Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 19 November 2015

The Paris atrocities, BBC rolling news, the right to criticise Islam, President Rouhani’s French dinner

When Jeremy Corbyn says it is better to bring people to trial than to shoot them, he is right. So one might feel a little sorry for him as the critics attack his reaction to the Paris events. But in fact the critics are correct, for the wrong reason. It is not Mr Corbyn’s concern for restraint and due process which are the problem. It is the question of where his sympathies really lie, of what story he thinks all these things tell. Every single time that a terrorist act is committed (unless, of course, it be a right-wing one, like that of Anders Breivik), Mr Corbyn locates the ill as deriving from the behaviour of the West, especially the United States and Britain (and, where relevant, Israel). Thus the IRA were not to be condemned, in 1984, for trying to blow up Mrs Thatcher and her cabinet at Brighton: they were driven to such extremes by the colonial oppression of Northern Ireland. Thus President Putin is not to be criticised for waging what amounts to war in the Ukraine: he is responding to the provocations of Nato. And thus Isis and the murders they commit are all what Marxists call epiphenomena. They are the inevitable results of the thing itself — capitalist exploitation. Now that he is Labour leader, you can get Mr Corbyn to duck and weave a bit presentationally — be photographed with war veterans, dine with the Queen, wear a tie — but you will never get him to deviate from his basic account of the source of all evil. He is the political, left-wing version of a creationist — happy, from time to time, to use emollient language, but utterly fundamentalist. There is no arguing with such people. They are quite outside the normal range of understandable disagreement about a tricky subject like the Middle East.

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