Jeremy Corbyn accuses Boris Johnson of being 'scared' of Donald Trump after he skips Commons debate on Iran

Posted On: 
7th January 2020

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Boris Johnson of being "scared" of upsetting US President Donald Trump after he failed to show up to a Commons debate on the situation in Iran.

Jeremy Corbyn has attacked Boris Johnson for failing to attend the Commons to update MPs on Iran
Credit: 
PA

The Labour leader attacked Boris Johnson for "hiding" behind Defence Secretary Ben Wallace after the Cabinet minister was left to update MPs on the response to the ongoing crisis in the middle east.

Addressing MPs on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Wallace confirmed UK ships and helicopters had been put on standby in the region after the Iranian regime vowed revenge in the wake of the assasination of general Qassem Soleimani.

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But in a break from Commons tradition, Mr Corbyn chose to respond directly to the statement and accused the Prime Minister of being scared to stand up to President Trump over the military action.

He asked: "Could he tell us where the Prime Minister is, and what is he doing that is so much more important than addressing Parliament on the assasination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and extremely dangerous and aggressive act that risks starting yet another deadly war in the middle east?

"On Friday, I sent the PM a letter posing a series of questions. He has not answered any of them, instead, today, he is hiding behind his Defence Secretary. 

“Isn't the truth that he is scared to stand up to president Trump because he has hitched his wagon to a toxic Trump trade deal?

"Instead, at this highly dangerous moment, we find the government giving cover, and even expressing sympathy, for what is widely regarded as an illegal act because they are so determined to keep in with President Trump."

The Labour leader added: "Time and time again, over the last two decades, the political and military establishments have made the wrong call on military interventions in the middle east. 

“Many of us opposed the invasion of Iraq and 2003 and the failed invasion of Afghanistan, and I opposed the bombing of Libya in 2011.

"Have we learnt nothing from those events? This House must rule out plunging our country into yet another devastating war at the behest of another state."

'ANTI-AMERICAN TRIPE'

But Mr Wallace fired back at the Labour leader, accusing him of speaking "anti-American tripe" as he claimed the Prime Minister was "running the country".

"I'm afraid instead of getting a serious interrogation... of how we are going to de-escalate this situation in the Middle East, about how we are going to make sure British citizens and British allies are secure, we have had the usual tripe about 'this is about Trump, this is about America' and all the usual anti-American, anti-imperialist guff that we had from it.”

He added: "[Jeremy Corbyn] asked where the Prime Minister is, well funnily enough, the Prime Minister is running the country. Something [he] will fail to ever do as a result of the election."

But the decision to delegate responsibility to the Defence Secretary also drew criticism from the Liberal Democrats, with acting leader Sir Ed Davey accusing Mr Johnson of trying to "dodge" Parliament.

"It is shameful that Boris Johnson is hiding behind his ministers on the dangerous situation in the Gulf," he said.

"The Prime Minister should stop dodging Parliament and explain what he will do to de-escalate tensions and ensure the safety of British service personnel and civilians in the region.

"Boris Johnson must confirm that he will not blindly follow Donald Trump into military action against Iran, potentially the most reckless decision since the Iraq War."

Speaking before the statement, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister defended the repsonse, saying: "The Prime Minister leads a Cabinet government and the response to events in the middle east is a collective Cabinet response.

"The Prime Minister has spoken to and continues to speak to world leaders.

"He has overseen the ministerial response and will chair the National Security Council. The safety and security of our personnel is of paramount importance and we keep our force protection measures under review.”