Jeremy Corbyn: Overstepping the mark?

I’ll put my cards on the table straight away: I think it was entirely reasonable of Jeremy Corbyn to question the Conservative Party’s acceptance of Russian money in these circumstances.

As I wrote on March 12: “[Theresa May] won’t be returning more than £800,000 that has been donated to the Conservative Party by Russians now living in the UK, even though the provenance of the cash may be questionable.

Instead, I stated, she would propose other measures.

She didn’t.

Instead, she gave Russia until midnight on Tuesday to explain how Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned by a nerve agent in Salisbury, or she would conclude that it was an “unlawful use of force” by the Russian state against the UK.

She did not provide conclusive proof that the poison came from Russia, but said evidence had shown that Skripal had been targeted by a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia”.

She said: “Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

And she promised to return to the House of Commons on March 14 with a full list of retaliatory measures if the Russian government provides “no credible response” by midnight on March 13.

So we don’t know whether the poison really was Russian and we don’t know what Mrs May will do if the Russians don’t respond in the way she expects.

We do know that members of Mrs May’s party – and indeed, members of the government – have been taking Russian money as donations.

But when Jeremy Corbyn pointed this out, it provoked a storm of outrage, not only from the Tories, but also from his critics in the Labour Party.

A row has erupted over Jeremy Corbyn’s response to Theresa May’s latest statement on the poisoning of a former Russian spy.

He said the attack had “appalled the country” and urged decisive action after the PM told the Commons it was “highly likely ” Russia was to blame.

But the Labour leader also criticised the Conservatives for accepting donations from “Russian oligarchs”.

To cries of “shame” and “disgrace” from Conservative MPs, he added: “We’re all familiar with the way huge fortunes, often acquired in the most dubious circumstances in Russia, sometimes connected with criminal elements, have ended up sheltering in London and trying to buy political influence in British party politics.

“Meddling in elections, as the prime minister put it, and there has been over £800,000 worth of donations to the Conservative Party from Russian oligarchs and their associates.”

You can read more of the anger directed at Mr Corbyn in the BBC’s coverage.

Some were equally quick to defend Mr Corbyn’s words. As I indicated at the top of this article, This Writer believes it was entirely appropriate to question the Conservatives’ acceptance of this money. What did it buy?

Others agreed:

But here’s a thought: Perhaps we’ve got it wrong and the Tories are right. What do you think?

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