After resuming the Labour campaign on Friday, Jeremy Corbyn suffered.
Speech samples were leaked to the media on Thursday, preparing us for what would be a day of controversy, so close to Monday’s attack.
I made my concerns clear here, and some of these concerns remain. How the media handles (and has handled) this speech, could be problematic.
But Jeremy’s team knew this. Seumas Milne, James Schneider, Andrew Gwynne and others, aren’t idiots.
A strategy was developed. A plan created. Polls, presumably, conducted.
So let’s take a look.
Potential advantages of the speech: to put clear water between the Labour vision of how, why and when government should act; to acknowledge Jeremy’s own views and principles to ensure clarity for the public (in his own words, “You deserve to know what a Labour government would do to keep you safe. Our approach will involve change at home & change abroad;” and to ensure all foreign policy debate or past “links” to the IRA or others were discussed before the final ten days of the election. (It would be better, surely, to enter this discussion in his own time, than to face an ambush on Monday’s Sky News Q & A, or later in the campaign. To open the debate now would force the discussion, with no secrets held and (hopefully) no re-runs necessary as the campaign progressed).
Additionally, with Theresa May in Europe, the announcement would provide some breathing space, with only Fallon, Rudd and Johnson available to criticise him.
So what happened?
Media headlines focused on “the Labour leader drawing links between our foreign policy and Monday’s attack.” Conservative politicians lined-up to criticise him. Interviewers tried to present the leader as “out-of-touch” and “insensitive.”
The fall-out was brutal.
But, come evening, the tide started to turn…
Fallon suffered a Channel 4 interview where he (unwittingly) criticised his colleague (and Foreign Secretary) Boris Johnson, for comments he thought belonged to Jeremy Corbyn; which also undermined Johnson’s claim Corbyn’s perpsective was “monstrous.
The former British Ambassador to Libya appeared on BBC News to make clear Jeremy Corbyn had some valid points – and his concerns were not only valuable but shared by many in the Intelligence community.
And even Sky News Political Editor, Faisal Islam, took a balanced approach, and again focused on Theresa May’s shambolic campaign.
When Theresa May resumes her campaign, two things could happen: first, she could launch it by speaking about the importance of security and the “inability” of Jeremy Corbyn to deliver it or, second, she could revert to type and talk about Brexit.
There is no way – whatsoever – Theresa May can talk about the Conservative manifesto or domestic politics. She has proven that, A., the manifesto is deeply unpopular and, B., even she doesn’t like it, which is why she’s performed two u-turns before the election has even taken place (which is probably why she has cancelled the resumption of her campaign).
These actions are unprecedented. And we need to defend Jeremy Corbyn as much as we expose Theresa May and her Conservative Party.
Yesterday, I wrote that if Jeremy chose to resume the campaign talking about foreign policy, he would open himself up to all these attacks and damage the precious 5 point gap gained over the past week.
But now? It seems there’s little to worry about. The issue is out. The Andrew Neil interview was complete and Corbyn – who endured a whole twenty minutes on foreign policy “controversy” (including a whole ten minutes on the IRA) – emerged largely unscathed, despite some moderate bruising.
After her interview on Monday, Theresa May emerged ripped to pieces in a far less rigorous interview, in which Neil ignored her past almost entirely.
Media coverage of this election was always going to be tough.
But ironically, the fact Corbyn has suffered this for the past two years, and not just the past two months, is in his favour.
Theresa May finished her tour in Europe by saying Corbyn’s comments made this election choice “starker.” She’s right.
We have a choice between a leader willing to recognise we need thought-through policies and clear plans before putting troops in harm’s way; of ensuring our public services – like our police, hospitals, nurses, doctors and firemen – are properly funded; of guaranteeing more money for cyber security and Intelligence services; of not being afraid to stand-up to Trump and to choose our own foreign policy based on the security and safety of our citizens and armed forces, before propping-up American-led interventions.
Or we could choose a leader and Conservative Party who cut our police numbers by 20,000 in six years, who slashed police budgets by 25% and who held hands with Trump at the White House begging for a closer relationship and trade deal after a hard Brexit. Theresa May voted for the Iraq war, she voted for the war in Afghanistan and voted for our involvement in Libya and Syria.
We could elect a Prime Minister who thinks before they act; or we could vote for one with their finger on the trigger, waiting for an excuse.
I know which one I’ll choose. And that’s why I’ll be voting for my local Labour candidate on June 8th; to ensure a responsible, peaceful, united foreign policy and security in our future; through greater public services, a fully-funded NHS, security in our retirement, housing and education.
Where affording social care doesn’t require us to sell our homes and where we can all earn a better standard of living with a £10 minimum wage and new rights for workers.
So let’s stay positive. Let’s get the message out. And let’s fight for the future we – and millions of others – need.
Over the next few weeks I’ll continue writing an article a day. Stay tuned via Twitter @politicstim.