Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Friday that "we must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working," and called for a "smarter way" to cut the risks of terrorist attacks.
His speech in London comes as the U.K.'s general election campaigning resumes after the deadly bombing in Manchester earlier this week and the same day as a bus attack in Egypt killed more than two dozen people.
"Over recent years, the threat of terrorism has continued to grow. You deserve to know what a Labour Government will do to keep you and your family safe. Our approach will involve change at home and change abroad," Corbyn said.
Apart from taking a reverse course on austerity, he promosed to also "change what we do abroad. Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home."
"But an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people, that fights rather than fuels terrorism," he said.
"Protecting this country requires us to be both strong against terrorism and strong against the causes of terrorism. The blame is with the terrorists, but if we are to protect our people we must be honest about what threatens our security," he argued.
He said that "the responsibility of government is to minimize that chance [of a terrorist attack not being prevented], to ensure the police have the resources they need, that our foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country, and that at home we never surrender the freedoms we have won, and that terrorists are so determined to take away. Too often government has got it wrong on all three counts and insecurity is growing as a result. Whoever you decide should lead the next government must do better."
Though the "causes certainly cannot be reduced to foreign policy decisions alone," Corbyn said "we must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working. We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism."
To the British soldiers, he said "under my leadership, you will only be deployed abroad when there is a clear need and only when there is a plan and you have the resources to do your job to secure an outcome that delivers lasting peace."
Though the sister of the Manchester bomber said she believes that Salman Abedi's attack was blowback, Corbyn's remarks drew expected scorn from his political opponents. U.K. Security Minister Ben Wallace, for one, said Corbyn used "twisted reasoning" and said of terrorists: "these people hate our values."
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also rejected Corbyn's argument, saying "it is absolutely monstrous" to "do anything to subtract from the fundamental responsibility of" those who carried out the Manchester attack. Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron also said Corbyn used "that grotesque act to make a political point," referring to the Manchester attack.er
Yet, argues George Eaton, political editor of the New Statesman, "there was little in [Corbyn's] speech today that the average voter would contest." Eaton writes:
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Though Corbyn's arguments have appalled Conservatives (and some in Labour), they are ones that will likely find favor among the public. Polls have consistently shown that most voters oppose western adventurism and believe it has endangered the U.K.. Corbyn's words will resonate among both the anti-interventionist left and the isolationist right (this is, after all, a country which has just voted to retreat from even its closest neighbors).
Other observers took to social media to praise Corbyn's speech as "spot on":
You might not like it, but Corbyn is right: The war on terror simply isn't working. We need a new approach. Spot on Jeremy.
— Rachael (@Rachael_Swindon) May 26, 2017
Corbyn is right,war on terror is not working.
How many more generations will this go on?
A different approach is needed #CorbynSpeech
— Jo (@Jobaker46) May 26, 2017
— Prof Tahir Abbas (@TahirAbbas_) May 26, 2017
Jeremy Corbyn's speech was a patriotic speech about defending this country from those who want to maim, kill and terrorise.
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) May 26, 2017
Once again, Jeremy Corbyn is being smeared for stating the inconvenient truth. Mock imperialist outrage: https://t.co/rZRj12NvST
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) May 25, 2017
It's obvious there's a link between foreign policy and terrorism. Those of us who opposed Iraq War warned about it 15 yrs ago. #Corbyn
— Nick Dearden (@nickdearden75) May 26, 2017
The Independent writes Friday: "While all opinions polls published during the campaign have signaled that the Conservatives are on track for a majority, Jeremy Corbyn's party has consistently cut the Conservatives' lead since the leaking of his party's manifesto."
Voters head to the polls June 8.