Corbyn, boycotting the state banquet over Trump is easy – the real challenge is confronting political tyrants in person

The Labour leader seems more comfortable being in an echo chamber with his closest pals than representing the UK in an official capacity. He’s not fit to lead his party into the next general election

Sarah Arnold
Tuesday 04 June 2019 11:37 BST
The Queen leads procession into state banquet at Buckingham Palace

Last night, the eyes of the country were on Buckingham Palace. Would Donald Trump behave himself? Would the Queen stick to staying out of politics (seems like she didn’t with her nod of approval to Nato and the UN)?

Of course, Melania Trump was only going to be mentioned with reference to what she was wearing. By the way, she went for a French label in what was apparently an act of rebellion (I’m not really sure how, but anyway).

But there was someone missing from the banquet. Maybe you noticed and maybe you didn’t, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t anywhere to be seen. In fact, he was openly boycotting the event.

Instead Corbyn will attend the protests in London today where he’ll make a speech focusing on the American president’s “misogyny and xenophobia”. Corbyn is right to bring these issues to light. Trump’s words, actions and policy indicate that is both a misogynist and xenophobic and he needs to hear that.

But he needs to hear that in person. And boycotting state events mean he doesn’t do that. Corbyn has again dodged the stately bullet and had instead taken the easy way out. It’s easy to lead a demonstration of like minded people and call out a tyrant for what he is to the roars and cheers of your supporters.

What isn’t easy is directly confronting a tyrant, or calling out someone out in person on policies that are causing the deaths of children on American borders.

It isn’t easy to look at an incredibly powerful person and tell him that his policies enable climate change. It’s not easy to say, “Mr President, you support laws which are directly and indirectly racist.”

And therein lies the problem with Corbyn. Well, one of the Corbyn problems. It’s also why he must never be prime minister.

Prime ministers need to show their face to other world leaders, regardless of how much they disagree with them. I think of Michelle Obama’s face as she shook Trump’s hand at the funeral of George HW Bush. She clearly doesn’t want to shake his hand, but she does it.

For all her faults, Theresa May has also done it on numerous occasions.

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There are seemingly endless videos of world leaders acting uncomfortably and awkwardly around Trump; even Kim Jong Un who he “fell in love” with. But Corbyn can’t face it.

Patrick Blower, a cartoonist at The Telegraph summed it up perfectly with Corbyn at an alternative state banquet. It showed him cosying up to leaders of the IRA, Hamas, Venezuela and Hezbollah.

He seems more comfortable associating himself with these groups instead of representing the UK in a stately function.

And this is why Corbyn shouldn’t lead the Labour party into the next general election. His audacity to stay on as leader when he still lost the last one to a weakened May shows how distanced he is from the full electorate.

Instead, he feels more comfortable being in an echo chamber with all his closest pals while thinking he’s doing a great job. Corbyn, have you ever heard of confirmation bias?

If he wants to be prime minister he’s going to have to step up and talk to people he doesn’t like. Frankly, I’m not sure how it’s got to be the leader of the opposition without doing so.

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