Here's what's actually new about Jeremy Corbyn and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The Labour leader has said something newsworthy – but not in the way the rightwing press seem to think. 

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman\'s Morning Call email.

Jeremy Corbyn is under fire for…actually, on this one, I’m not actually sure. Asked about the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis who blew himself up during a US-led attack on him and his compound, the Labour leader replied:

“Him being removed from the scene is a very good thing. If it would have been possible to arrest him – I don't know the details of the circumstances at the time, I've only seen various statements put out by the US about it – surely that would have been the right thing to do. If we want to live in a world of peace and justice, we should practice it as well.”

The slant the Mail has put on it on its website is that Corbyn has expressed sympathy for the slain leader and questioned the US' account of events. If anything, the statement is noteworthy because it is a surprisingly bellicose position given his previous remarks about similar US or US-led attacks. He’s explicitly saying that it is a Good Thing that al-Baghdadi is dead – regrettably that he couldn’t have stood trial, yes, but still, it’s “a very good thing” that he is out of the picture. Yet it is being reported by much of the press as if he had said something far more equivocal.

It’s a significant departure from his remarks on the killing of Osama bin Laden, when he said:

“There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest him and put him on trial, to go through that process. This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy.”

And predicted that the next stage would be:

“An attempted assassination on Gaddafi”.

There is something newsworthy here, but it isn’t Corbyn going soft – it’s Corbyn offering a level of support for the idea of the United States’ military machine launching a deadly, targeted attack under Donald Trump that was not forthcoming under Barack Obama.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

Free trial CSS