27th May 2017
Partners in Crime: Theresa May talks with Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Taormina, Italy
It was inevitable that the Tories would, in their ususal cynical way, attempt to gain political advantage from the murder of twenty two people at Manchester Arena earlier this week. The suspension of political campaigning in the General Election has allowed Theresa May, as Prime Minister, an almost free run in the media to express horror and outrage at the murders. A G7 summit in Italy this week also gave May a further platform on which to strut on the international stage and garner more media headlines.
Not content with this, with the resumption of campaigning yesterday May, and her key Tory henchmen, have launched an extraordinary attack upon Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for suggesting that UK foreign policy ought to be part of the debate around how to address the prevention of future attacks.
Corbyn was quite clear in an interview with Andrew Neil, when he said yesterday,
“The attack on Manchester was shocking, appalling, indefensible, wrong in every possible way. The parallel that I was drawing this morning was that a number of people ever since the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have drawn attention to the links with foreign policy, including Boris Johnson in 2005, two former heads of MI5, and of course the foreign affairs select committee.”
Corbyn made it clear that the UK interventions had contributed to the creation of “huge ungoverned spaces” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
That those spaces have fuelled the rise of al-Qaeda, Islamic State and contributed to the destabilisation of the Middle East cannot be denied. The unravelling of the Western imposition of borders from 1916 onwards and a policy of supporting a succession of Western leaning dictators across the region, was never going to be easily managed away. The fact that it has fallen apart so spectacularly is a reflection of the arrogance of Western foreign policy, in assuming that the leaders of the capitalist world could continue to impose leaders in their own image upon the nations of the Middle East.
The people of those countries have, not surprisingly, wanted to choose their own leaders. However, the exploitation of those countries over the decades by the West has fuelled the rise of fundamentalist politics as the alternative, with devastating consequences.
Western policy has struck a rock in Syria, with the resistance to external intervention by the Assad government continuing to hold off a coalition of US and UK forces, aided by a range of Arab dictators and Islamic State, circling like vultures to carve up the remains of Syria. The impact upon the Syrian people has been devastating, the migrant crisis which has resulted from the war in Syria continues to impact upon European borders and there can be little doubt that the whole adventure is a foreign policy disaster.
When Jeremy Corbyn suggests that the war on terror is not working these are the realities that he is drawing attention to. The calamity in Syria did not just happen of its own volition; the migrant crisis did not happen by accident. These consequences are all tied up with foreign policy choices and actions. To make this point, to raise this question, is not to be ‘soft’ on terrorism or in any way attempt to justify the actions of those who engaged in murder in Manchester this week.
So, for Theresa May to respond to Corbyn’s comments with such vitriol is either a sign of wilful misunderstanding or an inability to grasp the complexities of international policy. It could simply be an attempt to muddy the waters in order to reinforce the ‘strong and stable’ message with those voters who will be swayed by the headlines of the right wing tabloids. In a press conference at the end of the G7 summit May said,
“I have been here with the G7, working with other international leaders to fight terrorism. At the same time Jeremy Corbyn has said that terror attacks in Britain are our own fault and he has chosen to do that a few days after one of the worst terrorist atrocities we have experienced in the United Kingdom and I want to make something clear to Jeremy Corbyn and to you: there can never be an excuse for terrorism, there can be no excuse for what happened in Manchester.”
Later in the day Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, jumped on the bandwagon with a flurry of trademark rhetorical bluster, stating that it was,
“…absolutely extraordinary and inexplicable in this week of all weeks that there should be any attempt to justify or to legitimate the actions of the terrorists in this way.”
There is no attempt by the Tories to offer any way of addressing the problems of international terrorism, or any hint that considering the bigger foreign policy picture should be part of the debate. These are not the actions of serious politicians who want to seriously address the issues facing the people of their country. They are merely the rhetorical rantings of a narrow class wanting to hang onto and defend their privileges.
Behind the Tory cynicism is one crucial reality. Their campaign is not working. Labour is gaining in the polls. The past week has been a hiatus that the Tories are cynically attempting to turn to their advantage. There is little time left before the 8th June. We must use that time to make sure that it is still time enough for voters to see through the Tory smokescreen. The people of Manchester deserve better; the people of the UK deserve better.