Jeremy Corbyn began his first speech as leader to a Labour Party Conference like this:
You might have noticed in some of our newspapers they’ve taken a bit of an interest in me lately. Some of the things I’ve read are this. According to one headline: "Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the prospect of an asteroid ‘wiping out’ humanity.”
Now, asteroids are pretty controversial. It’s not the kind of policy I’d want this party to adopt without a full debate in conference. So can we have the debate later in the week!How the audience laughed!
Except that Jeremy Corbyn did once welcome the prospect of an asteroid wiping our humanity.
In May 2004 he put his name to Commons early day motion 1255, which is worth quoting in full:
That this House is appalled, but barely surprised, at the revelations in M15 files regarding the bizarre and inhumane proposals to use pigeons as flying bombs; recognises the important and live-saving role of carrier pigeons in two world wars and wonders at the lack of gratitude towards these gentle creatures; and believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.There were only three signatories: the late Tony Banks, Corbyn and his new shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
This a minor point, but it does point to important truths about Labour today.
The first is their seething hatred for the press. After more than 30 years in the wilderness, how does Corbyn begin a speech he can hardly of dreamt of making? By attacking the press.
He must also have been sure this would get the audience on his side from the start.
And the second truth is that many of the 'smears' that Corbyn supporters complain of are nothing of the sort. They are simply his own words being quoted back at him.