‘Why I believe Corbyn is right about Russia’
One of Britain’s leading conservative voices, the man who calls himself “Britain’s obituarist” writes for The Mail on Sunday newspaper and is a former foreign correspondent in Moscow.
Jeremy Corbyn accused the government of “rushing way ahead of the evidence” as it blamed Russia for the Salisbury poisoning. But the Labour leader has found backing from an unlikely source…
Is this a warning? In the past few days I have begun to sense a dangerous and dark new intolerance in the air, which I have never experienced before. An unbidden instinct tells me to be careful what I say or write, in case it ends badly for me. How badly? That is the trouble. I am genuinely unsure.
I have been to many countries where free speech is dangerous. But I have always assumed that there was no real risk here.
Now, several nasty trends have come together. The treatment of Jeremy Corbyn, both by politicians and many in the media, for doing what he is paid for and leading the Opposition, seems to me to be downright shocking.
I have been to many countries where free speech is dangerous. But I had assumed that there was no risk here.
I disagree with Mr Corbyn about many things and actively loathe the way he has sucked up to Sinn Fein. But he has a better record on foreign policy than almost anyone in Parliament. Above all, when so many MPs scuttled obediently into the lobbies to vote for the Iraq War, he held his ground against it and was vindicated.
Mr Corbyn has earned the right to be listened to, and those who now try to smear him are not just doing something morally wrong. They are hurting the country. Look at our repeated rushes into foolish conflict in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. All have done us lasting damage.
Everyone I meet now thinks they were against the Iraq War (most of them weren’t, but never mind). So that’s over.
But Libya remains an unacknowledged disgrace. David Cameron has not suffered for it, and those who cheered it on have yet to admit they were mistaken.
Yet we pay for it, literally, every day. Along with our clinically insane covert intervention on the side of Al Qaeda in Syria, the Libyan adventure created the unending migration crisis across Europe which, in my view, threatens the stability of the whole continent.
Yet I recall a surge of anger from the audience when I doubted some crude war propaganda about mass rapes in Libya on the BBC’s Question Time. War is strangely popular, until it comes to your own doorstep.
I sense an even deeper and more thoughtless frenzy over Russia, a country many enjoy loathing because they know so little about it.
I have already been accused, on a public stage, of justifying Moscow’s crime in Salisbury. This false charge was the penalty I paid for trying to explain the historical and political background to these events. I wonder if the bitterness also has something to do with the extraordinarily deep division over the EU, which has made opponents into enemies in a way not seen since the Suez Crisis.
The crude accusation, with its implication of treachery, frightened me. I expect, as time goes by, I will be accused of being an “appeaser” and of being against “British values”. And then what? An apparatus of thought policing is already in place in this country. By foolishly accepting bans on Muslim “extremists”, we have licensed public bodies to decide that other views, too, are “extremist”.
Because the authorities are terrified of upsetting Islam, nothing much will happen to Muslim militants. But conservative and Christian views such as mine will suffer.
What next? “British values” over foreign policy, war, immigration? I expect so. TV and the internet have for years been promoting a leaden conformism, whose victims are actually shocked – and often angry – when anyone disagrees.
There’s no spirit of liberty left in this country.
Yes, I am scared, and I never have been before. And so should you be.
War, or the danger of war, is always an opportunity to silence troublemakers.
Republished with kind permission from The Mail on Sunday.
- Is Jeremy Corbyn right about Russia?
- Hitchens describes Russia as “a country many seem to enjoy loathing because they know so little about it”. Write 500 words on whether you believe this is true.
- Sinn Fein
- A Northern Irish political party that advocates a united Ireland. It has historical links to the IRA.
- Question Time
- A BBC show where an audience asks a panel of politicians and journalists about the main news events of the week.
- Suez Crisis
- An international crisis in the Middle East in 1956 that started when the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, nationalised the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. The canal had been owned by the Suez Canal Company, which was controlled by French and British interests.
- The term is loaded with references to Neville Chamberlain, who advocated a policy of “appeasement” in response to Adolf Hitler’s aims to expand German power.