tv Political Thinking with Nick... BBC News September 25, 2022 10:30am-11:01am BST
this is bbc news. the headlines... voting is under way in italy's general election with opinion polls suggesting victory for the far right which would usher in the country's most right—wing government since world war ii. in the uk, the labour party pledges to boost the economy and createjobs through investment in green energy with plans of making the electricity network carbon—free by 2030. there are reports of further violence between anti—government protesters and police in iran as 35 people are killed and hundreds more are arrested following the death of a young woman in police custody. thousands queue at the georgian
border to leave russia as president zelensky accuses vladimir putin of sending russian conscripts to their death in ukraine by forcing them to fight in the war. a british man freed after being held by russian—backed forces in ukraine describes how he was stabbed by a russian officer and thought he was going to die in captivity. now on bbc news, political thinking with nick robinson. welcome to political thinking — a conversation with, rather than an interrogation of, someone who shapes our political thinking about what has shaped theirs. d'you remember when a politician promised to borrow tens of billions of pounds to rescue the country without spilling out
where they would get the money was accused of being irresponsible, of being reckless? of finding a magic money tree? that man wasjeremy corbyn — and he's my guest this week. he was, of course, leader of the labour party. these days he is not even a labour mp, after keir starmer expelled him from the parliamentary party. but what will be clear at next week's labour conference is he remains the leader of the left. jeremy corbyn, welcome to political thinking. thanks for inviting me on. did you have even a hint of a smile when you heard a tory chancellor stand up and say it's perfectly responsible to borrow tens of billions of pounds? i had more than a smile about that, because i was thinking all the condemnation i received for putting forward a proposal for a national investment bank and regional investment banks — investment banks for scotland and wales and northern ireland — and was told this was grossly
irresponsible. john mcdonnell, at the same time, said that we would not borrow to cover day—to—day spending, we would only borrow for investment. what the government has now done is borrow billions, or is in the process of borrowing billions, in order to pay for day—to—day expenditure, because they've just cut their own income level. so, this isn't corbynomics? you're saying they're just too irresponsible, the tories? we were proposing to, yes, increase taxation for the very richest, yes, and close down the tax loopholes, yes. we were also proposing to invest a great deal in housing and education. now, this is a relatively rare interview for you to do, at least with what your allies would largely call the mainstream media. you didn't much enjoy doing interviews, i recall, when you were leader of the party. and what i'm hoping we do is not rerun one of those. we'll do some policy, but we want to get a sense of what makes you tick, what explains the values, if you like. one of these things,
it seems to me, that is at the root of your popularity, but also what unnerves some people is a kind of moral consistency. people who like you say, "isn't that brilliant? he's not changed for years." and people who don't like you say "isn't that really alarming? he never changes his mind." well, i think one should have a consistent set of values in life. i think of growing up as a child, initially in wiltshire, then later in shropshire, my time injamaica as voluntary service overseas, and my time travelling around latin america. my time in developing political ideas within the young socialists, within the labour party, and particularly trade unions. how much of it has come from your parents? you mentioned your growing up. what's interesting, i always think of you growing up is, if i describe how you grew up, i'd think you were a tory.
a prosperous wiltshire village, you moved to yew tree manor, a i7th—century manor house, you attended a prep school, you went to grammar school. but your parents taught you a very different set of values? yeah, my mum and dad were both very committed socialists in their ideas and what they wanted. they met because of the spanish civil war? they did, they met in conway hall during a meeting in support of the spanish republic, and got together as a result of that. was it when you are touring latin america as a young man that, really, those political ideas that maybe you'd read about, and clearly as a young socialist from quite a young age, about 16 i think you got involved, had talked about campaigning against the vietnam war. were there moments in latin america, you are taking part in protests i know in brazil and elsewhere, were there moments where it went that's what we're talking about. now i get it. to me, the most fascinating experience was in bolivia and peru.
going to these quite small towns on my own, on trucks and things, and in the town you would see the whole structure and strata of society. you would have the central plaza, spanish colonial design, unchanged. the police station, the church, the town hall, and just a little down the road the football stadium. the football stadium — well presented, well preserved, well looked after. the rest of it a bit down a hill. and then you would see spanish—speaking people running all the administration. the market would be with people speaking quechua or aymara, depending on where you were, who were selling the goods. and then outside that you would see either the estancias, with spanish—speaking, spanish—descent owners, and you would see indigenous people working on them. and this taught you what? i was looking at this and i was thinking about how
the spanish colonial experience — remember, these countries gained their independence in 1820 — had just carried on, that structure of society. and that's colonialism — ancient but also modern in the form of american involvement, latin america became a big part of your thinking? and it got me reading quite a lot of the history of it. it seems to be internationalism is a defining part of young corbyn�*s life, and has been ever since. concern about american colonialism is a big part, or imperialism if you prefer, is a big part of your life. it raises interesting questions about now and russia, and russia's actions. do you see russia as a country that won't let go of its empire, as an imperial force? in effect, a colonial power trying to hold on to countries it lost? i think that putin government and russia have a real problem understanding national demands
of neighbouring countries that were once part of the soviet union — kazakhstan, azerbaijan, tajikistan and, of course, ukraine. and i think there is a problem there. aren't they the same, though, as america in that sense? no, because the american power was not so much about wanting to militarily occupy all of latin america, although they did on occasion, such as in guatemala and dominican republic. theirs was much more about maintaining a financial control and supporting local forces that would maintain those us companies�* position, hence the undermining of the allende government. so i think it was... it's a different form of control. do you not have to reset policies and attitudes as a result of how putin has behaved? the reason i was going
to ask you actually not about now, as you say, because you condemned it. if you go back to the invasion of crimea, though, 2014, you wrote at the time, "the self—satisfied pomposity of western leaders in lecturing the world about morality and international law has to be challenged." and you said that crimea's been historically separate from ukraine in the past. ukraine's national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history. all of which would make some people think you were saying, well, you know, it's not ideal that russia have moved in, but it's kind of understandable. what i couldn't understand was why under khrushchev, the crimea was separated from russia and told it was part of the ukraine. at the time, people didn't notice because ukraine was part of the soviet union, albeit it had its identity as the ukrainian soviet socialist republic. but ukraine had always been part of russia, and it was also russia's naval base and all the rest of it.
and so i always thought it was very odd that in the break—up of the soviet union, the relationship with ukraine accepted the presence of the us huge naval base there, but didn't do anything about the question of the ukrainian control, if you like, of crimea. but i guess the reason i raise it is because it seems to me there's a danger. it looks as if you, because you're interested in the history, you're always looking for an explanation for russian behaviour. you're always looking for an explanation that maybe the west got it wrong. you, if you like, give them the benefit of the doubt. whereas you're highly critical of your own country and of course, of the united states. is that morally right? well, i'm very critical of russia, actually, and human rights in russia and the behaviour notjust recently, but over a very long period. and you know what, for all that's been said about me, i never sadly ever visited the soviet union. the idea that some people
would say i'm some kind of apologist for putin, i just draw the parallel when tony blair was entertaining vladimir putin to a night at the opera, there were a number of us who were actually supporting the chechen people, including tony benn and me. do you think of yourself as a patriot? or is it a word that you're uncomfortable with as an internationalist? yeah, i'm a patriot. i want to be patriotic about a country that doesn't tolerate poverty or homelessness and unemployment, and i said that in the election campaign. patriotism is dressed up by some of our popular media as the size of the flag you've got, the ability you have to wave it and shout, i am british. i'm british, i'm british. i think patriotism is about being proud of the society in which you live. what do you think about the idea of singing god save the king at
the start of the labour conference? very odd. very, very odd. it's never, ever happened at a labour conference since the conferences were first held at the time of the first world war. i find it peculiar and not really necessary. the conference is there, hopefully for a democratic expression of party members�* views to discuss policies and so on. i just find it rather odd. 0dd why, though? well, i've never done it before. there's never been any demand to do it. we don't, as a country, routinely go around singing the national anthem at every single event we go to. we don't sing it in schools. we don't have the raising of the flag in schools, as they do in the usa and other places. we are not that sort of, what i would call, excessively nationalist, and i don't see the point or the need for it, but... i guess the point might be, and i haven't asked keir starmer whose plan it is — that it's a key moment in history. 0ne monarch has died, a new one is there, and it wants to make clear that his majesty's 0pposition — that's the official title — are loyal. i think he's made that very clear already.
you had quite a good relationship with her majesty the queen, didn't you? yeah. is it true that you discussed jam—making with her? well, yeah. i mean, you've got to separate the person from the institution as well. we had some very interesting chats about gardens, gardening, jam making, fruit growing. she asked me how my allotment was getting on, what i was growing on it, and that sort of thing. and it was a fine, nice conversation. likewise, i had a couple of quite long conversations with charles about environment, sustainability and the future of our planet, and he is extremely well—informed on all that. extremely well—informed. do you think he's likely to be the last monarch of the united kingdom? i think we're going to move to a situation where people are going to start to question it. and it's interesting that his first statement has been that he wants to look at the management of it
and the cost of it, which is interesting that he's moved into it in that way, and also to make the number of term working royals smaller. i think we're moving into a much more democratic society, and i think this does mean we've got to start questioning a lot of the constitutional things, such as the power of the royal prerogative and the undemocratic nature of our parliamentary system. i want to take you back now. back to where? back to when you were thinking of running to be leader of the labour party. 0k. because i've always relished that story thatjohn mcdonnell used to say, that you in the campaign group, the left wing, now called the socialist campaign group, sat around thinking who's going to run this time? because we always put someone up, we always get beaten and beaten easily, but we wave the flag for the policies and values that we've got. do you remember why it was you?
well, after the 2015 election, there was obviously a lot of people very depressed at the result, and a lot of talk about whether we should run a leadership candidate or not. my view was that we should. the colleagues in the socialist campaign group said we're unlikely to get the nominations. a lot of other left groups said it's a good idea, we won't get the nomination. so we had this meeting of the campaign group in wi. that's one of the small committee rooms off westminster hall. and so i'm writing in my notebook, as i often do, i carry a small notebook around and write like this. and dianne said, "no, i did it. i'm not doing it again." john said, no, i've been down that track. i'm not doing it again. and then others said, no, no, no, no. then it went quiet, and i looked up
and said, what's going on? they said, "it's got to be you. you're the one that's been pushing this." so i said ok. at that point, i saw diane abbott's hand move faster than the lightning to press the send button on her phone. declaring that you were the candidate? yes. within literally milliseconds of my agreement to doing this, it was out there and she'd already prepared the tweet. that part of what's interesting about the policy politics. the labour party now is there's been no resolution about the corbyn years. 0n the one hand, team starmer said it was all a disaster. you know, it was the worst result in 2019, since the 1930s. and your allies say, well, no, hold on, you're looking at it the wrong way. why are people looking at it that way? two things. one is in terms of seats, yes, it was obviously a very bad result. i know that. and the seats that we lost in 2019,
obviously awful that we lost them, we did lose a small number of seats in 2017. the decline in the labour vote in what is now euphemistically called the red wall seats didn't start in 2019 or �*17. it had been going on for a very long time. but in which case, why was it not terrible? i take your point... the popular vote was more than labour got in 2005. so it wasn't terrible because you gain voters. the policies that we put forward... national education service, particularly green industrial revolution and public ownership of rail, mail, water and energy were actually all individually popular and still are. you can never put one issue down as why an election result was what it was. there's lots of factors about how and why people vote, why they vote or don't vote. i think one of the issues was obviously the issue of brexit.
borisjohnson came up with this very simplistic thing saying, "we'll get brexit done." you did work quite closely with keir starmer. there's now a rift, he's kicked you out of the parliamentary party. which takes us back to the subject you're probably deeply frustrated — it keeps raising its head — the subject of anti—semitism. i don't want to relitigate all that. you've said lots of things. you've condemned anti—semitism and so on. but the question i've always really wanted to ask you is why do you think that so manyjewish people felt so uncomfortable, frightened, when you were leader of the labour party? i absolutely condemn anti—semitism in every single form, as you've just acknowledged, and i took action against any anti—semitic activity within the party, introduced procedures to deal with it that hadn't existed before, and made very clear my position on this. it's precisely for that reason i'm interested in whether you can
explain to yourself why so many jewish people felt so uncomfortable? let me tell you a story. i remember speaking to a very senior, former senior member of the party at the time. and you know thatjews often talk about the fact that one day they may have to flee, as their parents and their grandparents did. and to my amazement and shock, this individual said to me, "i have a bag by the door. ifjeremy is elected, i'm ready for that." there were some horrible things said against and about me at that time. there is no way i would ever want a society that isn't totally supportive of everyone, whatever their identity. and that means that we cannot tolerate that degree of racism or any degree of racism within our society. anti—semitism is an egregious form of disgusting racism in every way. i hear you, i really do.
i also noticed you looked even you and you've heard some things over the years a bit shocked by that story. i mean, does it upset you to hear that people felt that way, even if you think unfairly? very unfairly. and i would want to be able to say directly to them, you are completely wrong. but the problem you're in now is because when the ehrc, equalities and human rights commission, did an investigation into the labour party and its handling of anti—semitism, and they said the approach and leadership to tackling anti—semitism was insufficient, it's inexcusable and appeared to result from a lack of willingness to tackle anti—semitism, rather than ability to do so. you didn't say hands up, mistakes made. you said the scale of the problem was dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside... go back to the first part of the statement which i made
was that i welcomed and accepted the report, would work with anybody to implement that report and the rule changes that were required from it. and i also pointed out, in defence of the 99.9% of labour party members, that anti—semitism is and was and will always be wrong, and that the numbers of cases were not as great as much as the media had said. but it seems to me you're not going to be able to move on from this dispute with keir starmer, because he says you've got to apologise for what you said, and you've just resaid it. so you're not apologising because you still... you still think it. does that mean that you won't be a labour mp after the next election? i was elected as a labour mp. it's a very odd position to be in. i've been a labour party member for more than 50 years. ijoined the labour party even before england won the world cup. the men's team, that is.
yes! and i've held many positions in the party, from branch secretary, constituency chair, agent, all kinds of things, as well as obviously being a labour mp and leader of the party. my constituents voted for me as a labour candidate. more than 50% of the electorate voted for me as a labour candidate. and so they find it more than a bit odd that i'm now labelled in the media as an independent. i was elected for labour, and that's been my life. to be fair, you're labelled in the media, but you're labelled by sir keir starmer, who has decided that you are not a labour mp, his decision. i just suggest that the way to bring the party together and move forward is to reinstate the whip. you are, as you say, a member of the labour party. you've been reinstated. but you're not a labour member of parliament. will you go to the conference inside, notjust outside for the rallies? i'll be there. you'll be there? i'll be there. 0k. i've been at conferences almost every year since 1970. yeah, i think i've seen you at every one i've been to. will you talk, will you speak?
i'm not a delegate, so i can't speak on the floor. i'll be doing lots of meetings and things, that sort of thing. and if which is the next step for the leadership, they say we'll get the local party to choose a new candidate who does meet the rules of the labour party. what then? the labour party members should be given that choice in islington to choose me or not choose me. but that would be the democratic way of doing it. the likelihood is keir starmer doesn't give you the whip... i'm looking around, i see no crystal balls. have you been looking at one earlier? i've been political editor for a while, i think i have an instinct of what's going to happen. what then? listen, we'll cross one bridge when we got to it. what is the problem here? keir starmer, i mean, he's not a blairite, is he? i mean, he was pretty left wing in the past. the party, let's put it... put it this way, and i'm trying to be
as generous as possible here. i want labour to win an election, i want to get rid of the tory government. we're not going to do it by offering to manage the economy. we're going to be only successful in doing it if we offer to change the economy and change the levels of inequality and injustice in our society. that requires public ownership, that requires intervention, that requires a whole process in which you don't leave a large proportion of the population behind trying to survive on food banks and just getting by. you've got to offer something much more. and i think the manifesto as we put forward in 2017 and 2019 met a lot of the needs of the whole of this country. now, your great mentor in politics was tony benn. you worked on his campaigns, i think you went most sundays, didn't you ? well, we chatted a lot, yeah. you said it was the sort of university of life for you. we had a thing called the independent left corresponding society on sunday, not every sunday, some sunday evenings at his house. now, you will remember that when tony benn left parliament,
he said he was leaving parliament he said with a smile on his face to get more involved in politics, beacause he thought real politics was outside. he phoned me up that morning, i remember it. he phoned me up and he said, "jeremy, are you there?" isaid, "yeah, yeah, hi, what was it you wanted, tony?" and he said, "i'vejust prepared this statement." "what?" he said, "can i read it to you?" so i said, "sure, sure." it was slightly longer than the words you put in there, it was about stepping down and so on. so, he read it to me, and he then said, "what do you think? because you've gone very quiet." and i was sort of trying to take in what he was saying, and i said, "well, two things, tony." one is, i don't agree with it, i think you're wrong. secondly, it's bloody brilliant." so, you liked the phrase, but not the not the idea? correct, you got it, yeah. so, why was he wrong, then?
because there will be people who say to you, forgive me, you're 73... i wanted him to carry on. yeah, but let's do you. you're 73, you're going to be in parliament for the 40th year... you're not trying to be an ageist, are you? a0 years next year. you can easilyjust say, "look, i can do all the campaigns and rallies and speeches and all the rest of it. i don't need to be in parliament, have a row with keir starmer every day. let's call it a day." i enjoy being active. i'm determined to bring about social justice and changes, and anything i can do to do that i will carry on doing. that's my life. jeremy corbyn, thank you very much forjoining me on political thinking. what is absolutely clear is that jeremy corbyn isn't going to make keir starmer�*s life easier by simply walking away and saying, i don't want to be a labour mp any more. and that poses a real dilemma for the labour leader. does he, in effect, expel him permanently from the party? or does he have to eat his words and allow him back in?
just as labour will begin a difficult debate about how to oppose liz truss�*s tories, are they full blooded in their support for working people, standing on picket lines and taking them on, asjeremy corbyn would want? or is theirs a subtler message designed to appeal to the broad centre of british politics? it's not going to be dull. thank you for watching. hello there. it was a beautiful start for early risers out there today, but yes, it was on the chilly side. in fact, temperatures quite widely across the country dipping down to low single figures. it was glorious, a lot of sunshine, but quickly we had a veil of high cloud. this weather watcher picture from 0xfordshire just illustrates
the point quite beautifully. as we go through the day today, though, england and wales will continue to see some cloud, but sunny spells and quite a quiet story. a few scattered showers across northern ireland, western scotland and then a weather front gradually arriving to the north—west of the great glen, with the winds strengthening to gale force. here a little cooler, 13 or 1a degrees, but with that sunshine we should see temperatures widely between 16 and 18 celsius. the winds will be quite a feature over the next few days, a westerly at the moment, but as the weather front continues to descend its way steadily southwards, they are going to change to more of a northerly, and that is going to drive in plenty of showers across scotland and northern ireland overnight. 0ur weather front takes some welcome rain south. with the cloud and rain around, and the winds, temperatures will hold up into double figures quite widely. so, early morning rain easing away, but it is going to be a windier and colder story as we move into monday. that northerly flow driving that cool air further south across the country.
so certainly on monday some early rain easing away from the south coast, and then sunny spells and scattered showers, but a blustery wind will drive those showers through at quite a pace, but it is going to make it feel really on the cool side. gusts of wind in excess of a0 or 50 mph on exposed west—facing coasts, so that's going to have an impact. here are the temperatures on the thermometer, 8—10 degrees if we are lucky in scotland, maybe as high as 16 somewhere in the south—east. as we move out of monday into tuesday, the winds will fall a little lighter, still coming in from the north and still driving in some showers. some of these could be heavy with the odd rumble of thunder potentially as well on tuesday, so again those temperatures struggling, around 10—111. maybe in the south—west we'll see highs of 16 celsius. it stays cooler with further showers to come as we go through the remainder of the week. take care.
this is bbc news. i'm samantha simmonds and these are the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world... voting is under way in italy's general election with opinion polls suggesting victory for the far right which would usher in the country's most right—wing government since world war two. these are live pictures of rome as people vote in an election triggered by party infighting that brought down prime minister mario draghi's broad national unity government injuly. in the uk, the labour party pledges to boost the economy and create jobs through investment in green energy with plans of making the electricity network carbon—free by 2030. there are reports of further violence between anti—government protesters and police in iran as 35
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