Is Jeremy Corbyn really such a threat to national security?
It was probably not Jeremy Corbyn’s fault that Labour headquarters caught fire on his first day in charge, but it did seem slightly ominous.
While commentators may have predicted his victory would mean putting out a few fires within the party, they probably hadn’t meant it literally. It was bad timing, particularly as it coincided with a new Conservative attack line on Labour’s leader.
David Cameron took to Twitter – generally a risky strategy for a Tory, unless they like being called a lizard – to warn: “The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security.”
Bold stuff from a man who once abandoned his daughter in a pub. And it was definitely smart of Corbyn not to announce his plans to threaten people’s families during the leadership contest. Maybe he does have a Machiavellian streak after all. Or he has been doing it for ages and no one has spoken out because he has hostages.
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But it was Cameron’s warning over national security that raises bigger questions – not least, is social media where we make these sorts of announcements now? It’s a shame we didn’t have Twitter during the Blitz.
It was strong language, with the PM apparently trying to set Labour’s new hero up as some sort of comic book super-villain.
And who knows what he is up to. He could have anything hidden under that beard – an anarchist tattoo? A doomsday device? Some sort of chin?
MI5 should shave him.
So hopefully Cameron will soon be a bit more specific – though the biggest worry for anyone who takes the PM at his word is, why was this threat to national security then allowed onto the Queen’s Privy Council? Cameron probably should have stopped this.
In fact it seems, due to some terrible lack of foresight, that Nicola ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain’ Sturgeon is also on it. Corbyn and Sturgeon in cahoots, plotting together. How can this have been allowed? If things keep going at this rate Hannibal Lector will be advising the Queen before Christmas.
Of course, Corbyn’s job has not been made any easier by his treatment from the British press – which seems to have taken offence at his dress sense as much as anything else. Though it’s hard to say how seriously their views should be taken, given that, as a group, political journalists are one of the worst dressed demographics in British society – coming somewhere between a toddler in a dress-up box, the average clown and a middle-aged train-spotter in the fashion stakes.
But it may not really matter. OK, the media doesn’t rate him. But then, if you consider the things the media does generally like – for example, Simon Cowell – that may not be such a bad thing.
So Corbyn got on with forming his new shadow team, with the resignations of some of the biggest names forcing him to adopt an approach usually only used by sports teams in children’s films – bringing together an unlikely gaggle of misfits to try and win the big game.
The headlines were largely dominated by his choice of John McDonnell as shadow chancellor, with the veteran left-winger gaining notoriety after boasting he would rather “swim through vomit” than abstain on welfare cuts. And the other choices were no less controversial, especially after it was claimed the new shadow secretary for environment, food and rural affairs, Kerry McCarthy – a vegan – opposes livestock farming.
And you can see why giving the farming brief to someone who doesn’t believe in farming raises eyebrows. But then Cameron got away with giving the environment brief to climate change sceptic Owen Patterson, and the welfare brief to welfare sceptic Iain Duncan Smith.
As criticism mounted – particularly over concerns that all senior positions had gone to men – party strategists called for loyalty, which would probably be more convincing if Corbyn himself had not rebelled against the party line 410 times between 2001 and 2010.
But at least he was well received by the TUC conference. Introduced to the tune of ‘Hey Big Spender’, Labour’s new ‘man of distinction’ launched one of his first big attacks on the Tories as leader.
Bobbing his head from side to side, like a wise squirrel, he said: “They call us deficit deniers. But then they spend billions cutting taxes for the richest families or for the most profitable businesses.”
He continued: “What they are is poverty deniers: Ignoring the growing queues at food banks. Ignoring the growing housing crisis. Cutting tax credits when child poverty rose by half a million under the last Government to over four million.”
The ‘poverty deniers’ line is a good one, even if it seems to suggest that he, in contrast, is a ‘poverty accepter’. Still, even if Corbyn is not the smoothest or most passionate of speakers, he looked pretty relaxed.
And if he is going to go on to truly become the threat to national security that the Tories claim – which will mean stopping his party from imploding first – he will need nerves of steel.