COR BLIMEY... THIS AIN’T OVER
Don’t assume that British PM Boris Johnson is a sure thing. Jeremy Corbyn could sneak a win, writes
BRITISH Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn expresses sympathy for terrorists, wants to blow his country’s budget out by trillions, and is the least popular leader of a UK political party in recent memory.
But despite it all, he is still in with a shot in next month’s election as Britain’s topsyturvy politics continues to throw up surprises.
Current polls give the Tories anywhere from a seven to 14 point lead over Labour as Prime Minister Boris Johnson seeks a majority to finally deliver Brexit.
But Mr Johnson has faced his own woes this week — from a slow response to floods, attacks from Hillary Clinton over the influence of Russian spies, and a series of blunders by his own ministers.
It is a sign of a Conservative campaign that is getting an election on nearly anything but Brexit, and that could be enough to give socialist Corbyn the keys to Number 10 on the back of deals with minor parties and dissatisfaction with Mr Johnson.
Mr Corbyn, however, has some pretty significant problems of his own, and mostly they’re of his own making.
He was greeted by a Church of Scotland minister who let out a shocking heckle this week: “Who’s the first terrorist you’re going to invite to No 10?” the Scotsman shouted at Mr Corbyn.
If it had been an Australian political leader accused of being a terrorist sympathiser, it would have rocked the nation. But the UK Labour leader does have form when it comes to sympathising with terrorists.
Mr Corbyn said that same day that if the West wanted to live in a world of “peace and justice,” US forces should have arrested mass-murdering ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi, despite the fact he blew himself and two children up with a suicide vest.
“If it would have been possible to arrest him, I don’t know the details of the circumstances at the time,” Mr Corbyn told LBC radio on Wednesday. “I have only seen various statements put out by the US about it, surely that would have been the right thing to do.
“If we want to live in a world of peace and justice we should practice it as well.”
Mr Corbyn has appeared overly sympathetic towards terrorists before.
In 2015, he told Iranian television that it was a “shame” that Osama bin Laden had been killed rather than arrested.
He has also called Islamist terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends” at a parliamentary meeting in 2009.
Mr Corbyn also spent years campaigning for the release of members of the Irish Republican Army, who murdered hundreds of Brits from the 1970s to the 1990s.
The Labour leader has also been tarred as an anti-Semite. He has been slow to kick out Labour MPs and activists close to him who have said despicable things about Jewish people.
Former Labour MPs and ex-party activists like Labour Against anti-Semitism’s Euan Phillips are now urging leftwing voters to vote “anyone but Corbyn” in order to stop him from taking control.
“The Labour Party is now an institutionally anti-Semitic party,” Mr Phillips said earlier this month. “If Corbyn loses in December, there may be a chance for the Labour Party. If he wins, I suspect personally that I will be helping some of my Jewish friends pack. They will want to leave.”
Mr Corbyn himself has been dogged by allegations he is also anti-Semitic.
The Labour leader in 2012 protested the removal of a street mural showing elderly Jewish men playing Monopoly on the pack of emaciated bodies. He later claimed he did not look closely enough at the artwork — even though it was literally the size of a building.
In August last year, Jewish groups criticised Mr Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell for supporting a parliamentary motion calling for Holocaust Memorial Day to be renamed “Genocide Memorial Day”.
He also attended and held a wreath at a ceremony in Tunisia in 2014 which was claimed
to be a memorial for the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich massacre, in which 11 members of Israel’s Olympics team were murdered. Mr Corbyn later said he was at the ceremony to honour victims of a 1985 Israel air strike.
And in 2013, he told a conference that British Zionists had “no sense of British irony”.
Then there are Labour’s far-left economic policies.
Mr Corbyn says he wants a four-day working week, renationalisation of a swag of key industries, getting rid of private schools, and massive taxes on big businesses and the rich. Those policies were popular at the 2017 election where Mr Corbyn nearly beat Theresa May, but Mr Johnson is a much better campaigner.
And Mr Johnson is hoping those 2017 Labour voters will turn to him in droves to get Brexit done and avoid a Corbyn administration.
Alan Sherlock, 71, has cleaned windows in the Labour-dominated northern city of Manchester for 54 years.
The window-cleaner will back the Tories in this upcoming election and thinks other Manchester voters could follow suit.
“Boris is mad but that’s what you need. You need someone with different ideas,” he said. “People around here could switch from Labour to Boris. He could be like Trump, you know. Because he’s getting things done.”
Patricia, 65, is an Irish immigrant to Manchester and has also become a fan of the Conservative leader.
“Boris is going to give Brexit a shot. I don’t like politicians but I like Boris. He says what he thinks,” she said.
Even pro-EU voters like Jessica Page-Campbell, a 20year-old UberEats worker, are unsure about Corbyn — even if he is offering a second referendum on Brexit.
“I would have voted Remain if I had been old enough in 2016. People have definitely changed their minds,” she said.
“Jeremy Corbyn needs to let someone take over now. He’s not the right sort of person ... I might go for the Greens.”
Mr Johnson hopes that a split in the Remain vote will help him take seats Labour have held for nearly 100 years, but he has faced his own problems in recent days.
It took several days for the PM to convene an emergency cabinet meeting over floods in Yorkshire — and when he arrived to help with the clean-up on Wednesday, there were more than a few hecklers.
“Where have you been? … it’s too little, too late,” one woman shouted at the Prime Minister, as they both stood knee-deep in floodwaters.
To add to Mr Johnson’s woes, one of his cabinet ministers — Alun Cairns — was forced to resign last week after he lied about knowing one of his staff allegedly sabotaged a rape trial.
Another cabinet minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg, apologised after he insulted survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Mrs Clinton meanwhile chimed in to call Mr Johnson’s government “shameful” for not releasing a report which contains allegations Russian spies tried to influence the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Mr Johnson is also forever dogged by questions about his much younger girlfriend Carrie Symonds, his string of failed marriages and affairs — and allegations he has fathered a number of illegitimate kids.
While he is still behind, Mr Corbyn has seized on all these Tory blunders and polls show he is creeping back up as voters — especially pro-EU ones — turn to him.
In Scotland, there is a whole other election contest going on where Brexit is definitely the second-order issue. And it may be Corbyn’s ticket to the top.
The Scottish Government’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is hoping her Scottish Nationalist Party will grab most of the 59 seats in her country — as the polls are predicting — and can then hold a vote on her country leaving the United Kingdom altogether.
If the Tories fail to win a pro-Brexit majority in parliament, Mr Corbyn could end up getting into Number 10 off the back of a deal with Ms Sturgeon to allow a Scottish independence referendum by 2021.
This election, then, will be about a series of questions — not just Brexit — where old party bases are split. Corbyn could just creep up the middle.