The Spectator's Notes

Charles Moore’s Notes: Jeremy Corbyn, fanatic

The Paris atrocities, BBC rolling news, the right to criticise Islam, President Rouhani’s French dinner

21 November 2015

9:00 AM

21 November 2015

9:00 AM

When Jeremy Corbyn says it is better to bring people to trial than to shoot them, he is right. So one might feel a little sorry for him as the critics attack his reaction to the Paris events. But in fact the critics are correct, for the wrong reason. It is not Mr Corbyn’s concern for restraint and due process which are the problem. It is the question of where his sympathies really lie, of what story he thinks all these things tell. Every single time that a terrorist act is committed (unless, of course, it be a right-wing one, like that of Anders Breivik), Mr Corbyn locates the ill as deriving from the behaviour of the West, especially the United States and Britain (and, where relevant, Israel). Thus the IRA were not to be condemned, in 1984, for trying to blow up Mrs Thatcher and her cabinet at Brighton: they were driven to such extremes by the colonial oppression of Northern Ireland. Thus President Putin is not to be criticised for waging what amounts to war in the Ukraine: he is responding to the provocations of Nato. And thus Isis and the murders they commit are all what Marxists call epiphenomena. They are the inevitable results of the thing itself — capitalist exploitation. Now that he is Labour leader, you can get Mr Corbyn to duck and weave a bit presentationally — be photographed with war veterans, dine with the Queen, wear a tie — but you will never get him to deviate from his basic account of the source of all evil. He is the political, left-wing version of a creationist — happy, from time to time, to use emollient language, but utterly fundamentalist. There is no arguing with such people. They are quite outside the normal range of understandable disagreement about a tricky subject like the Middle East. Even if, like Mr Corbyn, they speak softly, they are fanatics. All one can do is identify them clearly and work hard to stop them gaining power.

On Saturday morning, I watched BBC rolling news about the Paris atrocities. Then I spent the day hunting and switched on again at about half-past five. It was extraordinary how little the Corporation had advanced its coverage in the course of seven hours. It suffered from the curse of ‘big-footing’ — the custom of flying news ‘anchors’ from London to broadcast on the spot without knowing anything. No one needs Huw Edwards looking very serious in some boulevard and telling us again and again that ‘Paris is today a city in shock.’ We want to know, first, as much as possible about what actually happened; second, whatever can be gleaned about the perpetrators; third, the reaction of those directly affected, of leaders in the country and round the world, and of police and security agencies; fourth, the effects on Britain; fifth, a political analysis which explains what President Hollande can and can’t do, the state of French opinion and law, the role of the EU and Schengen, the situation with Isis and Syria, and so on. Obviously the human element is very powerful, but we do not need hours of film of people laying wreaths, lighting candles etc. What was most marked — and in coverage elsewhere too — was the demise or underuse of the regular foreign correspondent, the person who really knows the country affected.

Hours before the Paris atrocities, Al Arabiya news reported a speech by David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. In it, he said that because some mainstream media were ‘grossly irresponsible’ in their coverage of Muslim issues, Ipso, the press standards body, ought to consider making it possible for an entire religious group to bring a complaint about coverage. Mr Anderson is an able and distinguished lawyer. Surely he knows that the entire history of this subject is that mainstream Muslim bodies are constantly trying to criminalise hostile remarks about their religion. And surely he knows that if this were conceded, the chilling of free speech would be unprecedentedly severe. And surely he should know that this subject is not within his remit anyway. On Monday night, David Cameron said at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet that ‘It is not good enough to say simply that Islam is a religion of peace and then to deny any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists.’ Under the Anderson clause, we ‘grossly irresponsible’ journalists would probably get into trouble for reporting the Prime Minister.

Just before France was attacked, there was a row about dinner in the Elysée Palace. The Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani (much celebrated as a ‘moderate’ in sections of our media), refused to attend because the French insisted on serving wine to those who wanted it. It is rather as if President Obama or David Cameron were to jack a meal with Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, because he said he and his team would stick to their vegetables. Obviously, it is very wrong to torture Islamist bigots, but would it be so wicked, as we spend many years and millions of pounds looking after them in Belmarsh because we are not allowed to deport them, if MI6 and MI5 were to open bottle after bottle of premiers grands crus and wave them under their noses before slurping them down with greedy cries of appreciation?

Robert Halfon, a Conservative MP, has been threatened with blackmail about some (hetero)sexual allegation. The press, reporting this story, described Mr Halfon as a cabinet minister. He is not. He is only a minister (in his case without portfolio) in the category invented, I think, by Tony Blair, called ‘attending cabinet’. This is a bad development, because it blurs the line between a cabinet minister’s individual authority and the subordinate role of all other ministers. It turns the word ‘cabinet’ into little more than a badge with a few privileges. It won’t be long now before people idly ask ‘What is this archaic thing known as the cabinet?’, rather as they started to inquire about the Privy Council when it seemed that Jeremy Corbyn might not become a member of it.

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  • davidshort10

    Some politicians object to ‘shoot to kill’ but nevertheless support the Provisional IRA which never shot except to kill, and even prisoners taken were eventually shot.

  • mrs1234

    “David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. In it, he said that because some mainstream media were ‘grossly irresponsible’ in their coverage of Muslim issues,” Can he give us examples of this claim? Or does he simply object to journalists such as Andrew Gilligan et al bringing the inconvenient truth to the general public that our politicians and BBC would like to bury. Did any QCs stand up for the onslaught of mockery and satire that Christianity had to deal with over the last few decades, did the BBC flinch from broadcasting Jerry Springer:The Opera that so ‘bravely’ depicted Jesus in a nappy? Of course not! Anyone who voiced concern were condemned as bigots and yet we are to believe that those who even dare to criticise the excesses of islam are bigots. Absurd. If we stand for any more of this rubbish, or allow our dense politicians to continue to proclaim after every terrorist attack, ‘this has nothing to do with islam’ then we are asking for everything we will surely get.

  • Freddythreepwood

    Surely the real question is how on earth this Anderson ever got to be a QC?

    • WFB56

      Surey the real question is who appointed this person? He was appointed by David Cameron’s Government in 2011 and subsequently re-appointed.

      Those who chose him should be held accountable.

  • John P Hughes

    In the awful circumstances of the Paris attacks, the BBC News 24 Channel editor could have made the decision to transmit French rolling news coverage on Friday night and Saturday direct on our Freeview Channel 81 next door to BBC News 24 on Channel 80 – and advertised that. Freeview channel 81 is usually the Parliament channel but could easily have been turned over to TF1 or another French channel. Secondly, direct transmission of the French coverage could have been used on BBC News 24 on channel 80, with a set of interpreters giving direct voice-over coverage; or better still typing an English translation of parts of the French commentary and interviews in as subtitles on that channel. Plenty of people in the UK can understand the type of French spoken on TV news, even if not the interviews with ordinary people on the streets. Flying in a monoglot ‘news anchor’ in the American way was not necessary or desirable.

    • Lista

      Well said. A news channel without any interest in current affairs or enquiry. Seems ridiculous that there wasn’t a French reporter, bilingual and with knowledge of French affairs.

    • edithgrove

      we can of course click over to all the french channels on our computers

      • John P Hughes

        But not on televisions which have conventional Freeview. And connecting to those French or other TV channels which are accessible by the internet  depends on speed of broadband and on the reliability of various linkages which don’t always work well, or continuously. You generally need earphones to listen while watching, so only one person in the room can see and hear.

  • justejudexultionis

    ‘Then I spent the day hunting’ —

    Sabre tooth tigers in rural Sussex?

    • 9sqn

      He prefers hunting quarry that don’t have a chance.

      • Ade

        Labour leaders?

  • SPW

    Mr Moore, you write of creationists:
    • utterly fundamentalist
    • no arguing with such people
    • quite outside the normal range of understandable disagreement
    • fanatics

    As a creationist I would refute all of the above and am reasonably miffed to be described in such terms AND to be conflated with Corbynism! Feel free to argue with me.

    • Christopher Wallis

      NOT “refute”. You mean “Deny”. To refute, you need some supporting arguments.

      • SPW

        Must you shout? I might refute your narrow view of the word refute with evidence from the OED but I shan’t. In any case, I AM the supporting argument!

        • Christopher Wallis

          I apologise for the shout. I am provoked by the pervasive use (listed
          as “disputed” in the OED) of “refute” to lend spurious authority to a
          denial. Enough about this. I shall shut up.

          • SPW

            Of course I see now that I shouted too. Apologies. I note the disputed use of refute and shall use it with greater wisdom in the future.

    • justejudexultionis

      Creationism seems to me to be an utterly reasonable and rational explanation of the origins of the cosmos. Krauss’ ex nihilo origins of the material cosmos is based on fallible mathematical speculation and imperfect sense-based observations of material phenomena. We cannot base our view of reality exclusively on sense-derived information about observed phenomena. Metaphysics must play its part. As for Darwinism, how can we assume the correctness of the uniformitarian view that the ‘laws’ of physics functioned in exactly the same way four thousand years, for instance, as they do today? Darwinism simply makes no sense without the interpolation of formal causality, and that implies purpose, meaning and design.

  • sebastian2

    “mainstream Muslim bodies are constantly trying to criminalise hostile remarks about their religion ..” Correct – hence their persistent attempts at a Pakistani style blasphemy law, and the routine taking of offence – “You are offending my religion!” – that has won them an undeserved deference and consideration. All that plus their ceaseless victimism. They talk and act as though they are a collective special case exempt from doubting scrutiny and unjustly burdened with a unique grievance. It’s a mixture of ideological arrogance, and histrionic self-pity staged for the gullible.

    A blasphemy law should be seen for what it is – an effort to punish mohammedism’s critics or cynics and to outlaw adverse comment. As for “offence”, they should grow up. Their creed has much to answer for and much to be highly dubious about. We will say so. So learn to live with that. As for “victims”, much of this is an invention. If they are victims of anything, it’s first from their own cult and next from the proper disapproval they’ve earned for themselves.

    Look where a decade or more of concessions and politically correct, multicultural tolerance has got us: huge security costs, threats, deaths, neglected misbehaviour, parallel communities, and a swaggering public mohammedan contempt for us by untouchables who claim citizenship only better to exploit and frustrate. Even “moderate” mohammedans who want mainly a quiet and prosperous life (and there are quite a lot) are intimidated by their own jihadists or mohammedan purists that we’ve allowed to establish themselves.

    This cannot – absolutely cannot – continue.

  • Terry Field

    Corbyn 9s, quite obviously, a communist, a natural autocrat, and would wok diligently to destroy the economic and social system we live by.
    He will become PM if he can mobilise another ten percent additional to the thirty odd percent of degenerates who express approval for him.
    He is FAR more dangerous than others consider him to be.

    • justejudexultionis

      I think you are right that Britain has fallen apart. Unless something radical happens to galvanise the political elite and erase the multiculturalist ideology within government and society is it truly game over for the UK.

  • justejudexultionis

    Corbyn is obviously unfit to be PM of the UK. However, one might say the same about Dave, who clearly hasn’t grasped the Islam thing and continues to utter the absurd mantra that Islamic terrorism is ‘nothing to do with Islam, which is a religion of peace’. Given that Dave presides over a system of local and national government in which this fundamental untruth informs the entirety of social, criminal and economic policy, is it not possible to argue that Dave is himself ultimately just as deluded and dangerous as the neo-Marxist Corbyn?