If “now is not the time” to discuss Russian infiltration of UK politics, should we send Sergei Skripal our “thoughts & prayers”?

March 16, 2018

by Martin Odoni

I mentioned on Wednesday that there is an ugly resemblance between attempts to shout down Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the Russian Spy Poisoning and the US Right’s standard response to gun-massacres.

Corbyn’s reluctance fully to endorse Theresa May’s position on the poisoning is perfectly responsible, arguably necessary. In spite of the mainstream media’s enthusiasm for taking the Government’s claims at face-value, and even while acknowledging that Russia is still the main suspect, there are very good reasons for skepticism, and therefore caution. It is not ‘unpatriotic’ or ‘disloyal to Britain’ to want more information. Requirements for ‘national unity’ can be fulfilled without becoming an unquestioning android, as far as I am concerned. Think about it. If it is not in order to cross-examine Government-conduct in matters of foreign relations when they risk causing dangerously high tensions with a major power like Russia, there is surely no point in cross-examining anything a Government does. Which means, why bother with democracy at all?

There are three main reasons for caution; –

For one – as has been highlighted quite widely outside the mainstream media but has received little mention within it – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced only six months ago that Russia had completely dismantled its chemical weapon capability, under OPCW supervision. Those who rightly argue, such as James O’Brien, that we should not ignore the experts in this matter need to recognise that the experts themselves are the very people whose words raise a serious doubt!

For another, there was considerable smuggling of the ‘Novichok’ nerve agent from the former Soviet Union throughout the 1990s.

There are even question marks in some quarters, albeit I would have to say they are not convincing ones, as to whether the nerve agent used in Salisbury has been correctly-identified.

Furthermore, Corbyn’s caution is hardly a case of outright dissent or denial. On the contrary, he has proposed more and tougher restrictions on Russian involvement in British politics and commerce than the Conservatives have or appear comfortable with. My suspicion is that the real reason Corbyn is getting castigated is that he has highlighted the ugly links between British MPs, especially in the Conservative Party, and Russian money. These links have needed severing since long, long before the Salisbury attack.

We are not allowed to talk about that right now? Why on Earth not? Is it ‘too soon’? Even though nobody has died? Well, as I often ask in exasperation when I hear people saying, “It’s too soon!” if we cannot discuss Russian infiltration into the UK in the aftermath of a presumed Russian assassination attempt, when can we?!

Sorry, everyone, obviously I was wrong to ask that. Tell you what, if we have to copy the US guns lobby so thoroughly in these situations, I suggest we should carry that to the fullest extent. Therefore; –

My thoughts and prayers are with Sergei and Yulia Skripal

There. That platitude achieved about as much as it usually does.

Assault rifle with thoughts and prayers

6 Responses to “If “now is not the time” to discuss Russian infiltration of UK politics, should we send Sergei Skripal our “thoughts & prayers”?”

  1. I was very entertained (not) by the BBC’s reporter on Today (yesterday I think) effectively acting as mouthpiece for those members of the PLP (including Keir Starmer apparently) who think that Jeremy Corbyn “should fully support the government at this critical time”. We are apparently “under attack from the Russians”. No attempt made at all to explain or properly critique Corbyn’s position. And no one at the BBC seems able to ask the question “cui bono?” I really cannot understand what Putin et al stand to gain from such an outrageous public poisoning. But there are a lot of others out there who might.

    • Martin Odoni Says:

      Re: Britain under attack, it’s a wild, alarmist exaggeration.

      As for cui bono, there is an election in Russia this weekend, and looking tough against a traditional “enemy” such as the UK will probably play well in the polls for Vladimir Putin.

  2. Martin Odoni Says:

    The keyword will be ‘traitors’. Many Russians will feel Skripal ‘deserved’ what happened to him, and will be happy to think that there is no hiding place for anyone who sells out to other countries so long as Putin is in charge. There are people like that in every nation around the world.

    This doesn’t mean I think Putin is definitely guilty by the way. I’m just pointing out that it’s untrue when people say he would have nothing to gain from this. He’s the likeliest suspect, but at present he is still ONLY a suspect.

    • Fair enough, and point taken. i.e. (if he did it for the reason you suggest) he positively wants Russians to know that he did it by using a nerve agent that he would have access to.

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