The frontrunner to become the next leader of Britain’s Labour Party, one of the two major political forces in the country and the party once led by Tony Blair, has expressed a desire for close relations with Islamic terrorist groups and is the preferred candidate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Jeremy Corbyn, a socialist member of Parliament, is currently leading three other candidates in polls to become Labour’s next leader. The results of the intraparty election will be announced on Sept. 12.
Corbyn’s ascendance has raised eyebrows among observers of British politics. The leftist politician is known for sympathizing with anti-Semitic groups and for referring to representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah—terrorist groups based in Gaza and Lebanon, respectively—as "our friends" when he welcomed them to Parliament.
He is also a longtime TV commentator for RT, the state-funded Russian propaganda network that has lauded him in its coverage of the Labour election.
Tom Rogan, a National Review columnist and close follower of British politics, said in an interview that Corbyn looks set to win the Labour contest next month. He called Corbyn’s rise "an indictment of the intellectual side of the British left" and said it reflects the "chaos" of Labour after a demoralizing defeat in May’s parliamentary election to David Cameron and the Conservative Party.
"They were so shocked by that outcome that they baldly resorted to saying, ‘we weren’t leftwing enough; we didn’t inspire enough people,’" he said.
While Corbyn has enjoyed a groundswell in populist support among Labour voters, his statements have angered Jewish members of his party. Ivan Lewis, a Jewish cabinet minister in the Labour opposition, recently said that Corbyn’s views are a "cause for serious concern."
"At the very least he has shown very poor judgment in expressing support for and failing to speak out against people who have engaged not in legitimate criticism of Israeli governments but in anti-Semitic rhetoric," Lewis said.
Corbyn previously defended a priest who was temporarily banned from using social media by his superiors in the Church of England this year for promoting anti-Semitic attacks. The religious clergyman, Stephen Sizer, suggested on social media that wealthy Jews were responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He also attended an Iranian-sponsored conference last year that featured Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists.
In a letter to church authorities, Corbyn said that Sizer was targeted because he "dared to speak out against Zionism."
Rogan said Corbyn’s support for closer relations with adversaries of the United States and Israel is typical of the British far left, which has "always been profoundly anti-American."
"He believes this stuff," Rogan said. "It’s pretty staggering. [Labour] will probably do even worse in the next election."
Still, observers say that Corbyn’s popularity is indicative of some disturbing trends in European politics.
Russia has been accused of funding and offering rhetorical and media support to a number of far-left and far-right European parties and groups in the last few months. These groups include environmental organizations opposed to fracking, a natural gas extraction technique that could undermine Russia’s energy dominance in Europe.
Analysts say that by backing extremist parties that are critical of the European Union (EU), Putin can stymie a united opposition to his aggressive foreign policy, including his destabilization of Ukraine.
A frequent guest on the Russian propaganda outlet RT, Corbyn called for the elimination of Britain’s Trident nuclear system in 2010 and said that NATO was "out of date and out of time" in an appearance the following year. Last year, Corbyn disagreed with the EU’s decision to extend sanctions against Russia and told RT that, "we don't want a ramping up of the economic pressure."
Corbyn’s positions—scrapping Britain’s nukes, dissolving NATO, and removing EU sanctions against Russia—would all be a boon to the Kremlin, Rogan said.
"There’s no question that Corbyn is their guy," he said.