Watching the general election campaign in the United Kingdom from this side of the Irish Sea the Brexit-fuelled contest between the ruling Conservative Party and the main opposition Labour Party seems to have taken on a distinct whiff of UK politics in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, when speculation about allegedly “hard left” governments being elected into office unleashed a wave of paranoia and fear-mongering among the right-wing press. A wave that persuaded some of the country’s more reactionary journalists and newspaper editors to dip their toes into half-baked anti-democratic plots with establishment figures of a distinctly authoritarian and conspiratorial bent before they retreated back to more familiar methods of thwarting the “communist threat” posed by the likes of Labour leader Harold Wilson and others.
Arguably the same thing is happening again with the contemporary head of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, and the outside possibility that he might become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain (and what’s left of the colony in Ireland). Attacks on him in the British media have reached saturation levels in recent days, despite the metropolitan media’s supposedly majority liberal bias, with each new story on the Islington North MP growing more apocalyptic than the one before. To most reasonable observers Corbyn appears to be very much in the mainstream of left-wing party politics in Europe, not too dissimilar from other figures elsewhere on the Continent and certainly not the ideological aberration or anarchism that many in the UK apparently believe him to be. Sure, by the staid standards of Westminster he’s something of a “radical”. By the standards of other European legislatures? Not so much. In fact, the 21st century Jeremy Corbyn is a seriously toned down and defanged figure from what he was in the past, a harmless beard-and-sandals democratic-socialist or social-democratic type. And certainly one who has more claim to the latter tradition than the likes of the neo-liberal and politically promiscuous Lib Dems.
Officials in the UK military and intelligence establishment have been sources for at least 34 major national media stories that cast Jeremy Corbyn as a danger to British security, new research shows.
The stories — which quote former or current members of the army, navy and special forces, as well as MI5, MI6 and an ex-senior civil servant — have averaged one every six weeks since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in September 2015. There have, however, been significant spikes in frequency during the 2017 and 2019 general election campaigns.
There is a strong suggestion that, for some stories, intelligence officials have themselves provided secret documents to journalists as part of what appears to be a campaign.
Every story has been picked up across national print media, often setting the news agenda and chiming with statements from Conservative government ministers. Nearly every story appeared in four papers — The Daily Telegraph, The Times, the Daily Mail, or The Sun.
Our research also found 440 articles in the UK press since September 2015 specifically mentioning Corbyn as a “threat to national security”.
The intelligence services and the military are supposed to abide by the “constitutional principle” of non-involvement in political affairs. But the numerous instances of serving national security officials briefing against Corbyn in the media raises questions about whether this principle has been upheld.
As I said, very 1970s.