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Jeremy Corbyn condemned over ‘dialogue with Russia’ comments

The Labour leader faced shouts of ‘shame’ and ‘disgrace’ from Conservative MPs.

Jeremy Corbyn’s policy to seek “robust dialogue” with Russia will encourage Vladimir Putin to “engage in further acts of state sponsored terror”, MPs have heard.

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) made the claim after the Labour leader was heckled and criticised for his response to the Prime Minister’s statement on the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

Mr Corbyn said: “We need to continue seeking a robust dialogue with Russia on all the issues dividing our countries, both domestic and international – rather than simply cutting off contact and simply letting tensions and divisions get worse, and potentially even more dangerous.”

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson (Liam McBurney/PA)

He faced shouts of “shame” and “disgrace” from Conservative MPs as he told the Commons: “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.”

Mr Wilson later said there needed to be “robust action” against those using the UK as a battleground.

He asked: “Does the Prime Minister agree that in the face of yet further aggression from the Russian Mafia state, that the policy of the leader of the opposition to engage in robust dialogue will only encourage Putin to engage in further acts of state sponsored terror.”

Mrs May said she agreed “we need to ensure we do in fact respond robustly to this matter”.

But she added: “We need to do so with careful consideration of the assessments that have been made and the information that is available to us and that is exactly what the Government is doing.

“But I think nobody in this House should be in any doubt that there can be no suggestion of business as usual in relation to our interaction with Russia.”

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, said: “This, if not an act of war, was certainly a warlike act by the Russian Federation and this is not the first we’ve seen.

“And while some in this House have stayed silent and decided to join the information warfare that that state is conducting against us and our allies, we have seen them invade countries in the East, attack allies, attempt to kill prime ministers and even now they are backing the murderous Assad regime which … nothing in gassing its own people.

“And (Mr Corbyn) stays silent.”

Conservative MP Johnny Mercer (Plymouth Moor View) said: “I think I’ve just seen – and I look at my honourable friend opposite as I say this – the most shameful moment in this House of Commons in my time to date.

“It’s clear this sovereign United Kingdom has come under attack from another state.”

Labour former minister Chris Leslie also told MPs: “There are certain circumstances, as (Mrs May) knows, that we take party political differences of opinion.

“But when our country is potentially under attack, that is just not appropriate.”

Mrs May, in her reply, said of matters involving what another state may have done on British soil: “That should be a matter that would concern all of us and should be above party politics.”

Fellow Labour MP John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) drew cheers from the Tory benches after praising Mrs May’s response.

He said: “The level of resilience voiced by the Prime Minister in the chamber today has been many years in coming but it is hugely welcome.

“Indeed it would put our national security at significant risk if we were led by anyone who did not understand the gravity of the threat which Russia poses to this nation.”

Mrs May responded: “Can I thank him for the comments that he has made. He is absolutely right it is imperative in this country we recognise the nature of the threat and the nature of the actions that Russia has taken.”

Reflecting the anger heard on the Commons benches, several Conservative MPs took to social media to criticise the Labour leader’s response to the Prime Minister’s statement.

International Trade Minister Greg Hands tweeted: “Not a single word of condemnation for Russia from Corbyn on the Salisbury attack in the Commons now, instead calling for “dialogue”. Instead questions Tory donations. Shouts of “Are you saying this for a clip on Russia Today?”

Anna Soubry claimed: “MPs on both sides of the House appalled by #Corbyn badly judged comments. He consistently not so much fails to rise to important Parliamentary occasions he invariably sinks to the bottom of the political pond.”

And Johnny Mercer tweeted: “I think I’ve just seen my most shameful moment thus far in the House of Commons.”

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