It is a brave politician who deals in absolutes. The art of the political statement lies in the intimation of indisputable fact using the fuzzy language of the grey area. No matter the issue, there should always be some wriggle room - a chink in the armour of certainty that offers an escape route, allowing one to backtrack at a future date. To guarantee, beyond dispute, a stance on any given policy is to hamstring your future self. To do so on a policy that plays a major role in national defence? Well that is either incredibly brave, narcissistically arrogant, or mind-bogglingly stupid.
Yet that is exactly what Jeremy Corbyn has done. Earlier this week he openly, and firmly, stated that there were categorically no circumstances under which he would use Britain’s nuclear deterrent, Trident. This is an exceptionally bold statement, and is symptomatic of the growing dissonance between what Corbyn says, and what he does. There was a promise, upon his ascension to the leadership, that he wanted the Party as a whole to decide policy, and that he considered himself to be there to listen, rather than dictate: that vow has been cast aside in record time.
Labour shelved its vote on Trident policy this week, realising that the rift it could cause within the Party would wreak havoc on their already fragile political ecosystem. That means that Party policy on Trident will not be set until next year (it remains officially in favour of it). But Corbyn, a one-man Socialist wrecking crew, has rendered that debate null and void. By publicly offering such an absolute statement on nuclear defence, it makes the vote within Labour’s ranks irrelevant. A nuclear weapon is only a viable deterrent if the enemies of Britain believe that there is a chance - no matter how slim - that the person sitting in Number 10 would push the button. By unconditionally ruling that out, Corbyn has drawn a thick red line through Britain’s ultimate line of defence and, by doing so, demonstrated just how unfit he is to lead this country in the modern global political climate.
In his excellent article a couple of days ago, Ian Leslie outlined Corbyn’s predilection for buying into the ‘nirvana fallacy’ - the idea that there is a perfect solution to any problem. Corbyn’s politics are an unfortunate triumph of idealism over realism. He paints modern-day Britain as a nightmarish dystopia, unrecognisable to the vast majority of the general public. He does so because in his mind he has a vivid idea of a utopian state - Jeztopia, if you will - and in his opinion our country currently pales by comparison. He is obsessed with the final outcome; the perfect world where poverty is extinct, nuclear weaponry is no more, and every citizen happily skips through fields of gold. There is not a shred of realism in his vision, nor is there any effort to formulate an incremental plan to achieve his dream. His mind offers no mechanism for taking the multitude of tiny steps that could lead to world peace. Instead, he simply expects to put down Britain’s arms and that everyone else will follow suit. Teddy Roosevelt’s foreign policy has echoed through the ages: “speak softly, and carry a big stick.” Well, Trident is about as big a stick that one could hope for. Corbyn may have the ‘speaking softly’ part down pat, but without Trident he will find that his pleas for peace and disarmament fall on stony ground.
Trident, of course, is a reference to Poseidon’s three-pronged spear. Ironically, it also works as a metaphor for the current factions within the Labour Party: the hard Left Corbynistas; the middle-grounders who have accepted roles in the Shadow Cabinet and are trying to ameliorate the situation; and the Centrists who are clearly struggling with the Party’s new direction. Unfortunately for Labour, the Left prong is far larger, sharper, and more dangerous than they ever imagined.