Since Jeremy Corbyn became the Labour Party leader through a landslide victory in 2015 the Tories, backed by certain elements of the British press, have tried to convince the public that he is a closet racist.
This was highlighted perfectly in a late August edition of the Daily Telegraph that ran the headline “Corbyn’s comments ‘like Rivers of Blood’” juxtaposed next to a picture of Theresa May emerging from Nelson Mandela’s former cell on Robben Island with the caption “May walks in Mandela’s footsteps”.
Comparing Corbyn to the anti-immigrant MP Enoch Powell and lionising May as a freedom fighter has to be the most outrageous con of the last few years. During the 80s it was Corbyn who was arrested outside the South African embassy demanding Mandela’s release – May, on the other hand, has openly admitted she did not join a single demonstration.
This front page demonstrates neatly what the British establishment think of the British people – that we are all stupid. Corbyn is being attacked precisely because he threatens this establishment.
As the Conservatives wind up their conference this week in Birmingham, snippets have emerged to try and entrench this narrative; they have also confirmed that it is the Tories who are the nasty party of Britain.
In a fringe event on Libya, MP Jacob Rees-Mogg declared it was the “People’s Republic of Jam Jar” – mocking its former name, the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – in a blatant attempt to talk it down. It echoed Boris Johnson’s 2011 comment in which he said Sirte, the city where Gaddafi was killed, could be a first-class tourist destination once the dead bodies were cleared away.
We already know what the Tories think of Libya – it was under David Cameron in 2011 that they intervened then turned their backs on the country and its people as it veered towards becoming a failed state.
On Tuesday morning “immigration” was trending on Twitter after Theresa May announced that high-skilled workers would be given preference over low-skilled workers. The Daily Mail has called this the “Migration Revolution”.
It’s hard to know where to start with what is so wrong about this. Is it the implication that people are only worth how much money they make for the UK? Or is it the disdain this shows for hard-working people across the world who happen not to have degrees?
At the end of September Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez Alvarado asked the UN General Assembly how many cups of coffee the delegates drink every morning. In New York City each one of them cost $5, he said, though the workers growing and picking the coffee beans don’t even earn two cents: “Is that an injustice or not?” he inquired.
It’s not just New Yorkers who enjoy Honduras coffee on their morning commute – the central American country is one of the largest coffee suppliers to the UK. But whilst May is tranquil with importing this coffee, this week she has made it clear that the workers toiling away under the rain and sun for next to nothing are unskilled and therefore not welcome here.
To answer Alvarado’s question, this is more than an injustice – it’s a deliberate attempt to keep in place neo-colonial structures reminiscent of our empire when we pumped developing countries for their raw materials then sent them all home to enjoy in Britain with little, if any, return for the people themselves.
With tears in her eyes during her keynote address May declared that the Tories were a party under which your father could arrive as an immigrant and you could become the next Home Secretary. The camera homed in on Sajid Javid, who is famously the son of immigrant parents from Pakistan. But Javid’s father was a bus driver and under the new Tory proposals would not be prioritised.
Yesterday the only wrongdoing in the Middle East that made it onto this speech was Syria. This is hardly surprising, given that this is a safe conflict in the region politicians feel comfortable shedding a tear for whilst continuing to treat the Palestinians with disdain.
On stage May mentioned outsourcing our conscience to the Kremlin but nothing of the influence the Knesset has on our politicians – she highlighted that we are an outward looking trade nation but not that the Conservatives are signing deals with multinationals in Egypt for economic return, despite the appalling record of human rights abuses in the country.
She claimed that sound finances are essential, but that they are not the limit of our ambition – why, then, does her party continue to rake in billions selling arms to Saudi which are used to bomb the people of Yemen?
When you consider the political landscape of the Middle East nearly eight years after the Arab Spring, it’s hard to think of what represents hope in the region. However, imagining a time the Tories are no longer in power and a government with the best interests of people, rather than how deep their pockets are, fill their space certainly gives rise to optimism.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.