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Why anti-war Jeremy Corbyn must become the British soldiers' champion

That soldiers can be sent to fight at the whim of politicians, and be left deprived of the basic right of a home, is a scandal.

HE MAY have triumphed in the final Labour Party leaders’ debate – if the audience reaction and Sky News survey was anything to go by – but Jeremy Corbyn came under sustained fire from his embattled opponents.

And one line of attack will be resurrected should he emerge victorious in just over a week’s time: that Corbyn would be weak on defence and military action abroad. And here’s how he should fight back – by becoming the champion of Britain’s soldiers.

Soldiers are at the mercy of politicians and serve whatever the merits of the military adventure they’re sent on. Peace campaigners who oppose unjust and disastrous wars are often accused of disrespecting courageous men and women who put themselves in harms’ way.

Surely, though, it is more disrespectful to threaten the health and even lives of soldiers for calamities like Iraq. 179 British soldiers were sent to their deaths in Iraq and many more were maimed or left in distress. A new covenant with soldiers must pledge never to risk the lives of soldiers for such folly.

But a Corbyn-led Labour party – accused of doing down Britain’s armed forces – must go further. The government is cutting thousands of military personnel: Labour should announce a specific scheme to retrain or provide education for those who lose their jobs.

The army’s new chief, Nicholas Carter, has introduced a new code of conduct aimed at changing army culture, specifically sexual harassment and bullying: an initiative Labour should build on.

Then there’s the issue of homelessness among veterans. A couple of years ago it was revealed there were 9,000 ex-soldiers without a home and that one in ten rough sleepers in London used to serve in the army.

That soldiers can be sent to fight at the whim of politicians, and be left deprived of the basic right of a home, is a scandal that needs addressing.

Similarly, mental distress among soldiers needs combating. Back in 2012 more current and former soldiers died of suicide than died in Afghanistan. Mental health services in this country drastically need more resources and men often find it hard to talk about their problems. Again, here is a cause Labour must champion.

Disabled and sick soldiers are among those having their benefits stripped away. This is repellant. In one case, a former soldier who lost his right arm in a bomb attack had his incapacity benefit stripped away: in the assessment he was asked whether he was right-handed.

Last year a diabetic ex-soldier had his benefits cut, was left starving and died. Such stories are surely a matter of national shame.

If Corbyn becomes Labour leader, he will not lack political battles to fight. But as he comes under attack for being “weak on defence” he must take on the government for their betrayal of army personnel – and become the champion of soldiers in Westminster.

Source: The Guardian

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