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Andrew Tettenborn: Labour muckrakers resort to panicky smears


On Friday the Labour Party was up in arms. A video publicised by the Conservatives showed Jeremy Corbyn in short order opposing NATO and Trident, calling for big cuts in the Army and fawning over Hezbollah and Hamas. Then came the big one. Asked whether he condemned the IRA, he refused to go further than condemning bombing in the abstract (as if bombing was the only atrocity committed by the IRA: its specialities in torture and deliberate maiming, often courtesy of Martin McGuinness, another of Jeremy’s muckers, do not make pleasant reading).

Fake news, screamed the Party and the Guardian. It said, as if this justified this Corbyn correspondence course in prevarication, that in a different interview he had brought himself to condemn bombing by the IRA and loyalists alike. Admittedly he rather spoilt the effect by saying immediately beforehand that terrorists should be talked to rather than attacked (“Britain was looking for a military solution, it clearly was never going to work” – something anyone with friends maimed by Al-Qaeda or ISIS might care to note): but that’s our new-style trust-me-on-terrorism Jeremy for you.

What was interesting, and didn’t hit the headlines, was another blackening exercise the same day by Manchester MP and official Labour muckraker-in-chief Andrew Gwynne, aimed at Tory candidate for Darlington Peter Cuthbertson. This dragged up material he had blogged in 2002 at the age of 18 (yes, 18), including – bigot! reactionary! – praise for a “courageous priest jailed in Sweden for preaching against homosexuality”. Of course if you read the post it expresses no view whatever on homosexuality. It is actually a long and literate defence of freedom of speech in Europe, which one would have thought even Jeremy could support without beating about the bush. But we can’t let the truth come in the way of a good smear.

Another blogpost by Mr Cuthbertson unforgivably suggested that “all the sympathy in the world should be extended to women who have been raped, but men who are falsely accused of this crime are equally the victims here”, before suggesting, mildly, that “of course, it is relevant how promiscuous a woman is in determining how likely it was she consented.” He’s not saying, note, that a rapist ought to be allowed to say it’s a promiscuous woman’s fault he raped her: just that we ought not to shut out what is clearly matter relevant to the truth. Yet again, there seems no harm, only good, in a further 2002 observation that the explosion of teenage chlamydia was due not to lack of sex education, but failure by girls out for instant gratification who knew perfectly well about taking precautions but chose not to do so.

But this won’t do for Corbyn’s merry men. Googler Gwynne own words: “Absolutely shocking … Peter Cuthbertson clearly has no place in Parliament and should stand down immediately. Theresa May should be far more careful about picking who should be in her supposed team.”

TCW readers, you have in front of you a double whammy: someone who looks an excellent, thoughtful and intelligent candidate in Darlington, and a self-important prig in Manchester. Forward this post to anyone you know in either place (Gwynne’s constituency is Denton & Reddish). You might even send a third copy to Labour HQ with some choice words about people in glass houses.

(Image: Funk Dooby)

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Andrew Tettenborn
Andrew Tettenborn
Andrew Tettenborn is a professor of commercial law at a well-known UK university, who also teaches in Europe and elsewhere. In the 2001 General Election he stood as Ukip’s candidate in Bath.

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