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CapX Weekly Briefing

Corbyn's fellow travellers

In 18 months as the Scottish National Party’s leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson has always had a back-up question ready at Prime Minister’s Questions - just in case Jeremy Corbyn actually does his job and addresses the obvious issue. This week, we learned that Robertson has never had to use it.

By an astonishing coincidence, we also learned this week that Tory staffers have been ringing into the BBC and complaining about its editorial balance. More precisely, they want its news programmes to devote far more time to Corbyn (£).

Even at this early stage, the Tories’ plan to turn the general election into a referendum on the Leader of the Opposition rather than the Prime Minister is going swimmingly. That’s largely because when you try to describe the depths to which Corbyn’s performance has sunk, you rapidly run out of adjectives.

To give just one example, this week he insisted that we need to halt any military action in Syria to “allow the inspectors space to work, allow them to make sure we know who did the terrible chemical weapons attack”.

Here’s a hint: it was Bashar al-Assad. There is not a single shred of doubt about that. To claim otherwise, given the weight of evidence, is to keep the company of those who spout spurious conspiracies about 9/11 and jet fuel not melting steel beams (and funnily enough…).

But here’s the thing. The overwhelming focus on Corbyn - his obduracy, his incompetence, his downright stupidity - obscures the fact that others on the Left, beyond the Labour Party, share versions of his views that are only mildly more respectable.

Take Robertson’s SNP colleague, Alex Salmond. Salmond is, though you may have been forgiven for not noticing, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman in Westminster. And on Syria, his position is almost identical to Corbyn’s, if expressed with slightly more eloquence.

Britain should not be America’s poodle. Bomb-happy Boris should be ashamed of himself. Instead we should, like civilised people, wait for the verdict of the United Nations - and thereafter of the International Criminal Court.

It all sounds terribly reasonable. But there are just a few problems.

For one thing, Salmond and Corbyn's good friend Vladimir Putin has vetoed the very investigation that they are calling for.

But that doesn’t matter. Because there’s already been an investigation. Even setting aside the notorious 2013 attack in Ghouta, UN experts have found that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons on multiple occasions (ISIS used them too, but we're already bombing them). So unless Salmond is arguing that only this latest war crime is a genuine atrocity, and the others were just a case of laddish high spirits, events have already met his threshold for action.

And what about the ICC? Here, Salmond comes over especially pious. It is such a shame, he says, that the barbaric Americans do not support the system of international law. If only they did - why, then Assad would soon be in the dock.

Except that Britain and America have already tried to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC - because of the whole 'crimes against humanity' thing. And do you know who blocked it? Russia and China.

What this boils down to is that Salmond is either a fool or a knave. Either he is stupid or lazy enough not to realise that the very tests he is proposing for military action have already been met. Or he is cynical enough that he knows they have, but carries on making self-satisfied comments about American warmongers anyway.

There are good arguments for intervention in Syria. And there are good arguments against. But what we get from the Left instead is a blend of rank hypocrisy and moral cowardice.

In just over a month’s time, Jeremy Corbyn will be decisively rejected by the British people. But as the Syria debate shows, the political pathologies he embodies are hardly limited to just one host.

Below you'll find our usual round-up of the week's best pieces from CapX - plus the latest edition of our new podcast, featuring MEP and Brexit campaigner Daniel Hannan.

Have a great weekend.

Robert Colvile
Editor, CapX

Only a ballot-box massacre can save Labour

By Chris Deerin
The suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn might cling on as Labour leader after his all-but-inevitable general election defeat reveals his and his comrades' true intentions. Not to win power, nor even to test unapologetic socialism at the ballot box, but to drain the Labour Party of any electoral potency and build a hard-Left movement. The only way to stop it is to vote ABL: Anyone But Labour. 

Scotland is about to vote on independence again

By Alex Massie
No one sticks to their message as ruthlessly as the Scottish Tories. Ruth Davidson's pitch to the electorate is clear: only she can stop the SNP from holding another independence referendum. And if the polls are right, it's working. South of the border this election will be about Jeremy Corbyn's fitness for office. In Scotland, however, everything comes down to the national question.

How can Britain get fit for Brexit?

By Robert Colvile
British politics since the Brexit vote has overwhelmingly been interpreted through the prism of Leave vs Remain. It is time to move on. At yesterday's Prosperity UK conference tedious re-runs of last year's referendum rows were hard to come by. Instead, guests grappled with the challenges the UK must overcome if it is to flourish outside the EU. The choice is between being competitive and prosperous, or sheltered and sclerotic.

I left France in despair. Macron can bring me back

By Felix Marquardt
With youth employment hovering around 25 per cent for the last decade, droves of young French men and women have voted with their feet in recent years. Why stay in an over-centralised gerontocracy when they could try their luck on the global job market? But, if Macron wins the presidential run-off, the tide could turn. Not only does he understand what has gone wrong in France, he has a plan to fix it.

The trouble with GDP

By Tim Worstall
Free-market capitalism is supposed to make us richer. Why is it, then, that by a number of inflation-adjusted measures, we don't appear to have made much progress over the last 40 years? The problem is how we measure economic output. GDP and inflation struggle to capture how technological innovation has changed the way we live. In reality, things are far better than the numbers suggest.

Free Exchange: CapX meets Daniel Hannan

By CapX
As well as being, in the Guardian's words, "the man who brought you Brexit", Daniel Hannan is a former Telegraph leader-writer, a Shakespeare fan and a pioneering advocate of localism. In the third episode of our new podcast, Free Exchange, he discusses his Euroscepticism, how Britain looks to foreign eyes and his next great cause - the defence of free trade. Listen via the link above or subscribe via iTunes

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