Is Jeremy Corbyn’s big speech today a Trumpian rant? That’s the verdict of both political commentators and Corbynsceptic Labour activists online. Nick Cohen called it “garbage”; Sean O’Grady congratulated Corbyn on “doing a great job as leader – of Ukip”; Oz Katerji criticised the alleged “explicit anti-immigrant rhetoric” before issuing a clarification that it was not anti-immigrant but nonetheless “pandering to the anti-immigrant vote”.
But the outrage is misplaced – and its cause is not the speech, but one news piece that has wildly misreported Corbyn’s words and provoked a storm on Twitter as a result. “Jeremy Corbyn to highlight economic ‘benefit’ of Brexit as he demands UK stop relying on ‘cheap labour from abroad’,” was The Independent‘s inaccurate take, later amended.
The key words “cheap labour” were taken out of context to make it seem as if Corbyn had blamed migrant workers for the UK’s economic woes. This is what he actually said: “We’ve been told that it’s good, even advanced, for our country to manufacture less and less and to rely instead on cheap labour abroad to produce imports while we focus on the City of London and the financial sector.” He was talking about imports made abroad with cheap labour, not cheap labour here in the UK.
Unhappy with Corbyn’s stance on Brexit? Point out his lifelong record of Euroscepticism, or ask whether it would really benefit the global south to lose its own manufacturing base. There’s no need to twist the Labour leader’s words.