I think it’s fair to say I’ve never been the greatest fan of Theresa May as PM. I have often ranted here about her failings as leader of the Conservative Party and of the country. I even dismissed her in the opening page of my last book as “crap”. However, if it came down to a choice between her and Corbyn, I’d still take her. Yesterday was a great example of why that is.
May was giving an update to the House on the investigation into the Salisbury poisoning case. I’ll quote her here, and apologies for such a long quote but it is needed in this instance:
“Mr Speaker, this morning I chaired a meeting of the National Security Council in which we considered the information so far available. As is normal, the Council was updated on the assessment and intelligence picture, as well as the state of the investigation. It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. This is part of a group of nerve agents known as ‘Novichok’.
“Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
“Mr Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4 March. Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others. This afternoon my Rt Hon Friend the Foreign Secretary has summoned the Russian Ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and asked him to explain which of these two possibilities it is – and therefore to account for how this Russian-produced nerve agent could have been deployed in Salisbury against Mr Skripal and his daughter. My Rt Hon Friend has stated to the Ambassador that the Russian Federation must immediately provide full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. And he has requested the Russian Government’s response by the end of tomorrow.”
That’s how a prime minister of Great Britain should respond at a moment in time such as this. I have to hand her that much.
For some time now, perhaps even since the 2017 general election, the country has felt rudderless. Perhaps for that reason, I expected May’s response to this to be lame; full of fudge and infused with the same energy as the Brexit negotiations, i.e. none whatsoever. But I can only credit her here – this is a ballsy and admirable response to what could very well turn out to be an outright state assassination on British soil. And not for the first time either.
Jeremy Corbyn got to respond to this statement, obviously. Many, including several of his own MPs, are now upset at him for trying to score political points by getting in a dig about supposed Russian money flowing into the Tory party, but it was this snippet that got me:
“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.”
This is the Corbyn method: let’s just have a friendly chat with the Russians because Putin is such a reasonable chap. Christ, even John McDonnell felt the need to say that Labour MPs should stop going on Russia Today after the Salisbury incident. But Corbyn is like Trump – for whatever reason, he can never bad mouth or be tough with Vlad.
There are, at the very, very least, 200 MPs currently sitting in the House of Commons that I would rather have as prime minister than Theresa May. Jeremy Corbyn is most definitely not amongst them.