Terrorist attacks caused by foreign wars & police budget cuts – Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has gone on the offensive on Friday morning, connecting terrorist attacks at home with Britain’s failed wars abroad. He has also pledged to reverse government cuts to emergency services.
At a press conference in London, the lifelong anti-war campaigner called for a change in how the UK operates in the world and handles domestic security.
He reiterated his longstanding view that engaging in wars like those in Iraq and Libya increase the threat of terrorist acts occurring at home.
He also connected the Manchester suicide bomber, who killed 22 people on Monday, with the wars the UK has taken part in or backed since 2001.
“Many experts... have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home,” he said.
However, the link between war and terrorism does not justify attacks on innocents, he added.
“That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and held to account for their actions,” he said.
“But an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people that fights rather than fuels terrorism,” Corbyn added.
Labour’s current leader has opposed joining military interventions at the initiative of his own party – then led by Tony Blair – in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those that were launched under the Conservatives in Libya and Syria.
“We must be brave enough to admit the ‘war on terror’ is simply not working,” he said.
“We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.”
He criticized Tory government cuts to police budgets, which critics claim have led to the army being deployed to make up for a shortfall in armed officers.
Corbyn's offensive could prove decisive in the June 8 election, with the gap in the opinion polls between Labour and the ruling Conservatives closing to just 5 percent.
A new YouGov poll puts Labour on 39 percent against a Tory lead of 43 percent – a substantial shift over the last few weeks.
Since the Iraq War in 2003, deaths from terrorism have increased tenfold. Corbyn is right to call for a change of direction. pic.twitter.com/EWyXDxqe3d— Ronan Burtenshaw (@ronanburtenshaw) May 25, 2017
Labour shadow trade minister Barry Gardiner weighed in on the debate.
“What Jeremy [Corbyn] is saying is that we need to profoundly reassess the way in which there are linkages," he told the BBC.
"Libya is a country in which we intervened. [Manchester attacker Salman] Abedi is someone who fought against Gadaffi in Libya and was then radicalized as a result of that process."
Earlier in the day, Tory Security Minister Ben Wallace attacked Corbyn over his planned comments, branding them “crass.”
“He needs to get his history book out. These people hate our values, not our foreign policy,” he said.
His colleague, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, said linking British foreign policy to the massacre in Manchester was “outrageous.” Her colleague, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson labelled the speech “absolutely monstrous.”
“This is a moment when we should be coming together, uniting to defeat these people, and we can and we will, not just in Iraq and in Syria but of course in the battle for the hearts and minds,” the Foreign Secretary said.
“They are wrong, their view of the world is a corruption and perversion of Islam and it can be completely confounded.
“But now is not the time to do anything to subtract from the fundamental responsibility of those individuals, that individual in particular, who committed this atrocity and I think it is absolutely monstrous that anybody should seek to do so.”
But while the Tories were predictably unhappy with Corbyn’s speech, pundits and social media users seemed to like the Labour leader’s intervention.
“Central thrust of Corbyn’s speech will be popular. Appeals to parts of liberal left and ‘don’t spend our cash overseas’ types at same time,” tweeted New Statesman columnist Stephen Bush.
Corbyn knows what's comping his way from the Cons when he calls for debates without impugning the patriotism of others— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) 26 May 2017
“Struck by how Corbyn can speak of his love for people and it doesn’t feel awkward, schmaltzy. May too buttoned-up,” added Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire.
Even Tory-leaning Telegraph pundit Rupert Myers thought the passage in Corbyn’s speech linking terrorism to British military intervention was “actually pretty uncontroversial.”
Meanwhile, one-time Labour supporter-turned-Conservative voter Dan Hodges disagreed with the content but agreed it was “well delivered.”