It’s clear that Jeremy Corbyn has achieved cult status among both students and wider sections of the population. He has an army of loyal fans on social media who dominate comment sections and plaster his face on their Facebook profiles. Support for his socialist policies somewhat drives the Corbynistas, but his popularity is largely spurred by a disillusionment with what’s seen as the traditional politician. When speaking to the average supporter, the most frequently heard justification usually goes something along the lines of ‘he’s not like the rest of them, he’s an honest man’. Across the West and in the aftermath of fiascos in the UK such as the 2009 expenses scandal, politicians are increasingly perceived as disingenuous and crafty. Jeremy’s casual demeanour, love for his allotment and record as the backbencher who always rebelled against the party line gives him an authentic touch as opposed to other career politicians.
Nonetheless, in the past few weeks, Jeremy Corbyn has shown more than ever that rather than being an honest politician, he’s in fact as much a master of the spin and doublespeak that other Western politicians are so widely loathed for.
Jeremy Corbyn’s recent record of disingenuous behaviour began with Brexit. Corbyn was a long time staunch enemy of the EU, voting to leave the European Economic Community in 1975. Even as recently as developments such as the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, Corbyn had been speaking out as a Eurosceptic. When it came to campaigning on Brexit, however, he somehow stood publicly on the side of Remain. He did so without advocating for the values of the European project and was criticised by some Labour MPs for not doing more to prevent Brexit. Somehow, he nonetheless managed to escape any reproach from groups of his supporters, such as students, who overwhelmingly voted to Remain in the EU.
On the recent actions of the Kremlin using a nerve agent on British soil, Corbyn has evidently been using spin in order to avoid overtly stating his honest opinion. When confronted this week by a sixth former who asked whether Corbyn thought Putin was behind the poisoning of the Skripals, he said ‘I don’t say it is or it isn’t’, avoiding any direct answer of the question. In this case, it is evident that Corbyn disagrees with the centrist majority of his party who are supporting Theresa May’s actions on national security vis a vis Russia. However, he is cleverly keeping his overt opinion away from public scrutiny.
Lastly, on antisemitism, Corbyn has arguably used deception and dishonesty to try and divert attention away from the issue and his own blatant culpability. On the question of the antisemitic mural from Tower Hamlets, Corbyn’s defence of it in the name of free speech conflicts with the vast majority of his support for strong penalties and sanctions against hate speech. The mural overtly depicted Jews positioned around a table as if they were plotting world domination, yet at this point Corbyn suspiciously offered up a rare statement of commitment to free speech as a defence of this offensive work.
Corbyn’s record on these issues reveals that he is far from the honest, down to earth politician that he is perceived as. The public should see Corbyn for what he is; a crafty, career-driven, power hungry politician as much as any other.