Some people will back Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to accept the Government's claims about Russia - Jonathan Walker

Some people will back Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to accept the Government’s claims about Russia – Jonathan Walker

The eyes of the world are on Prime Minister Theresa May as she responds to the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

But here in the UK, at least, the spotlight has also been on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He’s been criticised for refusing to accept the Prime Minister’s judgment that the Russian state was behind the attack.

What she’s claiming is that a foreign government used chemical weapons on British soil. It’s a huge allegation.

Mr Corbyn, by contrast, insists that there are two options. “Either this was a crime authored by the Russian state; or that state has allowed these deadly toxins to slip out of the control it has an obligation to exercise.”



Sergei Skripal seen shopping hours before being poisoned in Salisbury

He’s taking a very different approach to the Prime Minister, who says the Government considered the second possibility – but has now ruled it out.

But if it wasn’t the Russian government, then who did it?

Mr Corbyn has a suggestion. Writing in the Guardian, he said: “A connection to Russian mafia-like groups that have been allowed to gain a toehold in Britain cannot be excluded.”

And he compared attempts to blame the Russian state for this horrific crime to attempts to insist, in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, that the Iraqi regime was developing weapons of mass destruction.

How Russia is using the internet to attack the UK

He said: “In my years in parliament I have seen clear thinking in an international crisis overwhelmed by emotion and hasty judgments too many times. Flawed intelligence and dodgy dossiers led to the calamity of the Iraq invasion.”

As we know, it turned out Iraq didn’t have such a weapons programme. And the invasion of Iraq is now regarded as a mistake even by many people who supported it at the time.



Jeremy Corbyn speaking during a visit to Coventry University

Mr Corbyn’s approach has been condemned as a mistake by many people in the media, and many Labour MPs.

In fact, 33 Labour MPs signed a Commons motion stating they “unequivocally accept the Russian state’s culpability” in the poisoning. They include West Midlands Labour MPs Ian Austin (Dudley North), Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) and John Spellar (Warley).

But I wonder if there might be more support for Mr Corbyn’s position than people realise.

Those of us who grew up during the Cold War – when the West faced off against a Soviet Union which occupied half of Europe – have a tendency to respect the intelligence services. Our spies helped to keep us safe.

Those who don’t remember that, but do remember Iraq, may take a different view – and may have more sympathy with Mr Corbyn’s approach.

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