Myth-busting – what Jeremy Corbyn really thinks about nuclear weapons, the IRA and more

From nuclear weapons to the IRA, here are the many issues he's been misquoted on

Throughout the campaign for June’s general election, several accusations have dogged Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership challenge. They’re like old ghosts, haunting him every time his public image begins to improve.

A member of parliament since 1983 and a staunch backbencher before rising to the top of the Labour party, he’s always been outspoken and defiant in his views. But many of these beliefs continue to plague his campaign. The same goes for quotes he gave decades ago and has since spoken out against, or claims he made years back that have since been misquoted. Anti-Corbynites tend to say he’s a terrorist sympathising pacifist who shouldn’t be let anywhere near Downing Street. But a lot of this stems from myth-spreading and misreporting.  These are his twisted words, coupled with what he really thinks:

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn answers your questions – the NME cover feature

On the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy


Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives to make his first campaign speech of the 2017 general election at Assembly Hall in Westminster on April 20, 2017 in London, England

What was reported: Speaking in the aftermath of the 2015 Paris attacks, Corbyn told reporter Laura Kuenssberg: “I am not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counterproductive.” The video has since gone viral after last Saturday’s (June 3) tragic terrorist attack in London Bridge, with many claiming Corbyn would apply the same logic in response to a future attack.

What he actually said: In a rare case, the BBC Trust ruled in January 2017 that Corbyn’s quotes were placed out of context. Instead of outright stating that police shouldn’t shoot to kill in response to a terror attack, he said he was against the military policing Britain’s streets. A vital part of the quote was omitted from the BBC’s original video. He said: “Of course you’d bring people on to the streets to prevent and ensure there is safety within our society, much better that’s done by the police than security services, much better we have strong and effective community policing, neighbourhood policing and a cohesive society that brings people together.”

In a speech in Carlisle on Saturday night (June 3), Corbyn clarified his position. He supported the police to apply “whatever force is necessary” in response to an attack, while also stating that Conservative cuts to the forces needed to be reversed.

On using nuclear weapons

Jeremy Corbyn at the Manchester vigil
Jeremy Corbyn at the Manchester vigil


What was reported: In 2015, the Labour leader told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he would not use nuclear weapons as PM. “I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear-free world. I believe it is possible.” These quotes, and his pacifist approach, have become the biggest thorn in the side of 2017’s election campaign.

What he actually said: Corbyn’s 2015 quotes were reported correctly, but they’ve since been slightly misinterpreted. He was speaking in idealistic terms, aspiring for a “nuclear-free world” instead of one constantly on a strategic knife edge. However, the issue reared its head during a Question Time special on Friday (June 2), when he addressed the topic of nuclear weapons by saying: “If we did use it, millions would die.” Audience members and host David Dimbleby accused him of dodging the “reality” of the UK’s nuclear dilemma. He followed up by saying: “I will decide it on the circumstances of it at the time.”

On his “friendship” with Hamas and Hezbollah

What was reported: During a parliamentary meeting in 2009, he described the two militant groups as “friends”. Eight years later, the quote continues to taint his campaign.

What he actually said: His quotes were in reference to the ongoing Israel-Palestine peace process. Speaking at a select committee in July 2016, the leader said he had used “inclusive language… which with hindsight I would rather not have used.” He added: “I regret using those words.”

On his relationship with the IRA

What was reported: He has been accused of appeasing to the violent actions of the IRA. A clip, shared by the Conservatives in a political broadcast, sees Corbyn asked by Sky News reporter Sophy Ridge whether he would condemn the group’s bombings. His answer: “No.”

What he actually said: The full quote he gave was: “No, I think what you have to say is all bombing has to be condemned and you have to bring about a peace process. Listen, in the 1980s Britain was looking for a military solution, it clearly was never going to work. Ask anyone in the British army at the time … I condemn all the bombing by the loyalists and the IRA.” Labour has since accused the Tories of creating “fake news”. It’s clear that Corbyn was not and is not an IRA sympathiser. Instead, like the majority of politicians at the time, he was campaigning for a united Ireland.