September 21, 2018

General election 2017: Jeremy Corbyn says ‘I’m not a pacifist’

96Jeremy Corbyn will say he is “not a pacifist” and accepts that military action is needed “as a last resort” at a speech in London on Friday.
But the Labour leader will say that is “very far” from the “almost routine” military interventions of recent times.
He will pledge a “robust”, independent foreign policy and “no hand holding” with US President Donald Trump.
The Tories said Mr Corbyn, long an opponent of nuclear weapons, had “spent a lifetime trying to disarm Britain”.
Prime Minister Theresa May will appeal directly to “patriotic” Labour voters in the north-west of England on Friday, claiming Mr Corbyn has “deserted” them.
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In a speech to the Chatham House international affairs think tank on Friday, Mr Corbyn will say he will do “everything necessary to protect the safety and security of our people and our country”, should his party win power on 8 June.
The Labour leader, a former chairman of the Stop the War Coalition who has criticised British and US military interventions in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, will say the UK’s interests are best served by pursuing peace.
By BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg
As we reported a couple of weeks ago, rather than scramble to cover up his past views for fear they would be unpopular, Jeremy Corbyn was planning to double down, to outline proudly his views on foreign affairs.
Well, today that’s exactly what he’ll do.
In a set-piece speech on foreign affairs he will express his view that the war on terror has “failed”; that the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were mistakes.
And he will take direct aim at Theresa May, saying there must be no more “hand holding” with Donald Trump (remember THAT picture?). It’s more “let Jeremy be Jeremy”, a plan to show who he is, in part to shore up his base support. Read more from Laura
“But I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times.”
He will say a “bomb first, talk later” approach to security “has failed” and is a “recipe for increasing, not reducing threats and insecurity”.
“Waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic Trump administration will not deliver stability,” he will say.
“Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House.
“So no more hand holding with Donald Trump – a Labour government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy made in London.”
Earlier this year, Mr Corbyn criticised US air strikes against Syria – putting him at odds with Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.
Mr Corbyn said the US should not have acted without United Nations backing but Mr Watson said the strikes “appear to be a direct and proportionate response” and chemical attacks on civilians “must have consequences”.
‘Harm’s way’
Asked what military action Mr Corbyn would countenance as prime minister, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said he would act if the UK was “at risk of being attacked by another nation” since the Labour leader was absolutely committed to the UK’s security.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today that there must be more focus on conflict prevention and resolution through the UN and other international bodies.
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“I am really pleased we could have a prime minister who is reluctant and thinks carefully before putting our servicemen and women in harm’s way, who won’t just jump to the tune the moment US President just snaps their fingers and says ‘come and join me in a bombing raid'”.
Last year, Mr Corbyn said the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which he voted against at the time, was “an act of military aggression” and a “catastrophe”.
Responding to the publication of Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the war, Mr Corbyn said MPs had been “misled” in the run-up to the invasion.
He also apologised on behalf of Labour, which was in government at the time, and called for more powers for the International Criminal Court.
A leaked draft version of Labour’s manifesto on Wednesday suggested the party would support the renewal of the Trident nuclear submarine system, commit to the Nato benchmark of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence and would work with international partners and the UN on multilateral disarmament.
But the Conservative armed forces minister, Mike Penning said: “Jeremy Corbyn has spent a lifetime trying to disarm Britain but now he’s pretending he’s got what it takes to keep us safe.
“It’s nonsense – we know he wants to scrap Trident, abandon our allies and would rather talk to Daesh [so-called Islamic State] than strike its barbaric leader.”

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