Sir Vince Cable has accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of “peddling” the same line as the Russian government regarding the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
The Liberal Democrats leader said that Corbyn had “completely misjudged” his response and that, together with the Scottish Nationalists and Welsh Nationalists, his party were in full support of the government on this particular issue.
Speaking in Manchester today, Sir Vince told MM: “He seems to be fundamentally denying the very powerful circumstantial evidence that this must have been inspired by the Russian government and trying to imply that somehow or other we’re just as guilty.
“What was very striking was the big uprising on the back benches. I never heard quite such aggressive hostility to Corbyn since I got back into Parliament,” added the 74-year-old, who returned to Westminster last year.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced several measures the government will be taking against Russia in response to the incident, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats – the largest expulsion in 30 years.
— Joseph Timan (@josephtiman) March 15, 2018
In her statement yesterday, May accused Russia of responding with “sarcasm, intent and defiance” to a deadline for an explanation as to how the Russian military-grade nerve agent ended up in the UK.
Corbyn called for a “decisive” and “proportionate” response based on “clear evidence” and emphasised the importance of maintaining a “robust dialogue”.
Corbyn also asked the Prime Minister how the government has responded to Russia’s request for a sample of the nerve agent as evidence of the accusation.
When asked whether he had seen any evidence of Russian involvement himself, Sir Vince told MM that he is sure the UK will share the evidence, but he has enough faith in the intelligence services not to doubt it.
“I worked for five years as a senior minister in government dealing with the intelligence agencies and I don’t distrust them,” he said. “I have confidence in them and confidence that they’re telling the truth.”
He added that the government needed to take a tough line quickly because it had taken too long to respond to a similar incident involving Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in November 2006 and died soon after.
“Nothing was done and the Russians took the view that they could get away with anything,” said Sir Vince.
Skripal’s poisoning reveals the extent of Russia’s interference on UK soil. There are legal powers that we could make greater use of. In the Commons, @vincecable asks May why we have not deployed these resources against those close to Putin. pic.twitter.com/kWZStMRdyh
— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) March 14, 2018
However, in response to May’s statement yesterday, Sir Vince called on the Prime Minister to use legal powers against influential members in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration such as, in his words, the First Deputy Prime Minister who owns a £14million flat in London overlooking the Ministry of Defence.
“What I was pushing for was for the government to be tougher on the oligarchs,” Sir Vince told MM.
“We have some very influential people very close to Putin who have major property holdings in Britain.
“The government have the powers where they could take those properties and that’s what they should be doing.”
Image courtesy of Liberal Democrats via Twitter, with thanks.