What will the young supporters of Jeremy Corbyn make of his refusal to condemn the Venezuelan government for its violent treatment of demonstrators and suppression of opponents?
It is known that one of the reasons for Labour’s current popularity is how the party motivated young voters to turn out in droves to back Corbyn’s election campaign. This phenomenon completely wrong-footed the Tories but also came as a great surprise to many Labour stalwarts too.
The reason was simple enough; the Tories did not major on the economy in their campaign – which was their strongest suit – but chose instead to contrast what was meant to be “strong and stable” leadership against a Labour leader who did not have the support of his own MPs. This meant that all the wild spending commitments made by Jeremy Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell were never properly scrutinised and exposed as a recipe for economic disaster.
On top of this strategic error the Conservatives then committed two catastrophic tactical misjudgements. The first was a manifesto that alienated so many of their own supporters that they were forced to backtrack by reversing new policies only just announced – making a mockery of the strong and stable leadership they were offering. Then, as Labour started to gain on Theresa May’s original 20 point lead, the Tory campaign went negative about Jeremy Corbyn himself.
Corbyn’s well documented past support for the IRA, even when bombs were going off in Britain, started to flood social media, as did his failure to deal with growing anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. This had Labour moderates deeply worried for these two issues were what had made them believe Corbyn would be unelectable. But the negativity failed, miserably.
While older voters who remembered the IRA bombs in cities such as Birmingham, London, Manchester and Brighton were more likely to be put off by Corbyn’s past justifications of terrorism that had resulted in the deaths of innocent bystanders, for the younger generation it did not seem to matter. Free university education, student debt to be written off? What was not to like about Corbyn and his promises? For many the IRA’s violence was just not in their political consciousness – after all, many of the IRA leaders had put away the Armalite and were now democratic politicians.
What this line of argument missed was that Corbyn and McDonnell had been excusing the IRA when they were practising murder – in complete contrast to mainstream Labour politicians who had condemned it. The IRA was forced to the negotiating table because British intelligence had infiltrated the IRA so much that its military campaign was defeated. Accepting a peace deal was the reluctant face-saver that Corbyn then had to support without the achievement of a united Ireland.
Now there is a new, real and ghastly development that exposes Jeremy Corbyn’s willingness to excuse political violence in the name of causes he supports. In Venezuela the socialist President Nicolás Maduro – a political hero of Corbyn – is stamping out popular opposition to his ruinous economic and social disasters. More than 100 demonstrators have been killed by police repression while the state authorities have been abducting opponents in the middle of the night.
Jeremy Corbyn has once more refused to condemn comrades who practice the most abhorrent oppression. Instead the best he can do is to say all violence is wrong – equating peaceful demonstrators expressing their freedom of speech as the equal of the Venezuelan government’s brutal force.
There are no excuses for Corbyn supporters this time. Venezuela’s tragedy is happening now and is only likely to get worse. Will Corbyn admirers recoil from supporting him or hold their noses because they hate Tories so much or want “stuff” for free?