So what is my problem with Jeremy Corbyn asks the wise man? Why, when I normally eschew personal criticism, do I focus so much on Corbyn's image and rhetoric rather than the substance of his policies?
I thought I'd try and explain that it's a matter of values. Rather than posting this picture and article, I'll explain that Corbyn's personal values embrace violence, reject personal freedom, oppose choice and reject individual responsibility.
Vicariously enjoying violence is not an unusual trait in politicians (from right and left) and especially male politicians. Whether it's the image of "a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other", Mussolini's fetishing of uniforms or John McDonnell's 'colourful use of language', politicians like violence. We're forever "attacking", "fighting for", and proposing "wars against".
What is especially galling about Corbyn is that, while embracing Sinn Fein/PIRA and assorted violent men from the middle east, he claims that this revelling in violent politics is done for the cause of 'peace', to 'stop war'. Such posturing is excusable in a 20 year-old student activist but demonstrates a sad lack of maturity in a 65 year-old professional politician aspiring to national leadership. Yet Corbyn has shown - right up to today - that his values embrace political violence and make no distinction between this and legitimate acts of self-defence by recognised nation states.
But then Corbyn also fails to recognise the idea of individual freedom:
Corbyn says that he supports the repeal of the anti-union laws introduced in the 1980s (“Yes, I do”) , which prohibited flying pickets and solidarity strike action.
This includes the reintroduction of the closed shop - the acme of collectivist systems - and (back to his relationship with violence) the sort of intimidation we saw all too often prior to the protections granted by those union laws.
Increasingly, those branded “scabs” by the strikers were targeted both at work and at home: windows were smashed, paint thrown at doors, some were even assaulted in the street. One who defied the pickets to go into Hawthorn coke works told The Northern Echo: “The more intimidation I get, the more determined I will be to stand up to them.”.
The message - one Corbyn still endorses - is that if you reject the 'collective will', you will be intimidated, pressured and attacked for that decision. If, and it seems they are, these are Jeremy Corbyn's values and the values of his sort of Labour Party I feel entirely justified in criticising.
And Corbyn's collectivism leads to him also rejecting choice and responsibility:
... Corbyn was one of first MPs to call for a smoking ban (in 1989). He has demanded ‘education and regulation’ — including bans on adverts — to try to wean British kids off junk food. He sees mankind as a pox on the planet (humans are ‘obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised’, said a parliamentary motion he signed).
This viewpoint - that we are blowing around in the hurricane of international capitalism incapable of making real choices or controlling our lives - is a common one on the left (and not so left) but when it is wedded to collectivist groupthink and the celebrating of political violence it forms a value system verging on the evil. And I know that is a strong word but if you think violence in the prosecution of political ends is fine, reject the idea of humans as individuals with free will and promote the idea that we are all victims of a shadowy entity called 'capitalism' or 'neoliberalism' then I struggle to think of a better word.
It doesn't matter how soft spoken you are, how nice your allotment is or which football team you can exchange banter about, if your values reject freedom and rejoice in violence I will have a problem with you. I hope - for the sake of the Labour Party and British democracy - that Corbyn's values, expressed again and again through his four decades as an activist and MP, turn out to be just words. But until this is demonstrated, I shall condemn those values and the man who espouses them.
But to return to the Brighton bomb. I have friends who were there that day. And while I understand the need to find peace and sustain that peace, I cannot find it in my heart to excuse murdering people in a political cause or people who acted as useful idiots and cheerleaders for those undertaking that political violence.