British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attempted to head off potential Conservative attacks on his patriotism as he promised to be “strong against terrorism and strong against the causes of terrorism” after the Manchester attack. Corbyn said Monday’s suicide bombing cannot be ignored as General Election campaigning resumes but called for “quality” debate “without impugning anyone’s patriotism”.
It appears to be a pre-emptive move against any Tory attempts to try and exploit the campaign’s renewed focus on security to highlight Corbyn’s association with Irish republicans, including the IRA, and his opposition to most UK foreign interventions.
Corbyn sought to tackle the issue head on, insisting there were links between Britain’s military interventions abroad and terror at home.
That prompted criticism from a handful of Labour MPs but he stressed that his observation “in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children” and are supported by intelligence and security experts.
A Labour government would put more police on the streets, give the security services extra resources to “keep track” of terror suspects, and only deploy soldiers abroad when there is a “clear need” and “a plan” to deliver lasting peace, he said.
“Protecting this country requires us to be both strong against terrorism and strong against the causes of terrorism,” Labor leader said.
“The blame is with the terrorists, but if we are to protect our people we must be honest about what threatens our security. Those causes certainly cannot be reduced to foreign policy decisions alone.”
“Over the past 15 years or so, a sub-culture of often suicidal violence has developed amongst a tiny minority of, mainly young, men, falsely drawing authority from Islamic beliefs and often nurtured in a prison system in urgent need of resources and reform.”
“And no rationale based on the actions of any government can remotely excuse, or even adequately explain, outrages like this week’s massacre.”
“But we must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working. We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.”
Corbyn responded to criticism from the Tories and Liberal Democrats over the timing of his speech, insisting he does not want to exploit Manchester to make “a narrow political point”.
But he stressed the “responsibility” of government to minimize the chance of attacks and accused the Tory Government of underfunding the police, increasing the terror threat with foreign interventions in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and “surrendering” freedoms in the face of the threat.
Carrying on with the election campaign represents “an act of defiance” against terrorists who reject the UK’s democratic freedoms, Jeremy Corbyn said.
“But we cannot carry on as though nothing happened in Manchester this week,” he said. “So, let the quality of our debate, over the next fortnight, be worthy of the country we are proud to defend. Let’s have our arguments without impugning anyone’s patriotism and without diluting the unity with which we stand against terror.”
“Together, we will be stronger. Together we can build a Britain worthy of those who died and those who have inspired us all in Manchester this week.”