“Generals and Majors always
seem so unhappy ‘less they got a war.” Colin Moulding, XTC
In a BBC World News interview, Crispin Blunt, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said that the government is not under any obligation to share intelligence information with the new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
His comments came just days after a senior serving general, scaremongering anonymously to the Sunday Times, said Mr Corbyn’s victory had been greeted with “wholesale dismay” in the army. The general said that any plans to scrap Trident, pull out of Nato or announce “any plans to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces” will meet fierce opposition. His hint that some in the military planned an illegal seizure of the state if Corbyn wins the next General Election is particularly extraordinary. He said the army would “use whatever means possible, fair or foul to maintain security.”
A coup d’état is an anachronistic and violent method of political engineering that happens only in one-party fascist, totalitarian and despotic states, it’s not an event you would expect to see used as a threat in a so-called first world liberal democracy.
Regardless of how far-fetched the threats may seem, that a general feels it’s okay to threaten a coup or “mutiny” against a future left-wing government using the mainstream right-wing press as a mouthpiece is a cause for some concern. It’s a symptom of how oppressive the establishment have become, and how apparently acceptable it is to attack, discredit and threaten anyone who presents a challenge and an alternative perspective to the status quo.
The nameless, gutless and anti-democratic general’s comments reminded me of the Zinoviev letter, and the subversive plots in the 1960s and 1970s by the military and intelligence services to destabilise Harold Wilson’s government.
The Labour leader has said that as far as the party is concerned, the UK’s role in Nato is a matter for discussion for the shadow cabinet, the party at large and most importantly, the public. Emily Thornberry announced that there will be a public consultation regarding the value of the UK nuclear deterrent. That is, after all, the democratic thing to do.
The anonymous general claimed that there would be “mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny” if Mr Corbyn became [democratically elected] as prime minister.
The threat, regardless of its authenticity, is undoubtedly part of a broader strategy of tension, designed purposefully to create public alarm – to portray the left as a threat to the wellbeing of society – and it will reverberate around the media, to be used as part of an arsenal of pro-establishment, anti-progressive propaganda to discredit Corbyn.
Mr Blunt told BBC Hardtalk‘s Stephen Sackur that the serving general’s opinion was “inappropriate”, did not reflect the view of the government and that if Jeremy Corbyn were elected prime minister the army like everyone else would have to carry out the instructions of the elected government.
In the meantime, Blunt said that it was a matter for the government to decide how much access to “privileged information” the leader of the opposition had access to. There would be no point in passing on such information if it would not “achieve consensus.”
In other words, the government don’t want a critical and democratic dialogue about potential military decisions. They are refusing to include anyone else in crucial political decision-making processes, if they don’t agree with the government. This kind of response is usually associated with authoritarian states, not liberal democracies.
Sackur said that as soon as Corbyn was elected, the Conservatives “issued propaganda” suggesting that Corbyn is a threat to national security. He also pointed directly to the government’s fundamental lack of accountability, transparency and democracy in the unprecedented move to refuse to share military and intelligence information, which is conventionally shared with the leader of the opposition.
Blunt simply confirmed Stephen Sackur’s point about the government’s lack of democracy, accountability and transparency.
Sackur exposed the rank hypocrisy of a government that claims to be democratic, yet does not tolerate parties with differing views, nor does it invite or engage in dialogue and critical debate, choosing instead to exercise totalitarian control over what ought to be democratic decision-making, , including the public that a government is meant to serve.
Perhaps a coup in the event of a left-wing win in 2020 isn’t so far-fetched in the current oppressive political climate.
You can see the Hardtalk interview here on iPlayer: