Jeremy Corbyn has been branded an “apologist” for the Kremlin after he cast doubt over Russia’s culpability in spy poisoning and questioned the credibility of the intelligence services.
The Labour leader provoked outcry among MPs on Wednesday when he questioned the Prime Minister’s assessment that there can now be “no alternative conclusion” other than the Kremlin’s culpability in the Salisbury attack.
Despite Mrs May’s statement being informed by briefings by British intelligence, Mr Corbyn’s spokesman claimed that information provided by security services had been “problematic”.
“There is a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly.
“So, I think the right approach it to seek the evidence to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibitive chemical weapons.”
The spokesman refused to say whether Mr Corbyn accepted that the Russian state was responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Responding to Mr Corbyn’s comments, Tory MP Mark Brands labelled the Labour leader an “agpologist”.
Praising Mrs May’s statement as having the “flashes of the Iron Lady about it”, Mr Brands added that it was in “stark contrast” to the attitude of the leader of the Opposition.
“[Mr Corbyn] simply could not bring himself to condemn Russia for this outrageous act,” he continued. “Is that not because he remains at heart what he has always been: a CND-badge wearing apologist for the Russian state?”
Russian spy poisoning | Read more
It came after MPs reacted with fury as Mr Corbyn again failed to condemn the Kremlin for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and appeared to attribute blame on cuts to Britain’s diplomatic network.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s latest statement on the Salisbury attack, which confirmed that there was , Mr Corbyn said it was a “huge regret” that the diplomatic service had faced cuts of 25 per cent.
He also appeared to question Mrs May’s statement, asking whether it is “still a possibility that Russia negligently lost control of a military-grade nerve agent?”.
Despite Vladimir Putin failing to meet the UK’s deadline for providing an explanation over the Novichok nerve agent used on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, Mr Corbyn added that the UK should continue to have a “robust dialogue” with the Kremlin.
And following the announcement that the UK will expel 23 Russian intelligence officers in retaliation, he said that the Government should have a “proportionate response based on clear evidence.”
His comments drew cries of “shame” and “disgrace” from furious MPs on both sides of the House of Commons, with Mrs May scolding the Labour leader for his line of questioning.
Cheered on by Tory MPs, Mrs May told the Labour leader: “This is not a question of our diplomacy, of what diplomatic support we have around the world.
“This is a question of the culpability of the Russian state for an act on our soil.
“It is clear from the conversations I have had with allies that we have a consensus with our allies, it was clear from the remarks that were made by backbenchers across the whole of this House on Monday that there is a consensus across the backbenches of this House.
“I am only sorry that the consensus does not go as far as the Right Honourable Gentleman who could have taken the opportunity – as the UK Government has done – to condemn the culpability of the Russian state.”
It comes after Mr Corbyn caused similar outrage on Monday, when he used an urgent update on the Salisbury to attack the Conservative Party for accepting donations from Russians living in the UK.
His comments were widely condemned by MPs across the House, with Tory MP Johnny Mercer describing the incident as the “most shameful moment in this House of Commons in my time to date.”
Today @jeremycorbyn faced a simple test: would he condemn the Russian government for launching a chemical weapons attack on the UK, and back the actions of the British government? His failure to do so reveals where his loyalties lie.
— Nick Boles MP (@NickBoles) March 14, 2018
Rallying again against the Labour leader on Wednesday, former defence minister Anna Soubry branded his response a “shameful, shameful moment” to shouts of “hear hear”.
Meanwhile, former Labour minister Tony McNulty wrote on Twitter that Mr Corbyn’s response had been “utter waffle” and a “sixth-form rant”.
Echoing his comments, Nick Boles MP said that Mr Corbyn had faced a “simple test” to condemn the Russian Government. “His failure to do so reveals where his loyalties lie.”
Peter Heaton-Jones added: “For the second time this week I’ve sat in the House of Commons and watched with dismay as the Leader of HM Opposition demonstrates, through his complete lack of judgement, that he is utterly unsuited ever to govern our country.”