I’m writing this shortly after Jeremy Corbyn’s comments in the wake of the Paris attacks suggesting that a shoot-to-kill policy to stop terrorists is a bad thing.
Unsurprisingly, many people in his own Party have attacked him over this: the BBC, for example, have reported that John Mann – whose niece was trapped in a Paris toilet for hours on Friday night ‘thinking she was going to be murdered’ – is less than chuffed with this approach. I’m not going to defend Jeremy Corbyn on this one. I’ll be more critical of Corbyn the politician than Corbyn the person though.
I think Jeremy Corbyn is just completely out of touch with the feelings of the general public. I suspect that he’s trying to make a point, but putting it across in completely the wrong way. I think he’s trying to say that governments shouldn’t kill people needlessly – even if they’re terrorists – if you could safely capture those people alive.
With all due respect to academics, I can imagine that one being debated by philosophy professors, argued backwards and forwards, about the sanctity of all human life. What I don’t understand is how a politician could possibly zero in on that particular suggestion.
The questions on everyone else’s lips after the Paris attacks are surely very different. Even if Jeremy Corbyn has commented on these questions, he must surely understand politics well enough to know that it’s his off-the-wall comments that will be widely reported. There are far more important considerations that he should be spending his time on. What can we do to assist the French in their response to this terrible tragedy? How can we catch those responsible and bring them to justice? Do we need to step up control of our borders? Do we need to do more to fight ISIS in their own strongholds? What are the chances of a similar attack in the UK? Are we well prepared? Do our security services have the resources they need? Can we give intelligence services more power without creating a ‘snoopers’ charter’ which could be used against ordinary citizens? Do we need to step up security in key public locations?
But no, Jeremy Corbyn asks a very narrow question about a shoot-to-kill policy. Frankly, by asking that question he has spectacularly missed the point. Back in the real world, let’s suppose that a terrorist is armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades. They are shooting people indiscriminately and quickly. A delay of even a few seconds could result in the deaths of innocent civilians. Even if armed police or soldiers could somehow disarm the terrorist, they may well be wearing a suicide vest which they could detonate as a last resort. It’s almost impossible to conceive of a circumstance in which non-lethal force would avoid putting further lives at risk. The question about lethal force is a purely academic one.
I have no problem with Corbyn – as a fellow human being – thinking about that question. But as Leader of the Opposition, it’s utterly ridiculous. There are far, far more important issues of national security that he could be contemplating. When he ignores the fundamental questions that matter to the British people at a time of tragedy and uncertainty, it shows that he doesn’t really ‘get’ politics. He’s spent decades as a lone eccentric voice in Parliament. Such comments wouldn’t be completely out of place from a maverick backbench MP with his own agenda. But he’s no longer sniping from the sidelines, he’s auditioning for the job of Prime Minister. In yet again failing to recognise that basic distinction, he reminds us exactly why he’s unfit for that office.
This article was originally published on the Huffington Post website. You can view it here.