Tony Benn once explained that politicians fall into one of two categories: weathervanes or signposts. The weathervane type exists so as to wildly swing in whatever direction public opinion blows them, while the signpost type exists to point people toward a direction of principle. Signpost politicians stand firm in the face of digression in an attempt to do what is right rather than what is most popular. I believe that Jeremy Corbyn is such a politician and that his leadership is more about what we can achieve, rather than just accepting what is politically expedient.
Take his visit to the Calais migrant camp this weekend. A YouGov poll found that 73 per cent of British people do not want to take any migrants from the camps in France. Indeed, 61 per cent of people who voted for the Labour party in 2015 felt the same way. This is despite the fact that migrants establish one in seven British businesses and that migrants from both within and outside of the EU have contributed more in taxes to the Treasury than they have taken in benefits. Though the Tories talk about patriotism, there are also people with British passports stuck in Calais, unable to leave the camps because they cannot afford to travel home. Jeremy is right to say that we should be welcoming more refugees from this camp on a human level. But if that human level is not enough to get your heart racing then at least consider the tangible economic and societal benefits. So yes, the Prime Minister is able to lambast refugees and pretend that he is on the side of the people represented in these polls, but at what cost?
The same goes on the issue of Trident. A recent poll by ORB showed that 51 per cent were in favour of renewing Trident but that 49 per cent were not in favour of renewing the nuclear deterrent. As army generals can testify, Trident is neither independent nor an actual deterrent. We would have to consult international partners before ever using it and the actual use of the weapon itself would signal Armageddon. Given the changing nature of warfare it is imperative that we modernise our defence capabilities if we are actually serious about defence. Cameron plays politics with our national security but again, at what cost? If an action of ISIS were to warrant the use of a nuclear weapon, where would we aim it? Surely the £100bn investment currently saved for the renewal of trident would be better spent equipping British soldiers with the latest technology and developing some sort of defence system that would be able to actually prevent the deployment of a rogue nuclear missile.
Jeremy is offering a leadership of a different kind. He is not bending to the will of misinformation or political spin. I do not define patriotism by slogans but rather action that is within the best interest of the country. I do not define leadership as something that comes from simply moving with the direction of the wind. Jeremy Corbyn remains principled and is acting as a signpost of what Britain can be. He is offering directions for a fairer society that works in the interest of all – if anyone can make Britain ‘great’ again, it’s him.