Our country under nerve-agent attack and what does Jeremy Corbyn do? Plays party politics. His speech in the Commons yesterday earned shouts of ‘shame!’ and ‘disgusting!’ from Conservatives. One accused him of ‘Soviet ramblings’. Another said his words were ‘the most shameful moment’ he had witnessed in the House.
Labour MPs plainly wanted to disown him. You did not need to be a body-language expert to discern their horror. His words jarred and they knew it. So, I think, did Mr Corbyn after he sat down, for he remained pink in the face for the next 50 minutes and barely raised his eyes from his lap for the rest of the afternoon.
Mr Corbyn skated over the magnitude of the Salisbury outrage and settled for allegations that the Conservatives were financially dependent on Russian money. Oh, and the NHS was underfunded.
Our country under nerve-agent attack and what does Jeremy Corbyn do? Plays party politics. His speech in the Commons yesterday earned shouts of ‘shame!’
Dear oh dear. Here is a suspected attempt at murder by a foreign regime on British soil – within a few hundred yards of Salisbury cathedral, for goodness sake. At what point does Mr Corbyn stand up for Britain, come what may, rather than chiselling and chiding and seeking reasons to doubt our own people?
Former foreign affairs committee chairman Mike Gapes (Lab, Ilford S) shook his head while Mr Corbyn was speaking. He and many Labour MPs near him folded their arms and raised their eyebrows at the Leader of the Opposition’s response to Theresa May’s afternoon Statement.
The Prime Minister had just told the House that there had been ‘a brazen attempt at murder’ using chemical poisons, and it was ‘highly likely Russia was responsible’.
Mrs May, in scarlet shoes, had been composed but forthright. MPs on all sides praised her for her tone.
Was this really a time to make polytechnic debating society jibes about party funds? Angela Eagle (Lab, Wallasey), listening to Mr Corbyn, stared at the ceiling. Miss Eagle may be a tribal Leftie but she is no traitor to her country. Her sister Maria (Lab, Garston & Halewood), beside her, clutched her face and whispered urgently to her twin.
Over the next half hour or so, Labour MPs lined up – some in code, some pretty bluntly – to disown Mr Corbyn’s inadequate, equivocating, mewling, yes-butting, hand-wringing response. Yvette Cooper (Pontefract & Castleford) said pointedly this was a time for MPs to unite.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, sitting next to Mr Corbyn, glared at this subtle dig. The only other person actively supporting Mr Corbyn was Emily Thornberry, sitting the other side of him and shouting angrily at Conservatives. The colour was up on her cheeks. The back of her hair was ruffled. Hackles on a guard dog in the gulag.
The Prime Minister had just told the House that there had been ‘a brazen attempt at murder’ using chemical poisons, and it was ‘highly likely Russia was responsible’
Ben Bradshaw (Lab, Exeter) spoke of ‘British political figures who have been corrupted by Russian money’ (did he mean by appearance fees on Russian TV?). Mr Gapes said ‘this is an act of terrorism and all Members of Parliament should stand together’ (ie unlike you, Corbyn).
Chris Leslie (Lab, Nottingham E) said it was ‘just not appropriate’ to nit-pick and criticise when the country was under attack. Pat McFadden (Lab, Wolverhampton SE) spoke up for the ‘solidarity and security of the West’.
As each of these MPs spoke, they looked down at the back of Mr Corbyn’s head and you sensed they were speaking directly to him, rather than to the Prime Minister whose composure they all praised.
The SNP’s members were solidly behind the Government, too, Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) rolling his Rs magnificently as he demanded a ‘rrrrobust’ response to Russia, and saying ‘enough is enough’ and Madrid should stop letting Putin’s warships refuel in Spanish ports.
One power-crazed, pepper-pot quasi dictator such as Putin is probably enough for one day. Suffice it to say that the House earlier debated the bullying of staff by – among others – Speaker Bercow. There is going to be an independent inquiry. If it takes evidence from the last Commons Clerk, this tinpot Squeaker could be a goner.