’t mean that we can close our eyes to what is going on.
There is no room for complacency and you are looking at the person who embarrassingly said very publically back in 1992 after John Major won a fourth term against Neil Kinnock that Labour was now unelectable in a generation. Look what happened in 1997. Remember too that for the BBC, press and other anti-establishment press and media Corbyn could not have come at a better time. They appear to hate the Tories with a passion”
“Whether he is electable as a potential Prime Minister or not is not the issue here – what is the issue is the potential damage that he and his like could do to defence and the perception of NATO and the Nuclear Deterrent in the minds of the public during the ensuing battle. A none-thinking man’s Michael Foot he may be but never underestimate the power of the public when persuaded by an angry view that is supported for rather different purposes by press and media”
“For defence we already know that Corbyn on the front Opposition bench is going to be anti-spending on defence, anti NATO and anti-Trident replacement. That is why it is up to all of us to redouble our efforts to get the message of why we need strong defence out to the public. If you think defence has been dealt a bad hand over the past five, ten, twenty, forty or fifty years you are right but don’t let that persuade you that the bottom has been reached yet”.
“From now on we must raise our voice and find ways to better sell defence to the public and we must educate – yes I use the word with no apology – not only what defence and particularly in our case, what the Royal Air Force does for the nation through having good descriptive defence narrative, but also to explain better what is and why NATO remains of paramount importance. In doing so we must better educate and work with MP’s and members of the House of Lords because many of them are to be seen as voices of reason in Parliament that will, when required, stand up and fight for defence”.
CHW (London 11th September 2015)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Tel 07710 779785