In the immediate aftermath of the Spygate revelations politicians on both sides of the house poured scorn on Jeremy Corbyn for not immediately pointing the finger at Russia. Shouts of “shame” could be heard from the Tory backbench in the Commons, with Theresa May saying the Labour leader could have “taken the opportunity as the UK government has done to condemn the culpability of the Russian state”.
But the inferred culpability has been called into question in recent days following revelations that scientists at the Porton Down military research facility have been unable to establish exactly where the novichok nerve agent used to carry out the Skripal attack was manufactured.
It calls into question whether the whole diplomatic fallout which was triggered by the UK government – with the expulsion of some 150 Russian diplomats by its allies – was based on firm evidence or whether it was a knee-jerk reaction with little substance.
Although there is every possibility that Russia could still be proved to be culpable of the attack, it is worth reflecting on the words of Jeremy Corbyn at the time.
Briefing journalists as the debate continued in the Commons, he said: “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.
“So I think the right approach is to seek the evidence; to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibited chemical weapons, because this was a chemical weapons attack, carried out on British soil. There are procedures that need to be followed in relation to that.”
Tomorrow’s front page … Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office admits deleting tweet after ‘proof’ of Russia’s involvement in poisoning is undermined pic.twitter.com/HvphzhF0EW
— The National (@ScotNational) April 4, 2018
Theresa May enjoyed a boost in popularity following the Russian spy scandal, dusting off the patriotism playbook to cash in on some populist sentiment. But great leaders aren’t the ones who chase quick wins, they are the one who aren’t afraid to make unpopular decisions, and Corbyn deserves his plaudits here.
It is also worth giving credit to the journalists that didn’t rush to conclusions too.
In a clip dating back to 16th March, LBC’s James O’Brien asks, “would you send your son to war over this evidence?”
Although that is an eventuality that is likely to be avoided, one can’t help but think about the countless lives that were lost in Iraq thanks to a dodgy dossier.
It shows just what is at stake when politicians engage in such quick-fired aggression, and you can forgive Mr Corbyn for being reserved in his judgement given the recent revelations.
— LBC (@LBC) March 16, 2018