It is easy to forget, when discussing current events, that the condition of their current-ness means the climate in which they are discussed must be constantly changing also. An article praised for its poignancy one week can become utterly irrelevant and nonsensical the next, depending on what happens over the weekend.
On Thursday the 12th of November, I was writing a piece about reactionary corporate press and its collaboration with right-wing elements of the Labour Party to portray their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as a Britain-hating scourge of patriots (who'd guillotine the Queen quite happily) but is as soft as a marshmallow when it comes to foreign policy. The article was coming along nicely. Then Friday the 13th rolled around and the world learned of the colossal and barbaric terrorist attacks in Paris, which changed, by force of circumstance, the shape of any foreign policy discussion.
After deliberating, I decided to continue with the piece I was originally writing. Tragedies like the Paris attacks produce a rhetorical minefield. They turn areas of debate that have rarely been so pertinent into exceptionally sensitive issues. As people struggle to process the brutality they have witnessed, some can seem to be attempting to politicise the tragedy, and are condemned, although in reality there is little about it that isn't political. Given, then, that a discussion of its wider ramifications is inescapable, the least we can ask for is for it to be conducted with decency. And that doesn't just mean bowing so low that your nose polishes the tips of your shoes.
Jeremy Corbyn is a man pushing a huge boulder up a steep hill. A boulder covered in loads of glue. With spikes coming out of it. The insistent prick of said spikes represent the most formidable adversary he has faced in a thirty-year career; the so-called Labour "moderates", whose preferred leadership candidate, Liz Kendall, received an extremely moderate 4.5% of the vote compared to Corbyn's 59.5%. Some Labour moderates are so moderate they want to stage a coup, like the moderate military general who said he'd like to stage an actual coup if Corbyn came to power. I do like the smell of moderation in the morning.
John Rentoul of The Independent is a really moderate guy; a moderate former advisor to Tony "moderate" Blair. When he heard of the attacks in Paris, he was shocked. Not moderately shocked. Really shocked. Shocked that he hadn't heard of it sooner so he could lay into Corbyn on Twitter. His excremental tweet isn't worth reprinting and he's since deleted it and printed a formal apology.
The Tory press might have targeted Corbyn in the 1980s for expressing such ludicrous fringe opinions as "gay people should have equal rights" and "Apartheid is bad," but even Rupert Murdoch might read right-wing Labour MP Simon Danczuk's weekly anti-Corbyn screeds and think "blimey, steady on, Si." That said, Danczuk's latest backstabbing extravaganza has moved from the Daily Mail to Murdoch's Sun. Writing in these Tory papers, Danczuk does a stand-up job promoting Labour to an audience outside the party, by telling them how rubbish he thinks it is.
Paranoid Labour right-wingers like Danczuk - or "bonfire pissers", as I've taken to calling them, for their utterly miserable determination to keep raining on the parade of the party they belong to - whinge that Corbyn will have them deselected; thrown out of their seats in a Stalinist consolidation of power (Stalinist/Leninist/Trotskyite, who gives a toss? As long as it sounds evil.) But Corbyn has said he's opposed to deselection. Anyway, I reckon the party could easily do without Danczuk; they'd still have Tom Watson to hunt paedophiles. Ultimately, the impression left by the public contributions of Danczuk and his Blairite buddies is that of a deeply divided Labour Party.
Despite having the biggest mandate of any leader in British political history (sorry Tony), the press love that Corbyn is failing to command the confidence of his parliamentary party. They love that the views of anti-Corbyn MPs mirror their own. Hence, whenever Corbyn tries to appoint anyone he actually agrees with to a senior position - be it Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell or advisors Seumas Milne and Andrew Fisher - Fleet Street's collective indignation can be heard echoing for miles.
The biggest dig at Corbyn, coming from within the party and externally, is that he is "unelectable." Yet his detractors must, at least on some level, believe Corbyn could become Prime Minister as you don’t see the same treatment meted out to Lib Dems’ Tim Farron, whose unlikeliness to become PM is illustrated by the fact I just felt the need to refer to him as “Lib Dems’ Tim Farron.” It's worth remembering, also, that Labour's 2015 leadership contest was essentially open to the public, costing as little as £1 for a student, and that the other three candidates could have built mass support to exceed that of Corbyn if they were anywhere near as "electable" as they were made out to be. No, whatever electability Corbyn does have represents a threat to the established order, and not just financial elites, but the political consensus on military intervention that has resulted in our jolly western japes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. In the wake of the Paris attacks, the drum is now being beaten for a new bombing campaign in Syria.
Since his election, the British Right (as exemplified by the majority of printed press) have engaged in an unprecedented amount of ugly, nationalistic, warmongering, dissent-squashing, pseudo-patriotic, jingoistic, more-British-than-thou flag-waving nonsense virtually unrivalled in Western democracy since the Bush administration. It is unmistakably McCarthyist in tone. Suddenly people are talked about in simplistic, binary terms – you're either with us or against us! It's fine to have an analysis of history, but only one Forrest Gump could understand. At the Conservative Party conference, Oxford-educated David Cameron pretended not to understand something Corbyn said about Osama Bin Laden and so pretended to be very angry about Corbyn's "security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology."
Evidently Cameron has noticed that perpetuating a strong national or cultural myth proves politically expedient for everyone from Reagan's neoconservatives to the Wahabists of ISIS. Or maybe he's just decided to get the ghost of J Edgar Hoover to write his speeches. The affectation of Cameron's anger is wholly unconvincing to anyone who's seen him truly hot under the collar, gurning and grimacing his way through six questions about tax credit cuts at Prime Minister's Questions.
Corbyn's Britain-hating is evidenced by his opposition to the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear missile system; a £167bn vacuum of money and morality that it is highly likely we will never use (and would be an atrocity if we ever did) but is predicated on the idea that we should keep saying we might in order to intimidate other countries, or, as its defenders say, "keep us at the table". Apparently, they think disarmament would see Britain expelled from the UN Security Council. The English love Trident because it's kept a bajillion miles away in Scotland, where the citizens, curiously, aren't such big fans. The SNP and Scottish Labour both oppose its renewal. Who are we deterring with it anyway? Terrorists and Putin seem to be the stock answers.
The head of Britain's military, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, was caught out on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show saying that he would be worried by Corbyn's unilateralist stance "if that thought was translated to power." "It's not personal," said Houghton, whilst expressing a clearly personal preference for who he'd like to see governing the country. And, as the people of Chile can attest, it always goes so well when the military try to weigh-in on the democratic process! According to former First Sea Lord, Alan West, the thing about soldiers is that they don't know nothing about no "being clever with words"; most of them are simple types who only speak bullet. Houghton may have been the victim of a ruthless interrogation, but if he buckled that quickly under Marr, God knows how he would've held up in a Vietnamese POW camp. In any case, it's lucky Houghton's combat experience appears to have consisted largely of valiantly fighting his way through whichever formidable paper foes pile up on his desk. That probably involves a bit of "being clever with words," come to think of it.
But it's all okay, really. While Corbyn himself seemed quite perturbed, Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary, Maria Eagle, said Houghton was perfectly entitled to express those views; which had nothing to do, of course, with her own support for Trident. Given the nature of the fight against global terror, it would make absolutely no sense to invest that £167bn in the police or the armed forces, given that only the nuclear deterrent can possibly scare away the terrorists. It's all about preventative measures, right? Imagine if the only nuclear power in Europe was France; you'd have France, where nothing bad ever happens, having the time of their bloody lives while Britain just sits there getting nuked into the ground by the Putin-ISIS Axis.