Theresa May started off this election campaign by telling everyone how strong and stable she is in a way reminiscent of Princess Diana at, very sadly, her most conflicted. Over just a few weeks, though, it’s become leader clear that she’s actually wobbly both as a politician and, much more important, as a person. Her wide-eyed panic at questions from journalists have given us all a clear indication of why Lynton Crosby, who’s running the Tory campaign (and also ran successful campaigns for Johnson, Cameron and, 4 times, Australian prime minister John Howard) has kept May well away from the public.
Even May’s public statements as PM are read entirely verbatim from speech notes because she’s unable to think on the hoof. This lack of mental versatility and agility are at the heart of her inability to do anything other than sound robotic as she repeats what’s been told to her over and over again. Her attempts to persuade the public of her political sound-ness have become ridiculous in the light of her about-turn on Brexit – the biggest political issue for a long time – and her panicked, finesse-free reversal of her policy on care for the elderly spoke of someone who has frozen in the headlights. All this, plus her huge cut in police number as Home Secretary speak, of a person who’s been promoted into a job she’s unable to handle, as sometimes happens when a compromise slips through when stronger folk kill each other off.
Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s oldest and best known policy adviser, has already called on May to resign over her failed handling of security, and their terrible blame-shifting, in the last few weeks. The simple truth is that Theresa May is manifestly not a person people can or do have confidence in, particularly with the security stakes now so high. The Tory fox has been shot.
Trident possession rests upon a theoretical presumption that the UK would nuke a developing country against the wishes of the United States. That’s literally ridiculous, obviously. That’s why no serious politician thinks Trident is about its use or even that it’s truly a Defence and Security issue post Warsaw Pact.
Trident today is really about diplomatic power and it may indeed be true, although it is rarely subject to study, the the UK does have more say over international affairs than if it did not have Trident. If it were true, of course, that would still not make it a security issue. For some, Trident’s about jobs – and there are many which exist under the Trident-holding submarine building programme which would not otherwise. Again, I put jobs near the top of my own personal priority-list but I don’t regard jobs as a enough reason to maintain nuclear weapons.
I sat as a member of the anti-Trident group at Westminster for several years – at a few meetings, the only MPs attending were Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and me. My own background as a soldier didn’t make me a world-expert in Trident, but at least it’s fair to say I don’t take defence and security lightly. And I have ears, and I listened around while serving as the side-kick for two defence secretaries.
I’ve written here about the nonsense that is the idea that taking to terrorists, as Corbyn did, makes a person unsound on security. Often it means literally the reverse. That much is surely obvious? Why would all those back-channels exist in all terrorist situations otherwise?
And finally, perhaps most tellingly, Theresa May’s response to the London Bridge attack – the third on her short watch after she spent 6 years as Home Secretary – is to tell us that we need to make the ‘superiority of Western Values’ clear to Islamists. Oh really?
Jeremy Corbyn’s been simply saying what all our security and intelligence agencies, diplomats and cops tell us: our policy on the Islamic middle-east has contributed to our situation today. In many ways, that’s a pretty value-neutral thing to say. It’s obviously true. The UK is the second largest arms exporter in the world because of all the stuff we sell to that monstrous dictatorship of Saudi Arabia. In many ways, Al Qaeda, 9/11 and all the rest was a proxy Saudi civil war. Our management of post-war Iraq led to many army commanders organising the killing of tens of thousands of civilians and some of those same commanders are the people who give present-day ISIS their military know-how. Note to May – that’s the same Isis who have claimed responsibility for the London Bridge attack, in case no-one told you at COBRA.
No, if we want stability and honesty, consistency and trustability in a prime minister during a security emergency, the last person we should have in the job is wobbly Theresa May, physically shaking in her shoes at a few tricky questions from journalists. As Stewart Lee wrote of her obvious facial panic; “If May were a gunfighter in an Italian western, this familiar phenomenon would be the “tell” that revealed her cracking under pressure, and Sergio Leone would zoom in on ever tighter closeups of her gradually dislocating mandible.
And Corbyn? Never forget that then when the shit hits the fan, the people in charge on the ground are not politicians but folk in uniform who know what they’re doing. That’s why, contrary to what the media implies, COBRA is all about the prime minister being told by them what they’re doing, not telling them what to do. What such folk need from their politicians is sureness of purpose above all else. Not someone chairing the meeting at the table while shaking and panicking, ashen-faced with fear.
During this election, Corbyn’s been criticised for his old views but never for lack of cool, nor wobbliness. So you may not like him in all the ways, but if you decide to put security at the top of your concerns for this election, then you really should hope for the election of Corbyn over May, and do whatever you can to facilitate it.
Note: If your’e in Scotland, that really does mean PLEASE DO NOT, FOR GOD’S SAKE, VOTE ‘TACTICALLY’ FOR THE TORIES.