Jeremy Corbyn's doubts over Russian Federation evidence spark MPs' backlash

17 March, 2018, 02:06 | Author: Edward Snyder
  • LEADING ARTICLEMarch 18 2018 12:01am The Sunday Times Mr Corbyn fails the test of national leadership

The Labour leader defended asking questions about the situation during Commons exchanges, saying "that's what oppositions are there for".

But the Labour leader's article made the link explicitly.

He defied his critics today by again refusing to lay the blame for the attack at the door of Vladimir Putin - instead suggesting the mafia might be behind the use of military-grade nerve agent.

May harrumphed that the Russians had already been given a chance to explain where the nerve agent had come from, and then boasted that her government had attained "consensus" among the MPs.

The PM said: "This is not a question of our diplomacy, of what diplomatic support we have around the world".

Mr. Corbyn reiterated his concerns on Thursday.

Mrs May went on to criticise Mr Corbyn's response to her statement, claiming he "could have taken the opportunity - as the UK Government has done - to condemn the culpability of the Russian state".

Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith both spoke following backbench anger over Mr Corbyn's Commons appearance on Wednesday. Judging from the remarks that were made by backbenchers "across the whole of the house" last Monday, she proclaimed, there is clearly a consensus "across the backbenches of this house".

"The choice of this particular freakish and terrible way of killing an individual is a deliberate choice of the Russian government to put their signature on a particular killing so that other defectors are left in no doubt that the Russian government will act if they're disappointed in any way by their actions", he said.

In a briefing with journalists after Mrs May's statement, a Labour spokesman said: "Jeremy has condemned the attack in unequivocal terms".

Later, his spokesman, Seumas Milne, said there was a "problematic" history over the use of intelligence by politicians and left open the possibility of Russian Federation being framed.




"There is a history between weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly", they said.

"I made that very clear yesterday".

But the spokesman said such moves risk starting a "tit for tat" response and that measures to "hit them in the pocket" would be more effective.

He urged Mrs May to put pressure on Russian Federation to reveal details of its chemical weapons programme and asked whether a sample of the nerve agent used in the attack had been sent to Moscow.

"There are strict protocols that must be followed now, but we can not accept any kind of outrage of this kind on United Kingdom soil".

Labour MP Anna Turley tweeted: "I'm afraid Seumas doesn't speak for my Labour or British values", while Chuka Umunna said: "Mr Milne's comments do not represent the views of the majority of our voters, members or MPs".

"The response has been prudent, some have found it underwhelming but it is important to keep room for escalation as more evidence comes in", Kadri Liik, a senior policy fellow at European foreign policy think-tank ECFR, told AFP.

One Conservative minister said Corbyn had strengthened May's hand in parliament - which still holds the future of Britain's relationship with Europe, and the government's survival, in its hands.

Mr Corbyn received criticism from Conservatives and some of his own MPs after his team raised doubts about who was responsible for the attack that has raised worldwide hostilities between Russian Federation and the west.

Hammering the message home, a Commons motion "accepting the culpability of the Russian state" has been tabled by John Woodcock - and backed by 15 other MPs.

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