TWITTER SCANDAL: Moscow mules: the left’s long romance with Russia.

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(Above: Corbyn and his spin doctor Seumas Milne share a sceptical view of Nato)

TWITTER SCANDAL: Moscow mules: the left’s long romance with Russia.

[Posted by Lara Keller 10/5/18]

[Original Source = https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/moscow-mules-the-lefts-long-romance-with-russia-brqp5cw2v]

[Start Article]

By Tim Shipman, Political Editor, The Sunday Times, April 29 2018, 12:01am.

Jeremy Corbyn and his closest aide Seumas Milne have a long history of taking a more positive approach to Russia than have any other mainstream political figures.

The two share a passion for anti-colonial foreign policy stances, which has seen them explain away Russian aggression while denouncing the activities of the US, Israel and Britain.

Corbyn was a regular on RT, the Russian state-funded television channel, before he became leader. His shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has since said Labour MPs should not appear on the propaganda station, but Corbyn has refused to issue such an order.

He has also repeatedly criticised Nato, branding it “the father of the Cold War” and suggesting it should have “shut up shop” in 1990.

After the Salisbury nerve agent attack in March, Corbyn received security briefings from the government but refused to say unequivocally that Russia was behind the attempted murders and called for “dialogue with Russia”.

In the Commons, he preferred to attack the Tory party for taking donations from Russians — a move many of his MPs saw as ill-judged. Russian state media reported his comments approvingly.

In a briefing for journalists, Milne, Corbyn’s communications director, repeatedly suggested alternatives to the government’s explanation that the Russian state was responsible, including that the nerve gas attack was ordered by another former Soviet state or mafia gang.

He questioned the reliability of information from Britain’s intelligence agencies and implied that Putin was being framed.

In October 2014, just a year before he became Corbyn’s spin doctor, Milne was pictured shaking hands with Vladimir Putin at a conference in Sochi, Russia, after his invasion of Ukraine. In March 2015, Milne wrote in The Guardian that “Putin has now become a cartoon villain” in the West and blaming the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Nato’s “anti-Russian incitement”. He later said Russia’s annexation of Crimea was “clearly defensive”.

The alliance, by embracing the Baltic nations and Ukraine, was guilty of having “marched relentlessly eastwards”, ignoring the fact that the Baltic countries joined Nato of their own freewill having spent 50 years under the Soviet yoke.

Labour MPs believe Corbyn’s approach is a legacy of Moscow’s opposition to the US in the Cold War and has led to residual support for Putin’s regime even though it is no longer communist but an authoritarian kleptocracy.

Milne wrote in 2006 that the USSR “encompassed genuine idealism”, and “helped to drive up welfare standards in the West”.

His view was shared by Corbyn, who said in 1991 that he was “concerned at the break-up of the Soviet Union” and suggested, in 2015, that the build-up of Nato forces had given Russia “more of an excuse” for its aggression in Ukraine.

Ben Nimmo, of the Atlantic Council’s digital forensic research lab, said: “The Kremlin likes politicians who are not going to be too critical of Russia.”

[End Article]

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Exposed: Russian Twitter bots tried to swing general election for Jeremy Corbyn.

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INSIGHT INVESTIGATION: Exposed: Russian Twitter bots tried to swing general election for Jeremy Corbyn (Robot accounts rooted for Labour and attacked Tories).

[Posted by Lara Keller, 7/5/18]

[Original Sourcehttps://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/exposed-russian-twitter-bots-tried-to-swing-general-election-for-jeremy-corbyn-zffv8652x]

[Note= The Sunday Times is a conservative UK newspaper, and like the rest of the right wing press in the UK it does consistently and strongly criticize the radical left Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (or indeed any Labour leader). There is a history of press attacks on the Labour party going back to the infamous “Zinoviev Letter” and the “Daily Mail” in 1924. A politically tribal response to rejecting all attacks on Corbyn by the right wing press is irresponsible. Corbyn appears to have spent decades attacking Nato and promoting polices favorable to nominally left-wing dictatorships abroad. This gives Putin a strong incentive to encourage a Corbyn lead Labour Government in the UK. Any information about this will inevitably only appear in the right wing press. Clement Atlee lead a transformative Labour Government in the UK in 1945, but he also ensured the UK responded to the hostile threat of the Soviet Union. There are good reasons to question Jeremy Corbyn’s motives and backers. This article may help, and so it is available here. LK 7/5/18]

[Start Article]

Jeremy Corbyn saw support for the Labour Party rise from 25% of the electorate to 40% over the course of last year’s election campaign. “Insight,” April 29 2018, 12:01am, The Sunday Times.

The first evidence of Russian attempts to influence the result of the general election by promoting the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has emerged in a ground-breaking investigation into social media by this newspaper.

Our research, in conjunction with Swansea University, discovered that 6,500 Russian Twitter accounts rallied behind Labour in the weeks before last year’s election, helping supportive messages to reach millions of voters and denigrating its Conservative rivals.

Many of the Russian accounts can clearly be identified as internet robots — known as bots — that masqueraded under female English names but were in fact mass-produced to bombard the public with orchestrated political messages.

Academics say the fake accounts identified by this newspaper are just the tip of the iceberg and called on Twitter to investigate fully the true scale of Russian meddling in British politics.

Our investigation found overwhelming support for Corbyn and Labour from the Russian social media accounts with nine out of 10 messages about the party promoting its campaign. Conversely, nine out of 10 tweets about the Conservatives were hostile.

We found that 80% of the automated accounts had been created in the weeks before the vote on June 8 and swung into action at key points during the campaign. There was evidence that Russian social media accounts:

• Piled in with retweets praising Labour and deriding the Conservatives in equal measure on May 18 — the day Theresa May launched her party’s manifesto

• Retweeted publicity and support for Corbyn’s rallies around the country which became a phenomenon of the campaign, drawing unusually large crowds

• Helped Corbyn turn the Manchester Arena bombing into a campaigning point by amplifying tweets criticising May for cutting police numbers while she had been home secretary

• Retweeted attacks on May for her refusal to engage in television debates with Corbyn, while criticising the media for being too harsh on the Labour leader

• Brought their campaign to a climax on polling day — when the UK media is not allowed to report — with a series of messages urging Labour supporters to vote.

The election proved to be an extraordinary success personally for Corbyn, who saw his party’s support rise from 25% to 40% over the course of the campaign — the largest surge in support during a modern election.

Matt Hancock, the digital and culture secretary, called on Twitter to reveal the scale of the problem and act to prevent it from happening again. “These new revelations are extremely concerning,” he said. “It is absolutely unacceptable for any nation to attempt to interfere in the democratic elections of another country. The social media companies need to act to safeguard our democratic discourse and reveal what they know.”

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Russia has already been accused of using such tactics to back Donald Trump in the 2016 American presidential election. This is the first time, however, that such Russian cyber-tactics have been documented in the 2017 UK general election, which saw Corbyn defy all predictions.

The Labour leader has faced repeated criticism for his reluctance to strongly condemn Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, over the Salisbury nerve agent attacks last month.

Our team of researchers found 16,000 Russian bots had been tweeting on British politics since April last year. We narrowed our study, however, to a sample of 20,000 tweets from Russia collected by Swansea University and posted in the four weeks before the general election so that we could assess each individual message’s political slant.

The academics from Swansea say the sample reflected only a fraction of social media content on the election and therefore believe the stark findings are evidence of an attempt to influence British politics on a grander scale.

Professor Oleksandr Talavera, the Swansea University economist who collected the data, said: “The samples provide evidence that Russian-language bots were used deliberately to try to influence the election in favour of Labour and against the Conservatives.

“The data represents just a small random sample and therefore the Russian-language automated bot behaviour we have observed is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg of their general election operation.”

Our researchers were able to establish that the messages were broadcast by thousands of automated bot accounts created in the months before the election.

Hundreds of the Twitter accounts were created simultaneously and displayed clear identifying factors. One of the most common was the use of 15-character alphanumeric user names with a false western woman’s name attached — even though they listed their first language as Russian.

At times, they tweeted the same messages in unison. Many were retweets from Labour Twitter accounts including Corbyn’s own and those of Labour-supporting unions and the grassroots campaign group Momentum in an apparent attempt to amplify the party’s message.

The bots were quick to leap to Corbyn’s defence when needed. When Corbyn was criticised in the campaign for failing to know the cost of one of his key policies, a gang of 34 accounts masquerading as women retweeted the same message simultaneously saying the media should respect the Labour leader.

Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who chairs the culture, media and sport select committee, said he would challenge Twitter on the findings as part of his committee’s inquiry into social media disinformation.

“Any Russian interference in the politics of the UK is a breach of our election law and something we’ve got to act to stop,” he said.

In response to our story, the Labour Party suggested that the Russian government had supported the Conservative Party during the election. A spokesman said: “Labour’s proposed crackdown on tax dodging, failed privatisation and corrupt oligarchs is opposed by both May and Putin’s conservative philosophy and their super-rich supporters.

“The Labour Party’s people-powered election campaign attracted huge levels of public support online. We were not aware of any from automated bots, categorically did not pay for any and are not aware of any of our supporters doing so.”

Twitter said its work to fight malicious bots “goes beyond any one specific election, event, or time period”. It had spent years working to identify and remove such accounts and was continuing the improvement of its internal systems “to detect and prevent new forms of spam and malicious automation”.

[End Article]

How Russian bots invaded Twitter to fight in Jeremy Corbyn’s army.

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INSIGHT INVESTIGATION: How Russian bots invaded Twitter to fight in Jeremy Corbyn’s army.

[Posted by Lara Keller, 7/5/18]
[Original Source = https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/invasion-of-the-russian-twitter-bots-to-fight-in-jeremy-corbyns-army-78966pjrk]

[Note= The Sunday Times is a conservative UK newspaper, and like the rest of the right wing press in the UK it does consistently and strongly criticize the radical left Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (or indeed any Labour leader). There is a history of press attacks on the Labour party going back to the infamous “Zinoviev Letter” and the “Daily Mail” in 1924. A politically tribal response to rejecting all attacks on Corbyn by the right wing press is irresponsible. Corbyn appears to have spent decades attacking Nato and promoting polices favorable to nominally left-wing dictatorships abroad. This gives Putin a strong incentive to encourage a Corbyn lead Labour Government in the UK. Any information about this will inevitably only appear in the right wing press. Clement Atlee lead a transformative Labour Government in the UK in 1945, but he also ensured the UK responded to the hostile threat of the Soviet Union. There are good reasons to question Jeremy Corbyn’s motives and backers. This article may help, and so it is available here. LK 7/5/18]

[Start Article]

It was a stunning election comeback by Labour — but there were Russians in its ranks, reports “Insight”, April 29 2018, 12:01am, The Sunday Times.

It was the moment that brought a tear to the eye of the prime minister. At 10pm on June 8, 2017, a shock exit poll revealed that Theresa May’s seemingly well-judged gamble of bolstering her majority with a snap general election had backfired.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had defied expectations. When the campaign began there had been a widespread belief that he was unelectable and his demise would be swift following the inevitable Conservative landslide.

But the campaign changed that: Corbyn lifted Labour support from 25% to 40%. The party’s gains cemented the most unlikely political transformation in decades, elevating Corbyn to a serious contender whose name would be sung with cult-like reverence when he appeared on stage at the Glastonbury festival a fortnight later.

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The causes of the result are still being debated. Was it the galvanisation of the youth vote, did May run a lacklustre campaign or were the polls wrong from the beginning?

One question has been largely overlooked, until now. Did Moscow attempt to influence the British general election by using social media in the same way that it tried to boost the fortunes of Donald Trump during the 2016 American elections?

A ground-breaking investigation by The Sunday Times in conjunction with Swansea University has found the first strong evidence that large numbers of mechanised Russian social media accounts attempted to influence the result during the seven-week campaign.

Our research suggests there was an orchestrated attempt to propel Corbyn into Downing Street by bombarding the public with positive messages in support of Labour, using Twitter accounts that were mostly created after the election was suggested early last year.

At the same time, the Russian accounts identified in our research disseminated a deluge of negative propaganda against Labour’s main rival, the Conservatives. Comments such as “The Tories are literally killing our children” were retweeted by mechanised Russian accounts using fake English-sounding women’s names.

Professor Oleksandr Talavera, the Swansea University economist who collected the data, said: “The samples provide evidence that Russian language bots were used deliberately to try to influence the election in favour of Labour and against the Conservatives.

“The data represents just a small random sample and therefore the Russian-language automated bot behaviour we have observed is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg of their general election operation.”

Our research centred on millions of election tweets collected by Swansea University during the campaign. We narrowed them down to a sample of 20,000 tweets from accounts using Russian language or Russian place names that were posted in the four weeks leading up to the election. We employed a team of researchers to read each one to assess whether they were positive or negative for the main political parties.

We discovered that many of the messages were retweets sent by thousands of mechanised Twitter accounts — commonly known as bots. Most of the 6,500 Russian accounts supporting Labour were bots. They were typically created in huge batches at similar times in the lead-up to the election and were later suspended by Twitter’s moderators or shut themselves down.

These accounts were often easy for our researchers to identify because they frequently hid behind 15-character user names that contained a mixture of numbers and letters in upper and lower case. On some occasions they retweeted the same message of support within seconds of each other.

The results were stark. Nine out of 10 of the messages that expressed an opinion on Labour were positive and conversely nine out of 10 which mentioned the Conservatives were negative. The interest in the other main political parties appeared minor.

The story of the Russian attempt to influence the election begins on March 6 last year, when William Hague, the former foreign secretary, set a hare running in the Conservative Party by suggesting that the prime minister should take advantage of Corbyn’s dwindling support by calling an early general election.

Over the next 24 hours an army of Russian bot accounts was created. They were uniformly western women’s names accompanied by alphanumeric usernames and, although the principal language for the accounts was Russian, many claimed they were in the Pacific time zone. They would later take an unusual interest in the British general election.

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The next month, after the prime minister stood outside Downing Street to announce the election, there was a series of new spikes in the creation of bot accounts identified by our researchers.

Many older accounts were also reinvigorated. Two days after the election announcement, Nikola from Moscow retweeted Corbyn: “They’ve broken their promises for seven years. How can we believe a word they say over the next seven weeks?” And AlecMoooody from the US retweeted a message railing against Corbyn’s alleged censorship by the BBC using the hashtag “Corbyn4PM”.

In evidence to the US Congress, Twitter would later identify both those accounts as creations of the Internet Research Agency, a shadowy company in St Petersburg that employs hundreds of “trolls” to post Kremlin propaganda on social media. During the American elections the agency waged a campaign of messages supporting Donald Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton.

The Russian bots identified by our researchers followed a similar pattern in the UK election. Over and over again, they amplified tweets that supported Labour and those that attacked the Conservatives, helping the spread of the messages to hundreds, thousands and possibly millions of people. Much of the propaganda centred on key events in the election. At the times when the bots spread positivity for Labour, they would also spread almost equal amounts of negativity for the Conservatives.

So when the Conservatives launched their election manifesto on May 18 the bots stepped up the output of pro-Labour tweets and were withering about the Tories. For example, “Gabrielle Wilson” retweeted a message criticising Theresa May because that “manifesto abandons older people & will do nothing to address inequality”.

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On closer inspection, Wilson’s first language was Russian and her account had an alphanumeric Twitter username of 15 characters, @NR2AtERXvfDy0Nx, which was the hallmark of many of the bots identified in our research. Her account has been suspended by Twitter.

The Manchester terrorist attack four days later was another opportunity for the bots to engage in British politics. They retweeted Corbyn’s condolences to the victims’ families and in the following days, one, entitled simply “Denis”, repeated the Labour leader’s calls for May to resign over cuts in police numbers.

The Denis account was curious. It was written in Russian Cyrillic characters and while the name was a man’s, the main photo was of a blonde woman. It also contained several pornographic images and positive messages about Trump — again a common feature linking some of the bot networks.

As the campaign developed, so did the growing cult of personality surrounding Corbyn. Rallies around the country would see unusual surges of support as social media came alive with the news that the Labour leader was in town.

Labour claimed this support was “organic”. The more the public saw the man and heard his message, they argued, the more they liked him. That may well have been true but our research also shows he was given significant assistance by the bots from Russia.

They avidly retweeted his personal Twitter account and broadcast his movements around the UK. In early June, “Lillian Morgan” retweeted a message from the pro-Kremlin broadcaster Russia Today inviting people to watch Corbyn’s speech in Reading. The event drew comment in the newspapers because a surprisingly large crowd attended during a workday lunchtime.

On closer inspection, Morgan’s username was @sMzNFVr7wWkTW04, her account was created in Russian and it was suspended at some point after she had tweeted. She was a bot.

The same family of bots were quick to defend the Labour leader whenever he found himself in hot water. The day before the Reading rally, Corbyn was pilloried for a disastrous interview on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour when he appeared unsure about the cost of his plans to provide free childcare.

Within hours, the bots started to weigh in heavily on Corbyn’s behalf. “JeremyCorbyn deserves the #respect of the #media and fellow #politicians,” retweeted “Heather”, “Hayley” and “Noelle” a few hours later at exactly the same time.

In fact, in our sample there were 34 accounts with similar-sounding English female names who retweeted this identical message that day in two batches less than 10 minutes apart. All the women were Russian speakers and their accounts had come into existence over the course of two days in the fourth week of the election campaign. They also all contained the familiar 15-character alphanumeric username and would later vanish from the Twittersphere.

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By election day, the bots were again engaged imploring Labour supporters to get out and vote. “Jessica Langdon” was up early retweeting a message from the Corbyn-supporting journalist Owen Jones that said: “The Tories think they’re going to win big. Ring your friends, talk to your workmates, talk to younger voters. Tick tock.”

Ben Nimmo, of the Atlantic Council’s digital forensic research lab, told this newspaper that the evidence suggested the bots has been used in “a dedicated effort” to influence the election.

“If you compare the rhetoric on Russia from Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May it’s pretty obvious which one’s the Kremlin’s going to prefer,” he said.

He added, however, that the effectiveness of the bots and the precise role, if any, of President Vladimir Putin’s government in this attempt were questions that remained. The election did, however, provide the most extraordinary result. Written off at the outset, Corbyn defied his doubters and increased Labour’s share of the vote by more than any other Labour leader since 1945.

Election surprises

  • Labour won the social media war because more people shared its posts even though the Tories outspent them on Facebook adverts
  • When terrorists struck in Manchester and London Bridge, it was assumed Theresa May would benefit but Jeremy Corbyn gained support by focusing on police cuts
  • Corbyn made rallies a campaign priority — and gathered crowds of 1,000 people with a few tweets
  • Student turnout helped Labour win key seats such as Canterbury

“INSIGHT” RESEARCH TEAM: George Arbuthnott, Jonathan Calvert, Krystina Shveda, Louis Goddard, Mary O’Connor, Katie Weston, Malik Ouzia, Rebecca Gualandi, Rosie Bradbury

[End Article]

James Bloodworth: A left-wing case against Comrade Jeremy Corbyn (2015)

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James Bloodworth: A left-wing case against Comrade Jeremy Corbyn (2015)

[Posted by Lara Keller 14/10/17]

[ source = http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/james-bloodworth-left-wing-case-against-comrade-jeremy-corbyn-1513969 ]

By James Bloodworth, 4/8/2015

Until mid-2011 I was a member of a small London-based Trotskyist group. Early in that same year, as part of my propaganda efforts on behalf of the group I ended up at a meeting of the Labour Representation Committee, a left-wing faction of the Labour party, where I listened to Jeremy Corbyn deliver a rousing speech on the then raging war in Libya.

From memory, the speech was not so much anti-war, which would have been perfectly reasonable considering talk at the time of Nato intervention, as pro that country’s dictator, Colonel Gaddafi. I do not remember the exact contents of the speech – it took place when Corbyn was an obscure backbencher – only that audible groans filled enlightened corners of the hall, including my own, when the left-winger began to reel off what he considered the “achievements” of the Gaddafi regime.

“A person cannot conceivably be anti-establishment when they are so willing to line up behind some of the most atrocious ‘establishments’ in the world”
– James Bloodworth

You might call my experience of that day the beginning of my education in the left-wing case against Jeremy Corbyn, who since then has risen from obscure backbencher to likely next leader of the Labour party.

The right-wing case against Corbyn is a straightforward one. Indeed, the conservative press in Britain has constructed an entire vocabulary with which to smear as a lunatic anyone, like Corbyn, who does not accept that the best Britain can hope for is a society where tens of thousands of people a year rely on food banks to survive.

The right’s problem with Corbyn is not that he is “unelectable” – in fact the thing conservatives fear most is an electable left-wing politician – rather it is that he talks in tones that make them want to hold their bulging purses a little tighter.

No, Corbyn is striking a chord with Labour activists because in many respects he is correct: a Britain built on finance capitalism and property speculation will never work in the interests of the majority. That isn’t Bolshevism; it’s the ABC of social democracy. The problem with Labour’s so-called modernisers, or Blairites, or whatever you want to call them, is that they appear to have forgotten much of this.

From the television studios at Milbank to the plush conference halls at party conference, at some point over the past 30 years the oppressed began to look a little less oppressed to the policy pedants of the Labour establishment.

The best case against Corbyn is not that he is a wild-eyed socialist, but instead goes back to my initial reminiscence: he is remarkably good at proffering apologetics for dictatorship and tyranny. As well as Gaddafi, Corbyn has in recent years championed/made excuses for Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez, Russian gay-basher Vladimir Putin, the butcher of Bosnian Muslims Slobodan Milosevic and the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

He has also worked for Iranian state broadcaster Press TV (home of Holocaust deniers and other cranks) and has referred to fascistic terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends”.

It is this, rather than any desire to make the British economy more like that of Germany – the horror! – which ought to prevent Labour members from voting for Corbyn in the upcoming Labour leadership election. A person cannot conceivably be anti-establishment when they are so willing to line up behind some of the most atrocious “establishments” in the world.

This matters perhaps more today than it did in the past. Large swathes of the world are currently convulsed by war and/or under the boot of dictatorship. The world urgently requires a vocal and internationally minded left – a left which, while recognising imperialist follies such as the war in Iraq, never grovels to religious fascists and whose instinctive reaction to tyranny is one of revulsion rather than reverential talk about the “achievements” of this or that thuggish dictatorship – however “left” the posture of the regime in question

“Comrade Corbyn, a nice man who loathes tyranny and anti-Semitism, ends up on platforms lavishing praise on tyrants and anti-Semites”
– James Bloodworth

Unfortunately, Corbyn’s indulgence of tyranny is invariably where politics takes you if you accept the increasingly fashionable view that the US is the world’s most malevolent power. In building up the US as public enemy number one, the left must invent disagreements with it – and by extension Britain – to prop up an increasingly tortuous ideological house of cards.

Thus because the US is the beating heart of capitalism, it must always and everywhere be the “root cause” (you will hear that phrase a lot) of the world’s problems; and by deduction, any movement that points a gun in its direction must invariably have something going for it.

To agree with David Cameron about, say, the threat from Islamic State (Isis) is to admit there are nastier forces in the world than George Osborne and the Daily Mail. And if this turns out to be true, the main enemy might not be capitalism after all – and thus the illusions begin to melt away.

It may be accurate that, as his supporters like to point out, Corbyn “actually believes in something”. And yes, ideology can at times inspire tremendous good. But it can also make a person believe that a goldfish is a racehorse.

This is how Comrade Corbyn, a nice man who loathes tyranny and anti-Semitism, ends up on platforms lavishing praise on tyrants and anti-Semites. And it is how some of the very best now find themselves willing on a man who consistently gives succour to some of the very worst.

The truth is that, however much a Corbyn-led Labour party might claim to be standing up for the most vulnerable, it will always and everywhere be willing to sacrifice the very people it ought to stick up for – the world’s democrats, secularists, Jews, gays and women – on the ideological alter of anti-Americanism. This, as I will never tire of pointing out, ought to make Corbyn persona non grata for any principled person of the left.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward. You can follow James @J_Bloodworth and his blog @LeftFootFwd.

[End Article]