Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Corbyn was right to raise Russian economic influence

but chose the wrong time to do it

We are all familiar with the way in which huge fortunes, often acquired in the most dubious circumstances in Russia and 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. There have been more than £800,000 of donations to the Conservative party from Russian oligarchs and their associates. If that is the evidence before the Government, they could be taking action to introduce new financial sanctions powers even before the investigation into Salisbury is complete.

The whole question of Russian investment, especially of "hot" money, in the UK needs looking at. Further, the suggestion that money is channelled to MPs (on all sides of the house) from Russia through third parties - consultancies and commodity traders and so on - should be investigated. 
However, Jeremy Corbyn was rightly criticised - not least from his own side of the house - for linking the subject at such a sensitive time to the Salisbury nerve gas attack.

Perhaps an honourable member could raise it at an adjournment, if neither the government nor the back-bench business committee sees fit to allocate time to it. One can understand the official opposition's reluctance to air the malign influence of dubious inward investments in the City, since the doors were opened to them during the Blair-Brown years. Private members who wish to mount such a debate will find ample briefings in back editions of Private Eye.

On another matter which was raised in yesterday's questions on the prime ministerial statement, Labour's Chris Bryant was wrong when he asked:
can we just stop Russia Today broadcasting its propaganda in this country?

while  Conservative Crispin Blunt was surely right:
while I support all the measures the Prime Minister will take against the Government of Russia if the situation turns out to be as we all anticipate, will she try, as far as is possible, to ensure that British society, in its widest sense, can continue to be open with the people of Russia so that the virus of truth and openness can do its work on that regime?

It is surely better to increase the exposure of the Russian people to an objective view of world affairs rather than censor any broadcaster here. There may be a case for looking at Russia Today's access to the parliamentary estate, however.

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