British soldiers should have 'cups of tea' with Islamic State terrorists instead of bombing them, says Jeremy Corbyn ally
Published 21/03/2016 | 11:27
Britain would be safer if its defence policy was to have “cups of tea” with Isil terrorists rather than bomb them, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s key allies on Labour’s ruling body has said.
Christine Shawcroft, who sits on the party's National Executive Committee and is a senior figure in Momentum, said that soldiers should “get the teabags out” to solve the Syrian crisis rather than resorting to air strikes.
She claimed the tactic worked on some far-right English Defence League supporters in the past and added: “Cups of tea might actually be the best kind of system of defence and national security that you could have.”
Leading Labour moderates dismissed the comment as “grotesque in its naivety” and urged party members to kick Ms Shawcroft off the NEC when she faces re-election later this year.
Ms Shawcroft said the comments had been given in a “jocular” manner, but added that “behind the joke there is a serious point” about the failure of bombing to bring about peace.
It is the latest in a string of comments about defence from Mr Corbyn and senior figures on the party’s Left that moderates fear are putting Labour out of step with the electorate.
Before becoming leader, Mr Corbyn had suggested allowing voters to opt out of paying taxes to fund the Army and called the assassination of Osama bin Laden a “tragedy” because he was not brought to justice in the courts.
Mr Corbyn’s opposition to the Syrian air strikes against Isil at the end of last year split his party with a dozen of his shadow cabinet voting for with the Prime Minister for military action.
Speaking at London Labour Left meeting at the University of London on February 23, Ms Shawcroft defended Mr Corbyn’s stance on the Syria.
She warned that media stories about Mr Corbyn’s non-interventionism were having a negative impact and imagined a voter saying: “That Jeremy Corbyn you know, faced with terrorists he'd sit down and have a cup of tea with them or something.”
Ms Shawcroft went on: “Now I mean, you know, maybe we should try it! Bombing them and attacking them has got us nowhere, why don't we get the teabags out?
“You know I did read a while ago about when the EDL were going round picketing outside mosques... One particular mosque in the Midlands somewhere just opened the doors and said would you like to come in for a cup of tea?
“And they went in for a cup of tea and now they're friends with the EDL. Straight away the EDL are now like oh, well actually these people are not the monsters you know that we're being told all this time, they're actually human beings that you can sit down and have a cup of tea with.
“So you know I think we should bear in mind that having cups of tea might actually be the best kind of system of defence and national security that you could have, but there we are.”
Ms Shawcroft, who is on the steering committee for the pro-Corbyn activist group Momentum, has courted controversy previously.
She was suspended from Labour’s ruling body after defending Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-linked former mayor of Tower Hamlets removed from office for corruption and electoral fraud, but later reinstated.
Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, criticised the comments: “This is just a classic example of naivety from some people on the Left of the Labour Party who think that a group of terrorists with absolutely no regard for human life and behead people can be negotiated with round the table with a cup of tea.
“It is grotesque in its naivety and certainly not the sort of views that have any place on NEC. I hope that party members want to see Labour winning the next election and getting back public trust will reflect on that when they make their decision at the NEC elections later this year. “
When contacted over the comments, Ms Shawcroft said: "Clearly these are jocular comments. They weren't taken at face value at the meeting and shouldn't be read at face value now.
"However, behind the joke there is a serious point: bombing countries doesn't seem to be improving our national security; we should be looking at other strategies to improve our national security and resolve conflicts."