Shrugging off critics Trump-style, Corbyn withstands outrage, rises in polls
Despite furor over his stance on anti-Semitism, and new scandal about honoring terrorists, the UK’s Israel-bashing, hard-left Labour chief is still potentially on course to be PM
By Robert Philpot Today, 3:23 pm
LONDON — Experiencing near-record temperatures, Britons have basked in scorching weather this summer. But few have felt the heat more than Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour leader has faced a constant flow of revelations sparking negative headlines over his attitude toward Israel following the party’s adoption last month of a controversial and stripped-down definition of anti-Semitism.
In normal political times, the latest furor — over allegations that he attended a ceremony honoring the terrorists behind the 1972 Munich massacre — might have forced his resignation.
However, these are not normal political times, and, while barely concealing his fury at the media’s questioning, Corbyn looks set to retain his job and potentially become Britain’s next prime minister.
It is important to put Corbyn’s apparent decision to attend the 2014 ceremony in Tunis — in which, he insists, he participated to commemorate those who died in a 1985 Israeli raid on the PLO headquarters — into some context.
Last year, he emerged unexpectedly strengthened from Britain’s general election, when Labour deprived Prime Minister Theresa May of her majority in parliament, despite facing repeated criticism about his alleged links to the Irish Republican Army. The Irish terror group killed and wounded thousands of civilians and British soldiers during a bloody struggle to force the UK out of Northern Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s.
Jeremy Corbyn (second from left) holding a wreath during a visit to the Martyrs of Palestine, in Tunisia, in October 2014. (Facebook page of the Palestinian embassy in Tunisia)
But, for many of Corbyn’s youthful supporters, the high-profile bombings more than three decades ago of pubs in Birmingham, department stores in London, and Remembrance Day ceremonies in Northern Ireland are simply ancient history. So, too, are the tragic events at Munich.
Ignorance, however, is not the only explanation for why Corbyn has managed to weather so many storms. Instead, his survival owes much to the manner in which the UK’s politics have come to resemble those of the United States, with Corbyn and his supporters playing the part of Donald Trump and his most avid fans, albeit at a very different place on the political spectrum.
Until his election as Labour leader three years ago, Corbyn had spent most of his 35 years in parliament on the far fringes of British politics, an obscure backbencher devoted to hard left causes. During the premierships of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, when Labour won a series of general election victories by dominating the political center ground, he was utterly marginalized.
Corbyn’s rise to the top of British politics is arguably almost as unlikely as Trump’s ascent to the White House. His outsider status, like that of the US president, has similarly engendered a following which appears willing to dismiss, ignore or revel in almost any charge leveled against him. Much of Corbyn’s base believes that the “right-wing media” is intent on bringing down the Labour leader and views its stories about him as simply “fake news.”
And while the Labour leader does not engage in quite the same level of vitriol against the press as Trump, he is not averse to firing the occasional barrage.
In February, for instance, he responded to reports that he had held meetings with a Communist spy during the Cold War by charging that the “the media barons are losing their influence and social media means their bad old habits are becoming less and less relevant.” Accusing them of resorting to “lies and smears,” he warned, “Well, we’ve got news for them: change is coming.”
UK’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn admits he attended a ceremony honoring terrorists behind 1972 Munich Olympics attack on August 13, 2018. (Screen capture: Sky News)
Corbyn’s shifting explanations for exactly what he was doing at that Tunisia cemetery — in the space of 24 hours he went from suggesting that he was “present” but was “not actually involved” in the ceremony to conceding that he did lay a wreath, but only for those who died in 1985 — appears to have done little to dent the faith of many of his followers.
At a rally in the city of Stoke on Tuesday attended by 400 supporters, a journalist reported that two Labour party members had told him, quite separately, that Corbyn could not be an anti-Semite because he had won the Nobel Peace Prize — a surprising claim, because though he presents himself as a man of peace, the Labour leader has never been honored for his aspirations in Oslo.
“The sense of belief (and how it manifests) is staggering — the only thing I can think of which comes close, is the relationship Trump has with his base,” tweeted Sky News’ Lewis Goodall.
Two party members, entirely separately, told me that Corbyn could not be an anti-Semite because he’s won the Nobel peace prize. The sense of belief (and how it manifests) is staggering- the only thing I can think of which comes close, is the relationship Trump has with his base. https://t.co/3FEqQv53xi
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) August 14, 2018