How remiss of Jeremy Corbyn to forget having met someone briefly, six years ago! Or is it?
Let’s put this in a personal context: Six years ago, This Writer was already a carer for Mrs Mike, and therefore would have met any number of doctors, psychiatrists and specialists dealing with her various conditions. Can I remember any of them today? No – not without prompting.
I was also in a band that performed at gigs and festivals around Wales and – in 2009 – several times in London. Can I remember meeting any notable ‘names’ during any of those occasions? No – not without prompting.
And I was carrying out freelance work for a weekly newspaper, covering for the local reporter when she was on holiday. I would have attended council meetings and court hearings. Can I remember who was there? No – not without prompting.
It seems extremely unlikely that any Vox Political reader, other than those who have had extremely few contacts with the outside world for many years, would be any different.
So it should come as no surprise that Jeremy Corbyn did not remember meeting, in that year, Dyab Abou Jahjah, described as a Lebanese activist who was later banned from the UK on grounds of extremism. As a politician, it seems likely he would meet any number of such people, visiting the UK from foreign countries, all or none of whom could turn out to be what we might colloquially describe as “wrong ‘uns”.
Yet The Guardian‘s headline is shrill. Corbyn backtracks, it states. The headline isn’t inaccurate – he did retract his previous claim – but the word “backtrack” has negative connotations, implying that he was trying to distance himself from a previous statement because it implies wrongdoing on his part.
Look at what he says, and we get a different story: “My staff have researched this and tell me that I did meet this man in 2009 but I have no recollection of him. As an MP I have met thousands of people over the years. Because I meet them, it does not mean I share their views or endorse their views.
“I’ve spent my life opposing racism. Until my dying day, I’ll be opposed to racism in any form,” he said.
“Antisemitism, Islamophobia, far-right racism is totally wrong and absolutely obnoxious and I’ve made that absolutely clear to everybody who will listen to me on this subject,” he added later, according to the newspaper.
Quite right. Yet that is what the anti-Corbyn campaigners are trying to say. It’s nonsense.
As Alex Finbow wrote on the Google+ UK Politics page: “So every foreign sec who shook the hand of an Iranian PM or [has] gone to Saudi Arabia to negotiate business contracts [is], by association, a supporter of mysogynistic, homophobic, antisemitic, sectarian and terrorist causes.
“The British government talked to the IRA for decades and eventually dialogue led to peace. Our governments have been in bed with the racist Israeli State ever since its terrorists (the Urgun, Stern gang et al), stole Palestine.
“Corbyn wants a peaceful, just solution to the Middle Eastern conflicts and, specifically, Israel/Palestine. That will only be done by talking to all the actors in that conflict. And to talk, you need to be polite to people [when] you might not like many parts of their agenda. That is diplomacy. What it isn’t, is political posturing, smearing, playing to your own audience for short term gain [or] spin.”
Dyab Abou Jahjah himself has written on Twitter in defence of Mr Corbyn, saying: “My collaboration with Jeremy Corbyn was always guided by common belief in dialogue, justice and equality of all people.”
All things considered, it seems justice would be better served by exposing the person who accused Mr Corbyn, in order to ensure that they cannot be allowed to spread any similar nonsense.
We should also note that people who have made previous claims about Mr Corbyn have – themselves – been forced to backtrack. The newspaper reported: “Last week, the Jewish Chronicle published a front-page editorial saying he had questions to answer about alleged links with people who have used antisemitic rhetoric. Since then, a group of dozens of prominent activists have signed an open letter to the newspaper saying its assertion that most British Jews were worried about a Corbyn victory was ‘without foundation’.”
There remain 30 days until the new Labour leader is finally announced.
For that period, can we please have a campaign that is based on policies, and not on wild and unfounded personal slurs?
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