Jeremy Corbyn is right about Russia

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Friday 16 March 2018 17:24 GMT
Salisbury attack: Timeline of events

Can it please be pointed out to the media, the Tories, and New Labour backbenchers that the Labour leader didn’t say Moscow wasn’t responsible for the poisoning in Salisbury? Like the French president, he thought it reasonable that allegations might be backed by a modicum of proof.

Here, Corbyn is acting like a statesman, so it is puzzling why New Labour backbenchers are so determined to display their preference for May’s “back to the cold war appeal” over his more statesmanlike approach. Especially when by now they should have learned a lesson or three, about the right wing attitude of no proof needed, the bugle has sounded, tin hats on and let’s salute the flagpole. Haven’t they got enough blood on their hands?

The media’s abuse and sarcasm regarding Corbyn can create a spectacle, but it can’t hide the reality that our Government did not offer concrete proof or send samples of the nerve agent to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons or even Moscow before May and her parliamentary supporters declared Russia guilty. What or who is it they are trying to hide?

Julie Partridge
London SE15

Though (yet again) his presentation skills could have been sharper, Jeremy Corbyn was right to introduce a note of caution in Parliament in his response to Theresa May’s Thatcher-like invective over the recent nerve agent incident in Salisbury.

True, Vladimir Putin – the accused – is hardly a paragon of democratic virtue. But both he and the Russian government deserve the benefit of the same democratic principle that Britain is usually so keen to rub in the faces of demagogues everywhere, namely the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. And while the circumstantial evidence in this instance could be viewed as damning, circumstantial is all it is.

Equally concerning is the alarming diversity of conflicting “expert” opinion in the news media over what may or may not be going on. For example, residents of Salisbury are assured that there is only a negligible risk of collateral poisoning, while all around them response teams shift from one location to another dressed in what appear to be space suits.

The novichok nerve agent allegedly involved would, we are told, be virtually impossible to obtain illegally, even if stockpiles still existed. At the same time we learn that novochok was specifically designed to be easy to transport and conceal.

Since the mid-1990s, security lapses at underfunded Russian nuclear facilities have led to a number of instances of enriched uranium and plutonium being offered on the international black market. Leaving aside Russian claims that its stockpiles of the nerve agent were destroyed long ago, who is to say that similar factors might not have enabled the “easily transportable” novichok to make a similar transition?

Perhaps most troubling of all, how come the only nerve agent incident to ever occur on British soil took place within spitting distance of Porton Down, site of the UK’s vast and highly secretive biological and chemical weapons establishment? A coincidence too far? Only time will tell.

Rob Prince
London SE13

We need to look to facts before accusing the Russian government

Thank goodness for Mary Dejevsky. Amidst all the Cold War hysteria here is the voice of sense and rationality. Dejevsky’s article asks all the right questions and pinpoints the dangers of leaping to conclusions on the basis of innuendos and half-truths. Please let’s have more of her expert opinion and less of the rhetoric of Boris Johnson in the attempt to understand what is actually going on in relations between Russia and the west.

Penelope Murray

I heartily applaud Mary Dejevsky’s piece on the UK Government’s response to the Sergei Skripal poisoning.

Vladimir Putin may bear the ultimate responsibility for the Salisbury poisoning. Or he may not – the case is unproven, and likely to remain so.

Theresa May could have said to him that, although there are apparent grounds for suspicion, there is no alternative to accepting his denial, not least because he is not stupid, and it would have been an extraordinarily stupid thing for him to do; it would have branded him as petty, vengeful and indifferent to the relations between his country and the rest of the world. Why would the respected leader of a great nation do such a thing?

She could have said that. But instead she climbed onto her high horse and without hard evidence tried to punish Russia for an unproven crime. Even if he were innocent, Putin is probably not at all unhappy to be so accused, because he is now able to claim to be the injured party in a dispute with the wicked West. May has bestowed upon him the moral high ground – a high price to pay for the expulsion of a few spies. And she has amply demonstrated the inability of her Government to deal competently with international relations.

Susan Alexander
South Gloucestershire

Regarding the possible involvement of Russia in the poisoning of the double agent, it is worth remembering the words of Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister: “First rule in politics: never believe anything until it’s officially denied”.

Dennis Fitzgerald
Melbourne, Australia

Will homeless people pay the council in sleeping bags and hats?

Like most fair-minded and tolerant people, I strongly condemn the proposals by Poole council to fine homeless people for “begging”.

Leaving aside the other issues also banned, one only has to think logically to see that such a bylaw is stupid as well as heartless. If an enforcer gives a homeless person a “ticket”, let us say, then first of all they probably have little or no money!

Then even if they do have £100, they may just refuse to pay.

Will the “law and order “ zealots at said council then send along the bailiffs to confiscate goods up to the amount of the unpaid fine? An old sleeping bag, old newspapers and maybe a woolly hat. Is this really what society is being reduced to?

Demonising the homeless and wasting tax payers’ money is hardly virtuous!

Robert Boston

There is no solution to the Irish border question

The latest report by a Commons committee has yet again highlighted the enormity of the challenge in addressing the “Irish Question”; that there be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic on Brexit.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee examined whether it is possible to leave the single market and customs union without creating a hard Irish border. In its report it concluded that there are no technical solutions to monitor goods and people without physical infrastructure. Indeed, it had been unable to find border solutions anywhere in the world which avoid physical infrastructure.

This reinforces the view of the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who has repeatedly stated that a UK decision to leave the single market and customs union makes Irish border checks “unavoidable”. This is despite the fact that the UK Government has always insisted there will be no infrastructure at the border.

In addition, the Committee report reinforces widespread concerns about the lack of progress to find a workable solution to the Irish border. With time running out for the UK Government in the Brexit negotiations, the ball is firmly in its court to provide the technical clarity needed to explain how the current frictionless border will continue.

One suspects that, despite its ongoing protestations, this is an issue that the UK Government simply has no credible solution to.

Alex Orr

One pence, two pence…

Can we please keep the coppers and rid ourselves of that nasty little fivepenny bit?

Barbara Phillips

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