isis iraq
A British soldier watches oil wells on fire in southern Iraq.Getty

If you want to understand the disconnect between Jeremy Corbyn's opposition and the communities that used to vote Labour, consider this. Even now, when the full extent of Philip Shiner's atrocious behaviour is public, the Shadow Attorney General, Shami Chakrabarti, is still unable to condemn him without a qualifying reference to his "very good work".

Shiner, to remind you, is the socialist lawyer who made money out of bringing false and vexatious claims against British soldiers in Iraq. He would send out agents to find Iraqis prepared to attest – in return for hard cash – that they had been victims of abuse at the hands of our military personnel. The jihadists couldn't believe their luck.

Dozens of British Servicemen had their lives ruined by Shiner's bogus claims. Just as bad, thousands more – and millions of British civilians, come to that – were put at additional risk because of a false narrative that portrayed British troops as the real barbarians in Iraq, rather than disciplined soldiers holding themselves to an immeasurably higher standard than the radical militiamen they faced.

Last month, after his lies were found out, Shiner was struck off in disgrace. In several countries, he would have been prosecuted for treason. That is not a word to use lightly: almost every society treats the betrayal of the nation for personal gain as a uniquely heinous crime. In Britain, treason was one of the only offences that still notionally demanded the death penalty when capital punishment was abolished in 1998. But it is hard to find another word to describe defrauding the taxpayer by falsely accusing men who risk their lives to defend yours.

At the very moment that Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson, was claiming that his was "a patriotic party", his shadow cabinet colleague was describing Shiner as a man who had "given good service to the public" before losing his way.

Not that Baroness Chakrabarti is unusual. Sure, she had loudly supported Shiner and his team, enthusing that they "brought honour to their profession", but so had much of the left-liberal establishment. The Law Society named him Solicitor of the Year. The BBC and The Guardian were happy to give him plenty of space, and universities fell over each other to give him honorary degrees.

It's true that they were doing so before his deceits were exposed, but human beings have a tendency to see what they want, to light on whatever seems to sustain their existing prejudice. That's the really sickening thing. Our legal, political and academic establishments wanted Shiner to be right. They wanted our troops to be war criminals. They wanted Britain to be disgraced.

Such is the peculiar pathology of parts of the British Left, prepared to ally with any cause, however vile, provided it is sufficiently Anglophobic. George Orwell wrote of the "masochism" that pushed some of his fellow socialists into admiration for Stalin. The same masochism leads Jeremy Corbyn to seem to excuse Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA.

Sure, other countries have dishonest lawyers. But in few other countries are the shysters feted by left-liberal grandees for undermining their armed forces.

Fish need water to swim in, as Chairman Mao used to say. Pond-life like Shiner need their fetid puddles. Sure, other countries have dishonest lawyers. But in few other countries are the shysters feted by left-liberal grandees for undermining their armed forces. When it comes to national self-loathing, only the German Left outperforms our own (though the American Left is coming up on the rails after a slow start).

The difference in attitudes to Shiner is a manifestation of a deeper Kulturkampf. On one side are people who think that, while no country is perfect, Britain has a decent record of sticking up for democracy and resisting tyranny. These people recognise that our soldiers sometimes misbehave, and understand that punishing that misbehaviour is what distinguishes a national army from a paramilitary cell. But they recognise, too, that the lapses are exceptional, and that most of our service personnel do a tough job ably and uncomplainingly.

On the other side are people who start from the proposition that much of what is wrong with the world is the fault of the West in general and Britain in particular. They see patriotism as irrational and despicable, and are so opposed to British foreign policy that their dislike taints their view of the men and women who carry out its hardest aspects.

People in the former category are vastly more numerous, and represent a majority of Labour as well as Conservative supporters. People in the latter category are dominant only in certain university campuses, legal chambers and editorial conferences. The tragedy is that, recently, they also seized control of one of our major parties.


Daniel Hannan has been Conservative MEP for the South East of England since 1999, and is Secretary-General of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists