Don’t as­sume that Bri­tish PM Boris John­son is a sure thing. Jeremy Cor­byn could sneak a win, writes

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - Richard Fer­gu­son

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.

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