No longer able to lie about Labour’s manifesto costings, the right-wing press are now recycling vague, baseless allegations of Corbyn’s support for IRA violence. In the meantime, the Prime Minister’s present transgressions are overlooked.
Numerous articles have emerged in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s “refusal” to “unequivocally condemn” the actions of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). One particularly tasteless piece, by the Sun’s Tom Newton-Dunn, even alleged as fact – on the basis of one man’s testimony – that Corbyn’s discussions with IRA leaders “prolonged the violence”.
Unfortunately for Newton-Dunn, and the rest of the right-wing press whose contempt for Corbyn is dwarfed only by their contempt for journalistic integrity, the Labour leader’s dealings with the IRA have been 100% vindicated by history.
Corbyn has never made it a secret that he believed Irish reunification or, at least, the possibility of “unity by consent” – essentially a Labour policy – was the key to achieving peace in Northern Ireland.
And the Islington MP’s views were undoubtedly justified. First, in his opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement – which he felt “strengthens rather than weakens the border between the six and the 26 counties”. Second, in his support for the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), which recognised the concerns of both unionists and nationalists and made it possible for democratic change further down the line.
There should not be any confusion as to why the GFA led to eventual peace where the Anglo-Irish did not (although arguments that it paved the way to the GFA are credible). Nationalist ambitions were rightly acknowledged as legitimate, and a mechanism to achieve them through the democratic process was assured – thereby disincentivising violence.
The extent of Corbyn’s contribution is not the issue here. That said, I find it hard to believe that he had no influence on bringing Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness – two leaders he is said to have had close ties with – to the table.
In any case, if peace was the ultimate goal in Northern Ireland, then Corbyn’s views at the time have, once again, been proven right. Furthermore, if talking to terrorists is such a scandal, then the governments of Heath, Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major and Blair have much to answer for.
Meanwhile, the same journalists who leave their integrity at the door to create a 30-year old scandal where there is none also neglect to pick it back up when faced with real, contemporary scandals.
Theresa May is not responsible for the Manchester attack. But her time in the home office oversaw debilitating cuts to police and other security services – to the tune of 20,000 less police officers since 2010. And because of the selective silence of the right-wing press, she is still somehow considered more trustworthy on security.
Theresa May is not a terrorist sympathiser, but she is a terrorist enabler. It is now common knowledge that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been funding ISIS. And yet, the Prime Minister sells billions of pounds worth of weapons to these countries, facilitating war crimes in Yemen and potentially aiding ISIS too. But the Sun and Daily Mail only go as far as lukewarm acknowledgment of the existence of criticism. Hardly comparable to the column inches they reserve to smear Corbyn.
As a journalist, what should be more pertinent to an electorate? A backbencher’s attempts to achieve peace in Northern Ireland 30 years ago, or the current multi-billion pound sales of arms to one of the most repressive regimes in the world and the birthplace of Islamic fundamentalism?
Let’s not pretend that the media’s obsession with Corbyn and the IRA is anything other than an attempt to recycle a smear in order to counter Labour’s impressive gains in recent weeks. If I didn’t already know that the Conservative lead was insurmountable, I’d accuse them of running scared.
This is nothing more than a truly contemptible diversion tactic. I don’t think for a second that, if Newton-Dunn and his merry band of Tory propagandists had left this issue alone, Labour might win the election. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be criticised for their dishonesty, for manufacturing scandals where there are none, and for ignoring the very real scandals that are going on.