Jeremy Corbyn’s response on Russia continues to send ripples through the Labour party. After the Labour leader failed to say that he believed Russia to be responsible for this attempted murder, his spokesman went one further in the post-PMQs briefing. They appeared to compare the intelligence about the Salisbury attack to the reports of weapons of mass destruction ahead of the Iraq war:
‘I think obviously the government has access to information and intelligence on this matter which others don’t; however, also there’s a history in relation to WMD and intelligence which is problematic to put it mildly.’
But this view is not one that is echoed across the party. As Isabel has noted, today in the Chamber Labour MPs were supportive of Theresa May’s condemnation of Russia. In fact, so were the SNP and the Liberal Democrats – it was really just Corbyn who was the odd one out.
This clearly presents Labour moderates with a dilemma. The two sides of the party have tried to hide their political hostility towards one another since the snap election – but this issue means it’s impossible to avoid. In a bid to put some clear water between themselves and the leadership, a group of Labour MPs have tabled an early day motion declaring their acceptance of the Russian state’s ‘culpability’ in Salisbury poisoning:
Submitted EDM 1071 with Labour colleagues making clear we unequivocally accept Russia’s culpability in the Salisbury attack and support UK govt action. Others will have chance to sign in coming days. pic.twitter.com/H0wMBZBcKe
— John Woodcock (@JWoodcockMP) March 14, 2018
Rumours abound that a frontbencher could even resign today over Corbyn’s stand. Whether or not they do, the Labour leader’s line on Russia significantly increases the chance of MPs abandoning the party. At the last election, they could knock on doors and assure local residents that they could vote for them even if they didn’t like Corbyn as there was no chance of him ever becoming Prime Minister. Now that Corbyn is the favourite at the next election to become Prime Minister, they cannot shrug off concerns about his suitability for the top job.