I suspect one’s first reaction, on hearing comments reportedly made by a British general on effective military mutiny were Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister, was somewhat rooted in pre-existing feelings towards the newly-elected leader. If generally Conservative with a penchant for lower taxation and generous military budgets, your kneejerk reaction may have been to wince slightly at the flagrant disregard for military neutrality, but to feel content in the knowledge that someone is standing up for what’s right and proper. If, like me, you queued for two hours to see Corbyn speak and receive an excited text from your mother whenever he dispenses jam-making advice, you might be inclined to anger at mere suggestion of mild dislike for the guy.
However, it’s vitally important to take a step back from our initial sympathies and consider what’s really at stake here. It would be wise to assume that some sort of effective military coup is highly unlikely; it would probably be considered treason. In all likelihood, Corbyn would simply face opposition and resignation from some military officials. Talk of mutiny is probably no more than the rash threat of a disgruntled general. But that in itself is the real concern here; his words are a threat. In fact, they’re the latest in a series of threats made to the British electorate during the leadership campaign and subsequent to Corbyn’s victory.
Indeed, it would seem that there are a growing number of people so horrified by Jeremy Corbyn and the thought that he might offer a tangible alternative, that they have resorted to the Politics of Fear. Rather than characterise him as a politician with a differing vision for Britain that they may legitimately disagree with, they prefer to portray him as dangerous and radical, someone from whom we need to be protected.
The right-wing media is perhaps the worst culprit of this. The Telegraph’s Oliver Cooper described Corbyn as “longing to be back in the USSR” and his ideas as a “rejection of reality”. And the Daily Mail, an admittedly inadequate source of quality political discourse, published an imaginative 2500-word piece on a projected Corbyn premiership entitled “Prime Minister Corbyn… and the 1,000 days that destroyed Britain”. It began “the night sky over London was thick with choking black smoke” and went on to describe a country with media censorship, food rationing and a 95% tax rate, replete with images of rioting London engulfed in flames.
Earlier this month, the Telegraph reported that entrepreneurs were threatening to leave the country if Corbyn comes to power, saying that they would take their headquarters overseas to avoid his policies. Dan Scarfe, chief executive of Dot Net Solutions, called Corbyn’s ideas “catastrophic to business”, saying that “he represents the politics of fantasyland”.
Perhaps most worryingly, the Conservatives have thrown their hat fully into the fear-mongering ring, releasing a context-free campaign video that, among other things, pans into monochrome images of Bin Laden, claiming that Corbyn sees his death as a ‘tragedy’. David Cameron has stated that Corbyn poses a “serious risk to our nation’s security, our economy’s security and your family’s security”. If this isn’t verging on blatant propaganda, I don’t know what is.
So, let’s not worry now about a military coup. Let’s not worry about the impending mass exodus of business and entrepreneurship. Let’s not worry about the total breakdown of society, and laughter, and happiness. Let’s instead see David Cameron and the anonymous British general’s hyperbolic language for what it really is; the Politics of Fear. In the end, it is this that we should be most scared of.
Image Credit: David Holt