Corbyn Moves To The Right – After Less Than A Week In Office

Ed Moloney thinks Jeremy Corbyn is already delivering the Pat Rabbitte punch after only one week as leader of the British Labour Party. Ed Moloney blogs @ The Broken Elbow.

He has been leader of the British Labour Party for only five or six days but already the darling of the British left has softened or abandoned some pretty defining political positions.

Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to sing ‘God Save the Queen’, the British national anthem, was the first to go – and a very powerfully symbolic move it was.

An ardent English republican, Corbyn stood silent at a Battle of Britain remembrance ceremony while surrounded by RAF types and British military top brass and their wives. After fierce media and political condemnation from all the predictable quarters, led by The Daily Telegraph, his aides let it be known that from now on he would sing the anthem at such public ceremonies.

Next it was Europe. Known to be hostile to an entity the left regards as a neoliberal carve up, Corbyn was thought to be sympathetic to withdrawing from the EC, a possibility that had the lunatic Farage in a lather of excitement.

Now, again facing internal opposition, Corbyn has performed another U-turn, telling the British media he would not campaign for British withdrawal.

The most telling switch has been on the Trident nuclear missile programme, a submarine-borne system of mass destruction based in Scotland. This issue touches two left-wing nerves in Britain, one in Scotland where SNP opposition to Trident played no small part in the success of the independence referendum and the party’s general election performance which was also centred on ‘old-fashioned’ support for the NHS, social welfare and the like; and, of course, opposition to nuclear weapons was one of Old Labour’s defining issues. Remember CND and the Aldermarston marches, Michael Foot and Tony Benn?

Keeping Trident, or preserving any sort of nuclear weapon, was rightly regarded by the Right in Britain as meaning the country was still a world power, ready and able to join with the US and NATO in whatever imperial enterprise that was regarded as appropriate and timely – like invading Libya, bombing Syria and so on. For the same reasons the British Left opposed Trident and all nuclear weapons.

And so, Corbyn was anti-Trident. Until this week. Now he has announced to the media that if the Labour party does back Trident, he won’t resign as leader. In other words the issue is not so important to him now that on principle he can’t accept it.

I haven’t read much yet about Corbyn’s solidity or lack of it on Northern Ireland but he has been hammered over his perceived closeness to Gerry Adams and the IRA. So, I won’t be surprised, if the previous developments are any guide, to see some important distancing happening on that issue.

There are two things that leap out about these developments. The first is that they are all the result of pressure from Blairites in the Labour party or the general right wing out there in the media, the Tory party, the British establishment and elsewhere.

Corbyn has buckled so easily under the pressure that the message to the Right is simple. Keep pushing him and maybe he’ll buckle on other, even more important things, like opposition to austerity or to privatising the NHS.

The second is that this has all happened in the first week of his leadership. Where on earth is he going to be in a month at this rate?

The Corbyn revolution was great fun and had a lot of nasty, pompous and self-important people worried for a while. But I don’t think they are as worried this weekend as they were last.

It’s an old and familiar story for the British Left. High expectations and the Labour party are like oil and water.


  1. Julian Assange thinks that Corbyns positions on NATO and Trident are so dangerous to US interests, that if he didnt modulate them, they would seek to destabilise him upto the point of assasination.

  2. I think we are too quick here...I believe he realises that in order to win the next British general election he must not only defeat the Tories but also the Labour party itself and in order to do so he needs to publicly tone his views down....privately, he is still as strong a Republican as he was and he still holds all those views he held for years....we'll see

  3. You are taking the piss Niall? Why do we continue to make excuses for these people? Surely it has to be their ideas we want to get into power and not themselves per se. And if they ditch their ideas to get themselves into government, what's the point? He is doing what all the left wafflers have done for aeons - they get half a chance and deliver the Pat Rabbitte punch. Some things never change. We knew Syriza would do it. And they did. The lot of them only help convince me never to vote again.

  4. We do not and will not live in a utopia. I think Corbyn has been bullied into singing the national anthem on future occasions, by the PLP and the pisspoor English media. Niall has a point. Corbyn is unlikely to last the next five years as leader, but if there is any chance of an alternative to this current Tory government Corbyn will have to compromise. Anyone who thinks he is simply ditching his ideas just need to grasp the political reality. I have voted in the past. In the more recent past I have not voted, but whether we like it or not, the choice at an election is usually of the lesser of two, or three or four or five evils. In Scotland the SNP has managed to convince a large section of the population that it is the party of the people and the party of the left, which is laughable. I struggle to admire politicians, but I actually think Corbyn is a good man and has been thrown into a situation which he is probably not equipped to deal with. Maybe he is a left waffler. The fact of the matter is that he never expected to be in this position and nobody else did. Now he is there and he was probably not equipped for the onslaught of the rabid media and the lack of goodwill from his own party in his first week. The guy is in a difficult position. I often think to myself that if you don't like our politicians and leaders and think they are not sufficiently principled or up to it, why not step up to the plate, set an example for us all and show us how your ideas will transform the minds of the millions?

  5. Joe,

    the utopia we live in is a belief that people like Corbyn will ever transform the system. The alternative to the Tories is not becoming the Tories. That is just managerial politics - same system, different line managers. I imagine had Gilmore not been so eager to get himself into office rather than his ideas he might have been poised about now to become the next Taoiseach. Compromise has to be at the margins of our beliefs not at the core. What the Corbyns do is authenticate the status quo and delegitimise opposition. If all the opposition can do is become like those they were opposed to, the electorate is going wonder about the point of it all. I think that might help explain the low Greek turnout. The lesser of evils invariably takes us to deciding what torturer, fascist or war criminal to vote for rather than declining to vote for any of them. The argument will always be to vote for Hitler rather than Himmler as Himmler might have killed 7 million Jews rather than 6. Is that where we really want to be? On the other hand saving I million Jews from extermination is not to be sneered at. I voted the Labour Party down here last time in the full knowledge that they would shaft us. I didn't vote them to shaft us but because I felt they might in some small way put one baby toe on the brake. They became a condom to protect Fine Gael while it screwed us. I'll hardly be voting next time. As Tommy Gorman says "why vote? The government always gets in." We will always have a government. It is more important to improve the quality of government by having an opposition of ideas rather than one of office chasers.