For the first time this week, Jeremy Corbyn looked like a Prime Minister
It has been a difficult couple of weeks for all of us in the Labour Party. Every day I read reports of Labour MPs tearing into our party in full public view, instead of tackling the crisis facing our country. It’s almost enough to make me despair for the future of our party and the future for the UK. But throughout it all, I have been reassured by the calm and determined leadership shown by Jeremy Corbyn.
I’ve always known that Corbyn is a leader – not one cast from the typical macho mould, but a democratic and thoughtful leader whose strength comes from his ability to listen and understand people’s concerns. But this week I didn’t just see him as a leader; I saw him as something else.
I saw him as Prime Minister.
When I heard the conclusions of the Chilcot inquiry, it brought back all the anger that I had towards Tony Blair for taking us to war in Iraq. I’m sure that Corbyn – who has devoted his life to opposing war – felt the same. But instead of saying “I told you so”, or settling scores in the Labour Party, he provided much needed moral leadership. Corbyn spoke to the country as a whole, to the families of our soldiers whose lives were needlessly lost, to the Iraqis whose country was torn apart and to the millions of British citizens whose democracy was undermined by a decision to go to war taken on unreliable information.
Meanwhile, David Cameron and the Tory Party were trying their hardest to avoid responsibility. They are trying to pretend that Iraq is a “Labour Party problem”, despite 139 out of 166 of their MPs voting for war at the time (Cameron included). Similarly, there are some within Labour who are refusing to hold their hands up and admit they made a mistake. Worst of all are the MPs who tried to use this day of national reflection to attack their elected leader: Ian Austin MP’s heckling of his own leader with, “Shut up!” while Corbyn made a speech criticising the war makes me feel sick to my stomach.
I watched Corbyn apologise for the Iraq War on behalf of Labour, and my eyes welled up. This period is a stain on the proud history of my party, and the democratic traditions of this country. Jeremy’s apology will finally allow us to move forward.
But I also imagined what would have happened had history been different; had it been someone else standing there. We could have had a statement from someone who not only voted for the war but someone who opposed there being an inquiry in the first place. There are plenty of MPs to choose from who voted both of those ways. Perhaps, if they were on the stand, they would have apologised; perhaps they would have shirked responsibility. Either way, their credibility has been irreparably damaged.
As Tony Benn once said, politicians can be split into two categories. There are the signposts who say “This is the right direction” whatever the weather. And whether you agree or disagree, you know where they stand. The other group are the weathervanes whose position alters with the change of wind. Politics needs more signposts; I’m grateful that we have one in Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn apologises on behalf of the Labour Party
The last week has seen Jeremy and much of the membership attacked endlessly by media commentators and some of our MPs. I have been among those supporting Party members’ democratic rights.
Last night, I helped to organise a Momentum rally in support of Jeremy, his ideas and the movement behind them. Over 2000 people attended at less than 48 hours’ notice. I wanted Jeremy to speak, but he was unavailable. He must have felt pressure to focus on the internal wrangling in the party, and to shore up his support – but that’s not why he was busy. Instead, he was spending the evening with the families of fallen soldiers and of the Iraqi civilians who lost their lives. In true statesmanlike fashion, he took the decision that the country must come first.
The contest in the Labour Party is over, and the movement in support of Corbyn’s ideas has grown dramatically. Now we must all focus on the next challenge: helping him become our Prime Minister. This week, he’s proven himself more than capable.
Faduma Hassan is a teacher and Labour activist from Brent, and a Momentum National Committee member