The political fallout from the alleged nerve agent Salisbury attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia should never have happened. The diplomatic mess caused by Prime Minister Theresa May is embarrassing. Not that the wider British public would realise this thanks to pro-May coverage in the media.
Accusing the Russian government and expelling diplomats thereafter – based on flimsy evidence – was incompetence of an amateurish level. That the media, Tory MPs and some backbench Labour Party MPs fell for the spin from Downing Street was entirely predictable.
The minute May first disclosed news of the alleged Russia government involvement you knew she was hiding something. The truth. The fact that she was not willing to share any hard evidence with colleagues and Jeremy Corbyn was classic May.
During her time as Home Secretary senior staff would complain of May’s bunker-type mentality and withholding key information and decisions from even her own junior ministers and key relevant staff.
The classic May is – make a big statement then retreat into the background leaving others such as her media friends to spin information to crazy levels.
In Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, was correct to challenge May’s assertions of the Russian government’s involvement. Most of the British media, the government and Labour backbench MPs mocked his stance. Labelling him a traitor, not fit to become PM and a Vladimir Putin stooge.
But Corbyn – like many of us – has seen much too often where governments and law enforcement officials have got their initial claims on high profile incidents so wrong. e.g. Hillsborough, Manchester bombing, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Jean Charles de Menenez, Jill Dando, Rachel Nickell, Stephen Lawrence etc.
The minute Theresa May started to use safe terms like “high likely”, “culpable”, “might”.. you knew there was no solid evidence.
There is no way May would have allowed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to speak on her behalf if the Russian evidence was solid. Why would May give her arch rival that media space to speak and take the credit for handling this ‘crisis’? Amber Rudd would never had allow it.
Given the alleged foreign state sponsored incident happened on British soil, Home Secretary Rudd – who has oversight over national security – has said very little. The last time Rudd directly accused the Russian government was early March. Ben Wallace is Rudd’s junior minister responsible for national security matters, he too has been very silent.
My old Home Office instincts tells me this was a political game that quickly got out control. The fault lies not with Amber Rudd but Downing Street. Hence the silence from Rudd and Wallace: and why in recent days Rudd has deflected from Salisbury and promised to target wealthy Russians residing in the UK.
The reason why the May government is not receiving any flak for this diplomatic blunder is because the media hates Jeremy Corbyn. The media would rather play down a diplomatic incident, than to ever admit that Corbyn’s cautious instincts were correct.
- How is it that over 125 countries did not join May and expel any Russian diplomats?
- Why did May say that the Skripals’ health was in such danger that they might never fully recover? Only for days later both came out of intensive care and recovering well.
- Why has the UK prevented Russian Embassy officials from visiting the Skripals in hospital? Why have they denied a visa to Yulia’s cousin Viktoria to visit them from Russia?
- Why has May blocked international observers from inspecting the alleged nerve agent?
- Why has May and Amber Rudd said very little in Parliament over the past 14 days?
- Why did Boris Johnson claim that he was told by government scientists at Porton Down that the source of the nerve agent used was Russian? Only for the Chief Executive to deny such claims?
- Why has there been no joint press conference held by May, Rudd and Johnson to answer media questions?
The government will never admit to their error of judgment as that would be political suicide. So expect May, her ministers and media pals to play out this false narrative right up to the May local elections.
The public will never know the truth on what really happened in Salisbury and how the May government came to their conclusions. As the government will invoke “national security” to keep such details from the public for an eternity.
The media and Downing Street will step up their anti-Corbyn attacks. This is understandable given the background of some of May’s closest advisers at Downing Street who include:
- Robbie Gibb (former editor of BBC Politics and Sunday Politics)
- Kirsty Buchanan (ex Daily Express)
- James Slack & Liz Sanderson (ex Daily Mail)
- Dylan Sharpe (ex Head of PR for The Sun)
Full marks to Corbyn and the Labour front bench for standing their ground and challenging Theresa May directly over Salisbury. After the Iraq lies the public has a right to question their government on any statements relating to serious national security issues.
Since 2002, when it comes to national security matters I rarely believe any official statement by ministers. But the skeptics like me would feel more accepting if the media heard directly from Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism and Andrew Parker, head of MI-5.
Labour MPs who supported the government’s assertions – because of their hatred of Corbyn – should be ashamed of themselves. This was not the time for them to make such a decision out of sheer personal spite.
So in essence Theresa May instigated a diplomatic crisis – with the most prolific nuclear power – where the fatalities were a cat and 2 guinea pigs.
The Salisbury affair just does not make any rational sense. May and the media knows it too.