Jeremy Corbyn set himself firmly against British involvement in airstrikes against Islamic State (Isis) targets in Iraq and Syria by calling for “peaceful solutions”, as he described bombing as the easy option.
Cheered by thousands of supporters at the Solidarity With Refugees rally outside parliament, the man elected as Labour leader only hours earlier said that wars do not end when the last bullet is fired.
The remarks by Corbyn confirm that he will oppose any attempt by David Cameron to extend British involvement in the coalition airstrikes against Islamic State forces from Iraq to Syria.
Downing Street is seeking to lay the ground for parliamentary approval for further British military involvement to destroy Isis in Syria and Iraq on the grounds that this would help the democratically elected government in Baghdad.
Speaking from a stage on the back of a lorry at the rally in Parliament square, the new Labour leader said that in his 32 years as an MP he had seen “moments of clamour” that led to mistaken military action. “We need to have a thought as to why people end up in such desperate situations,” he said of refugees displaced by war.
Corbyn added: “I have been in parliament a long time and I’ve seen many decisions taken. In moments of clamour and moments of fervour decisions are made – go here, invade there, bomb there, do this, do that. It is the easy situation. The media build it up, there’s lots of military advice, there’s lots of apparently simple and easy solutions.
“Tragically, wars don’t end when the last bullet is fired or the last bomb is dropped. The mourning and the loss of soldiers of all uniforms goes on, the mourning and the loss of families that lost loved ones because of bombardments and fighting – that goes on. The refugees move on and on and there are whole generations of refugees around the world that are victims of various wars.”
The new Labour leader addressed the rally after a rousing welcome from the singer Billy Bragg, who said that he would now rejoin the party after resigning in 1990 in protest at Neil Kinnock’s support for the British campaign to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
Bragg called on registered supporters, who paid £3 to vote in the leadership contest, not to abandon the party now. “Unless all of us who have voted today for Jeremy Corbyn to be leader of the Labour party now step up, then what we have done today is nothing more than a Facebook like.”
Bragg took to the centre of the impromptu stage after Corbyn’s speech to lead a rendition of the Red Flag, the official Labour party anthem, which opens with the words: “The People’s Flag is deepest red / It shrouded oft our martyred dead.” Corbyn briefly stood to attention with his arms firmly to his side as he mouthed the words. He then thanked the other speeches.
It was the second time in the hours after his speech that Corbyn sang the Red Flag, a song sung with pride by those on the left and with embarrassment by those who fear association with the troubled years of the 1970s and 80s. He joined supporters in a rendition of the Red Flag at the Sanctuary pub near the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre where he was declared leader.
Speaking on a chair in the centre of the pub, Corbyn attacked the media for the “disgraceful” way in which they have focused on his family during the leadership campaign.
“The amount of abuse that has been heaped on my widest extended family has been utterly disgraceful and I hope the media hearing this will feel ashamed of themselves,” he said. “I don’t mind what they say about me. I don’t care.”
This article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Saturday 12th September 2015 17.37 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010