Alongside the usual lineup of shadow Cabinet members, leftie commentators, and – bizarrely – a pub quiz with Ed Miliband, Momentum members will be treated to a special guest at this year’s The World Transformed fringe – former French Presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
The firebrand hard-left populist, who missed out on a place in the run-off in France’s Presidential election last year by fewer than 700,000 votes, gets top billing for Momentum’s fringe conference alongside Diane Abbott and Corbyn himself. As TWT organiser Angus Satow explains on LabourList:
“Comparisons abound between Mélenchon and Jeremy Corbyn.”
Let’s see. Mélenchon is in favour of a 100% top rate of tax – something Corbyn has yet to put in his manifesto, but time will tell.
On foreign policy, Mélenchon shares Corbyn’s intrinsic worldview of distrust for the West and natural affinity for the strongmen who oppose it. Mélenchon wants France to quit NATO in favour of closer relations with Vladimir Putin and Bashar Al-Assad, while he is a strong supporter of Putin’s intervention in Syria and even met the Syrian dictator himself in days gone by:
Mélenchon has hailed the ruinous hard-left Venezuelan dictatorship as a “source of inspiration” and is a strong supporter of Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez:
Mélenchon’s own political movement, La France Insoumise, bears a number of similarities to Momentum, starting off as a political ‘platform’ which essentially functioned as a party within a party, before breaking away from the mainstream Socialist Party and veering sharply to the left.
However, Mélenchon has an even darker side to his character that should be setting alarm bells ringing for Corbyn and the TWT organisers. He has called on his followers to follow around and film journalists who subjected him to scrutiny, while accusing other journalists who criticised him of being CIA spies and working for “fascist“ newspapers.
He denied that the 2014 protests in Paris where Jewish shops were looted and burned were anything to do with anti-Semitism, while just year he attacked Emmanuel Macron for accepting that the French Vichy Government was responsible for the deportation of French Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
Mélenchon’s views on Islam will be of concern to Corbynistas. He has rejected the use of the term “Islamophobia” and attacked a woman for wearing a hijab while a candidate in local elections in 2010. He has also frequently been accused of trying to foment anti-German sentiment in France.
Not sure that’ll go down well with the Corbynista and Momentum grassroots…