Jeremy Corbyn accused of Russian 'appeasement' as MPs pile in on the Labour leader

Posted On: 
14th March 2018

Jeremy Corbyn faced the wrath of MPs from across the House today after he again failed to unequivocally condemn Moscow over the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

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Theresa May has given 23 Russian diplomats one week to leave Britain as tensions continue to escalate between London and the Kremlin over the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal.

She said Russia had treated Britain with "sarcasm, contempt and defiance" after the Government demanded the country provide a credible explanation for the incident and vowed to carry out a range of measures in retaliation.

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However in his response to the Prime Minister in the Commons today the Labour leader called for “strong diplomacy and political pressure”.

He then laid into ministers for cuts to the diplomatic service before demanding to know if Russian requests for a sample of the nerve agent had been met. 

Addressing MPs, he added: "Does the Prime Minister agree that it is essential to maintain a robust dialogue with Russia?"

But a number of members later pounced on Mr Corbyn's comments, with Tory MP Anna Soubry branding them "shameful", while Tory Mark Francois accused him of being a "CND apologist" for the Russian state.

A number of the Labour leader's own backbenchers also launched swipes at the response, including John Woodcock and Pat McFadden, with the latter suggesting the message was not befitting of a leader.

“Responding with strength and resolve when your country is under threat is an essential component of political leadership," he said.

"There is a Labour tradition that understands that, and it has been understood by Prime Ministers of all parties.”

His colleague Mr Woodcock added: “This is a time for the House to speak as one for the nation. [The Prime Minister] will be reassured that a clear majority of Labour MPs alongside the leader of every other party support the firm stance she is taking.”

Meanwhile the DUP MP Sammy Wilson accused the Labour leader of a "policy of appeasement" and said the public would be glad that it is not he that is Prime Minister.

“We welcome the decisive action which has been taken by the Prime Minister today. It sits in contrast to the policy of appeasement that we have heard from the frontbench of the Labour Party," he said.

"I am sure that the people of the UK are pleased that it is the Prime Minister standing behind the despatch box defending the rule of law and the citizens of this country.”

Conservative Mark Francois said that the response was in "stark contrast" to the tough measures announced by Mrs May.

"[He] simply could not bring himself to condemn Russia for this outrageous act. He simply couldn’t do it.

"Is that not because he remains at heart what he has always been, a CND badge wearing apologist for the Russian state.”

Earlier this week the Labour leader responded to an initial statement on the incident to cries of "shame" and "disgrace" as he attacked the Conservatives for accepting cash from Russian donors.

On Sammy Wilson's "appeasement" comments, Mr Corbyn's spokesman said: "It's utterly absurd. There is a tendency among certain politicians and sometimes even members of the media to reach for completely inappropriate and ridiculous analogies, and that one in particular has been rolled out time and again in almost every international crisis that Britain has been involved in over the last half century.

"Jeremy Corbyn called those crises right when many of the people on the Government benches and elsewhere made the wrong calls with disastrous consequences."