For a man who is assailed and accused of lacking judgment even more than US President Donald Trump, it's amazing how often British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has already been proven courageously and presciently right.
In 1990, Corbyn opposed the most powerful and successful peace time prime minster of the 20th century, Margaret Thatcher when she tried to impose a so-called poll tax on the population of the UK. His judgment was vindicated: Thatcher’s own party rose up and threw her out of office.
At the beginning of the 21st century Corbyn was pilloried throughout the UK media for his outspoken opposition to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s support for the US invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Blair was prime minister for a full decade and won three landslide general elections, yet today he is discredited and politically virtually a recluse. Corbyn‘s opposition to both wars looks wise, as well as principled and courageous.
Corbyn’s support for the revolutionary Irish Republican movement was so strong that the UK security service MI5 monitored him for two decades listing him as a potential “subversive” who might undermine parliamentary democracy. On the contrary, in the late 1990s, Prime Minister Blair engaged the Irish Republican Army and its political wing Sinn Fein in a peace process that has led to a lasting peace in Ireland. Corbyn, who supported strongly the 1998 Good Friday Agreement proved once again to be ahead of his time.
Corbyn has never been afraid of taking ferociously unpopular positions. In 2015, after shocking Islamic State terror attacks in Paris he advocated the urgent need for a political settlement to end the Syrian Civil War. His advice was ignored by every major Western government. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions more turned into destitute refugees flooding into the European Union since then.
Corbyn was also ahead of his time in seeking to engage Iran constructively. He hosted a call-in show on an Iranian TV channel for three years from 2009 to 2012 even though he knew that at the time such activities would seem to rule him out from ever being a serious contender to lead the Labour Party. But in 2015, the Conservative government of the UK, along with those of the United States, France and Germany joined in signing a far reaching nuclear agreement with Tehran.
Corbyn’s economic positions have long been despised by the Western liberal intellectual elites who have been spared the price of having their livelihoods destroyed by such policies. He strongly advocates using the power of government to encourage the rebuilding of major national industries and manufacturing power. These views are hardly radical, Robert Skidelsky, one of the most influential UK economists of the past generation has given significant support to Corbyn’s proposal of a National Investment Bank. These policies are neither Marxist nor revolutionary. But they can certainly be described as Social Democratic and humane.
Corbyn is no unprincipled careerist either. In voting his convictions and his conscience, he puts 99 percent of the UK parliamentarians of his generation to shame. Between 1997 and 2010, during the Labour governments of Blair and Gordon Brown, Corbyn voted most often against the official party line than any other member of parliament (MP) – a total of 428 times and an astonishing figure. In 2005 he was labeled the second most rebellious Labour MP of all time when his party ran the country.
One of the few areas Corbyn was clearly ambiguous on was the question of whether the UK should remain in the 28-nation European Union or leave it, and even here his ambivalence appeared honestly come by and reflected the genuine divisions in his country. Corbyn recognized the enormous differences between both extremes that have been tearing the British public apart on the EU issue.
Ironically, only Donald Trump in the United States – a figure for whom Corbyn certainly has no personal or policy sympathy whatsoever – is comparable to the degree to which he has defied the Conventional Wisdoms of the political media establishment yet done impressively well in fighting elections that were supposed to be impossible.
In fact, the record and pattern of Corbyn’s career has been very clear: His real “crime”- which he has repeated consistently – is to be years, often decades, ahead of Conventional Wisdom.
In routine, tranquil times, people like Corbyn are usually seen as troublemakers or even as dangerous lunatics. But at times of crisis when the wisdom of mediocrities is exposed as worthless, such figures prove vital to national survival.
When told that General James Wolfe, the UK’s one brilliant general of the mid-18th century, was believed to be insane, King George II replied “Mad is he? Then I wish he’d bite some of my other generals!”
The UK political establishment has sneered at Jeremy Corbyn’s bark. Perhaps it is time they need to experience his bite.