Ex-Labour MP says party leader Corbyn ‘unfit’ to be premier

Mike Gapes, a foreign policy specialist, says the opposition leader failed too many tests on defence and security

FILE PHOTO: Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks on new digital infrastructure policy as part of his general election campaign in Lancaster, Britain November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Yates/File Photo

Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be UK prime minister because of his failures over national security and defence, according to a former MP who quit the party over the Labour leader’s stance on foreign policy.

Mike Gapes, 50, a veteran of the party, said that Mr Corbyn had been on the "wrong side" on all the important issues and cited his paid appearances on Iran's Press TV channel before he became the leader of the opposition in 2015.

“I think both Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson are unfit to be prime minister of this country,” said Mr Gapes, who is running as an independent at national elections on December 12 after leaving Labour in February.

Mr Gapes’ comments came after another former Labour MP, Ian Austin, earlier this month urged voters to reject Mr Corbyn and instead back the Conservative Party of the prime minister Boris Johnson.

Mr Austin described Mr Corbyn’s Brexit strategy as “laughable” and said that the party under his leadership had been poisoned by “racism, extremism and intolerance”.

Mr Corbyn has opposed military action in Kosovo and against the regime of Bashar Al Assad in Syria. He also apologised on behalf of his party for Tony Blair’s decision to support the US-led invasion of Iraq.

He has faced questions during his tenure as leader about his activities while a backbench MP when he described Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”.

He later told a television interviewer that he used the word as a “collective way” to describe people who would be needed for talks to resolve the Palestinian question.

Mr Corbyn has also come under fire for receiving money for appearances on the Iranian state broadcast network Press TV between 2009 and 2012.

He says he used his appearances to promote the cause of human rights and severed his links with the channel after the crackdown on protesters at the 2013 election.

Mr Gapes, a former chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, cited both the incidents in his criticisms of Mr Corbyn. “He has a history about which you raise questions. I don’t think he has fundamentally changed his views on anything since 1983 [when he became an MP]”, said Mr Gapes.

Admiral Lord West, the former head of the Navy and a Labour member of the upper house of parliament, wrote earlier this week that a Labour victory “fills me with horror”.

"Over the years, I have watched Corbyn time and again fail to engage with the reality of Britain's defence needs," he wrote in the Daily Mail.

“He has also consistently sided with our enemies, backing those who want to kill our troops,” he wrote.

Mr Corbyn has said that he preferred attempts to choke off funds and weapons to ISIS rather than launch a military intervention with an unclear strategy.

His critics also criticised comments suggesting that it would have been better to have captured Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi alive. The ISIS leader killed himself when he detonated an explosives vest.