For the second time since his election to the Labour leadership, I am going to defend Jeremy Corbyn. I have kept my counsel in recent weeks regarding his less than his, shall we say, less than helpful comments about unarmed nuclear submarines and the Falklands Islands because the man is going nowhere, just like the Labour Party, really. But when Corbyn makes his first official overseas trip and visits the Calais Jungle and Grande-Synthe camps in France, I think he should be applauded for it.
The Tory supporting ‘Independent’ tweeted: ‘Corbyn’s first overseas visit as Labour Leader? The Calais Jungle, obviously.’ Why obviously? But the sneering journalists at the Independent, owned by former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev, obviously saw a golden opportunity to sneer. Obviously.
I have never been to the camps, nor would I want to. Conditions at both camps are hideous and where did Corbyn get it wrong when he said: “These conditions are a disgrace anywhere. We as human beings have to reach out to fellow human beings.” I do not know all the stories from the people who have reached the camps, but I suspect they are not there for a laugh. Desperate people to desperate things and no one who was not desperate would surely choose the camps in France to hang out for a few months.
If the Independent has seen fit to ‘take the piss’ out of Corbyn’s first visit abroad, can you imagine what the Daily Mail will be saying? Just check out Harriet Sargeant’s hate-filled article in today’s rag ‘How Labour has turned London into a foreign city’ and grab yourself an exclusive preview. Mail proprietor Lord Rothermere, the one who wanted to do business with Hitler and supported Oswald Mosley before World War Two, would probably find the contents a little too right wing even for him. But in today’s ultra right wing media, a hard-hitting racist, xenophobic article is regarded as being mainstream, given that last year’s far right is today’s mainstream.
Corbyn, having visited the camps, will now have a far better understanding of what is going on over there than anyone in HM’s government. I think that is a good thing.
He then visited the Dunkirk War Memorial, in the words of the very same Independent to “bow his head in memory of all those who died in the two World Wars”. Well, good for him. And good for us. I’d like to think he was also there representing the Labour Party and all its members, like me. If I have an issue with his pacifism – and I have a very serious issue with his pacifism – then that’s for another day. Doubtless the red top vermin will be checking to see if Corbyn bowed his head properly, if he bothered to bow his head at all. I don’t care about that.
It’s always one step forward then many more back for Jeremy Corbyn but I thought today was worth more than one step forward and let’s give credit when credit is due.