We learned something important from Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Neil: The Labour leader wants to be Prime Minister and will do whatever it takes. His soppier critics often announce their sympathy for a man who would be much happier on the backbenches. Do not believe a word of it. Listen instead to what he told the BBC presenter and you will hear a man trying to rewrite his record and trusting that most voters know too little to challenge him.
Corbyn told Neil: ‘I didn’t support the IRA. I don’t support the IRA. What I want everywhere is a peace process.’ This is a lie. Corbyn opposed the Anglo-Irish agreement. He reportedly lobbied the government on behalf of IRA prisoners. A socialist magazine whose editorial board he headed gloated over the Brighton bombing and threatened Margaret Thatcher with further violence.
Corbyn told Neil: ‘I never met the IRA.’ This is a lie. Corbyn invited Gerry Adams to the Commons weeks after the Brighton bombing. Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that, from all the evidence he has seen, Adams was not merely an IRA member but sat on its army council. According to a Daily Telegraph investigation, Corbyn shared a platform at a 1994 rally with Angelo Fusco, an IRA terrorist on the run after shooting dead an SAS officer.
Corbyn told Neil: ‘My role was supporting a process which would bring about a dialogue and I believe you have to talk.’ This is a lie. The SDLP’s Seamus Mallon, former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and one of the architects of the peace process, says: ‘I never heard anyone mention Corbyn at all. He very clearly took the side of the IRA and that was incompatible, in my opinion, with working for peace.’ Ex-IRA terrorist Sean O’Callaghan says Corbyn ‘played no part ever, at any time, in promoting peace in Northern Ireland’ and any suggestion otherwise is ‘a cowardly, self-serving lie’.
Why is a lifelong leftist seemingly abandoning hitherto unshakeable views? For the same reason any politician does anything: There are votes in it. There is a strain of public opinion in this country that fears Britain has become too entangled in the affairs of the Middle East. They were disillusioned by the Iraq War, a just conflict sold badly and prosecuted worse. How much easier it would be if we withdrew from the big, bad world out there and just took care of our own. It is essentially a conservative view, insular and perhaps even isolationist, and Corbyn believes he can win them over. To this end, he is repackaging himself as a wise old man wary of grand visions and geopolitical meddling.
There is no evidence Corbyn has genuinely changed his outlook. He believes what he has always believed – that the West is an oppressor, jihadists are helpless victims, and targets of terrorism were asking for it”. What he is trying to do is triangulate between the far-Left fringe, who love this stuff, and Labour voters who don’t but want an end to austerity. Corbyn’s cynicism should not be shocking; the reason the far-Left has endured for so long is its ability to lie convincingly about what it actually believes.
The Labour Party still doesn’t get it; a few do, but most don’t. Corbyn is not some mad old geography teacher with a lapel full of lost causes. He is not well-meaning or idealistic or a bit quirky in his views. He is an extremist and an enabler of extremism. He is a fellow traveller with terrorists and anti-Semites. When the IRA was murdering British soldiers and civilians, Corbyn had their back. When Hamas rains rockets down on Israeli kindergartens, Corbyn has their back. If he was Prime Minister and we came under attack, would he have our back?