Jeremy Corbyn is on the right side of public opinion on foreign policy: except for the Falklands

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
May 30, 2017, 10:46 AM GMT+0

The majority of the public believe, as the Labour leader appears to, that British foreign policy has been at least in part responsible for terror attacks on the UK

In a speech last week following the Manchester terror attack Jeremy Corbyn appeared to claim that British foreign policy is in part responsible for terror attacks on the United Kingdom.

As part of an address setting out Labour's direction for British foreign policy, Corbyn highlighted how “many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home”.

Putting this view to the British public, YouGov found that the majority (53%) agree that wars the UK has supported or fought are responsible, at least in part, for terror attacks against our country. This was more than twice the proportion who think it is not responsible for terror attacks (24%). Voters from across all parties were more likely to side with the Corbyn stance than not.

On the righteousness of foreign conflicts, the public are more likely to agree with Corbyn than not on five of six conflicts

During a previous speech at Chatham House a couple of weeks ago Corbyn said that the last just conflict that Britain had fought was the Second World War. Following this, YouGov asked the British public to say whether they thought Britain was right or wrong to take part in six conflicts since (and including) the Second World War.

In most instances Corbyn appears to be on the right side of public opinion. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the British public are convinced of the righteousness of making war upon Nazi Germany, with 83% saying we were right to take military action against them in 1939. (Only 2% think we were wrong – the remaining 15% don’t know).

Additionally, the public are more likely to say that Britain was wrong rather than right to participate in each of the four major interventions in the Middle East and Asia that we asked about.

A majority of people (55%) think that Britain was wrong to take part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, making it the “most wrong” of the conflicts we asked about. By contrast, only 18% of Brits think we were right to be involved.

Similar proportions think we were wrong to take part in military action against Libya in 2011 (44%) and Afghanistan in 2001 (43%), although people are slightly more likely to say that we were right to go into Afghanistan than Libya (25% vs 19%).

Involvement in the first Gulf War in 1991 is more contentious. While the war met its limited goal of driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, Brits are still slightly more likely to say that it was wrong than right (35% vs 30%).

Where Corbyn does find himself on the wrong side of public opinion, however, is over the Falklands conflict. In saying that Britain has not fought a "just" war Corbyn seems to imply that he does not believe the re-taking of the Falklands to have been a "just" move. In last night’s interview with Jeremy Paxman he defended comments made at the time where he suggested that British soldiers were dying because of a “Tory plot”.

A majority (51%) of people say we were right to take military action against Argentina following the invasion – almost three times the 18% who think we were wrong to do so. This makes it the only conflict aside from the Second World War that Brits are more likely to say we were right to fight in than wrong.

Photo: PA

See the full results here