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Corbyn’s anti-Western ideology trumps all other values

Corbyn’s anti-Western ideology trumps all other values
4 min read

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Jo Swinson questions the ‘blindly anti-Western approach of the Labour leadership’ and whilst not cutting off relations with Russia or Saudi Arabia, adds that ‘our closest relationships are reserved for those countries who will fight to defend rights, democracy and the rules-based international order.’

Last week I joined MPs from across Parliament, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in condemning the way the government was rolling out the red carpet for Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

There was near unanimity on the issue across opposition parties, all of us questioning why Theresa May was blithely ignoring Saudi’s internal human rights record, their exporting of terrorism, and their vicious campaign in Yemen, which is causing untold misery for millions of civilians.

Raising the visit at Prime Minister’s Questions, Corbyn himself spoke of the arrest and detention of dissidents and human rights defenders, and the use of torture in Saudi prisons.

While we may disagree on many aspects of policy, it felt as though at least the Labour leader and the Liberal Democrats had common ground on the universality of human rights, and the important role the UK should be playing in promoting and defending those values worldwide.

Imagine my surprise to hear Mr Corbyn calling for us to do more business with Russia.

Just a couple of weeks after an assassination attempt on British soil by Russian state actors, and just one day after Putin won a presidential election which saw the opposition violently oppressed throughout, Corbyn’s answer is to forge more economic links with the regime. A not-so-subtle way of disagreeing with the Government’s plans to increase sanctions.

Deploying language which was eerily similar to that of Theresa May when discussing Saudi Arabia earlier in the month, in which she highlighted our countries’ historic ties, Corbyn spoke of a “robust” relationship with Russia, which acknowledges how much they have done for us in the past- namely during World War Two.

So why, exactly, does Putin qualify for leniency when May was rightly condemned for being too accommodating bin Salman? Both leaders are guilty of oppression of opposition, dangerous expansionism, and have committed serious human rights violations. Both regimes imprison human rights defenders and are accused of routine use of torture. How can one be the ‘baddie’, but the other be ‘misunderstood’?

As with too many things connected to Labour’s current front bench, it all comes back to the Cold War.

The fact is, even three decades after the cold war has ended, Corbyn’s anti-Western ideology based on decades of ingrained dislike of the US and their allies, alongside his forgiving affection for the former-USSR and their allies, trumps his desire to defend human rights, international law and liberal democracy. The hypocrisy is startling, and it’s not confined to Corbyn’s views on Russia. Just look at how he continues to dismiss human rights abuses in Iran and Venezuela as well.

More than startling, it is dangerous. In a time when we are seeing increasing instability and rearmament across the world, we allow our own values to be eroded at our own risk. There is serious strain on the international co-operation, and we cannot allow those who ignore the rules to go unchallenged, whether they are Russia, Saudi Arabia or the USA.

You might well ask what options are left, if we reject the perilously mercenary approach of the Conservatives and the blindly anti-Western approach of the Labour leadership?

The Liberal Democrats believe that Britain’s national interests are best pursued in collaboration with countries, organisations and individuals who share our values. That includes our allies in Europe, but it also means reinvigorating our place at the heart of global networks, in direct contradiction to those who are determined to erode international institutions for their own gain.

Does that mean continuing to have diplomatic and economic relationships with Russia and Saudi Arabia? Yes, but only while recognising that our values are fundamentally at odds and making it clear that our closest relationships are reserved for those countries who will fight to defend rights, democracy and the rules-based international order.

Jo Swinson is the Liberal Democrat Deputy leader & the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson. She is the MP for East Dunbartonshire.

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