Milne Defended Kremlin After Murder of Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov

Seumas Milne defended the Kremlin in his Guardian column after the assassination of a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin which the deceased man’s colleagues and family said was politically motivated. In Feburary 2015 opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered while walking near the Kremlin with his girlfriend. Yeltsin’s former Deputy Prime Minister was shot six times with a 9mm pistol. A month later Milne wrote:

“The Russian president has, of course, been blamed for the killing, though that makes little sense. Nemtsov was a marginal figure whose role in the “catastroika” of the 1990s scarcely endeared him to ordinary Russians. Responsibility for an outrage that exposed the lack of security in the heart of Moscow and was certain to damage the president hardly seems likely to lie with Putin or his supporters.”

This was not the conclusion of the deceased Nemtsov’s colleagues and family. Nemtsov’s friend and fellow opposition activist Leonid Martynyuk said : “I am certain that the Russian government is behind the murder of Nemtsov.” World chess champion and Putin critic Gary Kasparov told reporters: “Putin must be held responsible for the murder of Boris.” Politico, and other international outlets ran pieces carrying claims that the murder was politically motivated.

Last summer five men were jailed for the murder after a controversial trial. The Nemtsov’s family lawyer told journalists:

“We can’t say we’re satisfied with the verdict. We would be happy if the murder hadn’t happened. But the main thing is neither the organisers nor those who ordered [the killing] have been found.”

Whatever happened, when a critic of Putin was shot feet from the Kremlin, Seumas was there to defend Vlad in the British press…

Question Asked in Commons Chamber

A man has proposed to his bride-to-be in the chamber of the House of Commons. In what may be an historical first civil servant Matthew Reville popped the question to Labour parliamentary aide Rachel Evans on the floor of the House late last Friday (when MPs were not sitting). Matthew tweeted a video showing the proposal with the caption “motion proposed on the floor of the House.” Congratulations to them both…

Parliament Changed Mail Screening Provider Before Suspicious Package Wave

Today saw the fifth suspicious package incident in Parliament in a week. Of course, MPs get letters from cranks and weirdos all the time. This wave of suspicious – thankfully non-harmful – substances leaking from inside mail is causing researchers genuine alarm. As Guido reported on Monday, police are probing any link to an anti-Muslim hate campaign. Guido can reveal another factor which may also be at issue. The gossip among staffers is that Parliament has recently switched to a new contractor to carry out mail screening. The budget for screening used to be shared with the Metropolitan Police until it was taken completely in house in 2015. Researchers say they have noticed a significant uptick in dodgy letters getting through. One said:

“It’s extremely disruptive. The company doing the external screening has got a lot to answer for.”

Further details about the contract are protected for security reasons. Whether MPs are working or evacuated, you’re still paying for it…

Williamson: Russia Should ‘Shut Up and Go Away’

That’s one way of putting it… 

Lights Are On, So Not Long

Greggs are not being too hasty with the pasties. Could it happen tomorrow?

Jezza’s Russian Revisionism After Shadow Cabinet Split

Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith was at odds with her leader over his response to Russia’s suspected poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Griffiths told BBC Radio 4:

“We very much accept that what the prime minister said – this is a very sophisticated nerve agent and Russia is responsible for this attack and therefore we’re fully supporting the measures which the government is taking, including the expulsion of 23 diplomats.”

That’s much tougher than Corbyn’s words in the Commons yesterday. Griffith also said of Seumas: “I cannot speak for Seumas Milne. He has to speak for himself.” Griffith and Team Corbyn have a long history of falling out, particularly over NATO and nukes

Her line and overnight pressure following Milne’s briefing has bounced Corbyn’s office politburo into revising their position. They now say:

“The Government has laid out two alternatives: that Russia is either directly responsible or culpable because it lost control of this nerve agent. Yesterday, we agreed that the evidence overwhelmingly points to those two alternatives. The Russian authorities must be held to account on the basis of the evidence and our response must be both decisive and proportionate.”

Too late, the damage is done…

Jolyon’s Failed Vanity Cases Cost Crowdfunders £350,000

Britain’s most insufferable lawyer Jolyon Maugham is taking a break from Twitter today and going to court in his latest attempt to stop Brexit. Maugham will petition for a judicial review against the Electoral Commission, arguing the regulator failed to investigate Vote Leave-BeLeave campaign donations. The Electoral Commission has already investigated the donations twice…

Speaking of donations, rather than putting his stupendous QC’s income where his mouth is – and, indeed, despite being a lawyer himself – Jolyon is using other people’s cash to fund the legal bid. He’s crowdfunded nearly £50,000. What can his donors expect for their cash?

Not much, if his form is anything to go by. In May 2017, Maugham went to the High Court of Ireland in an attempt to reverse the Brexit vote after Article 50 was triggered. The case was opposed by the Irish government and was struck out by Mr Justice Peter Kelly. More than £70,000 was crowdfunded…

Then, in February 2018, Maugham was involved in a similar case in the Scottish courts. Lord Doherty of the Scottish Court of Session ruled:

“I am mindful that demonstrating a real prospect of success is a low hurdle for an applicant to overcome. However, I am satisfied that that hurdle has not been surmounted. Indeed, in my opinion the application’s prospect of success falls very far short of being a real prospect…” 

A gentle judical admonishing of Jolyon’s grasp on reality. Crowdfunding for this failed case raised over £60,000…

As Guido reported, Maugham also tried to judical review David Davis over the Brexit sector analysis papers. Mr Justice Supperstone rejected permission, finding a simple (and free) FoI request was a suitable alternative. That failed judicial review was also crowdfunded: £59,275. When he loses, do people get their money back? “Any surplus funds will be held for the costs of other litigation”…

Jolyon, a specialist tax barrister, sued Uber to demand a 56p VAT receipt. When Guido says he sued we mean he suckered £107,650 from crowdfunders and cabbies to back this case. Vaingloriously making the claim in his own name he suspended the action when he realised that if he lost the case – a very real possibility given his less than stunning record – Uber would seek to recover their costs from him personally. Unwilling to put his own money where his suckers crowdfunders did, he pathetically said he was looking for an alternative claimant who didn’t have any material assets to take the risk. Not exactly brave leadership…Hapless Jolyon Maugham has therefore spent over a third of a million pounds (£350,000) of other people’s money vainly pursuing his agenda, entirely without success. All he has got for the money is gout. The crowd that backs him can afford to take the pain…

Putin Cackles as Watching Kremlin Activates Agent COB

At the Kremlin Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin settles into his golden throne to watch Prime Minister’s Questions and the accompanying statement. As a jack-booted servant flicks over from Russia Today, Vlad wonders aloud: “Who’s the thin old beardy bloke in the red tie?”

“That’s Jeremy Corbyn”, replies the trembling aide. “Who?” demands Putin, never more than a moment from a nuclear-level rage, or worse, offering to make an adviser’s tea. “You know, Mr President. Codename COB…”

The almond-eyed tyrant purses his lips then raises a smile. An FSB man never forgets a codename.

“Ah, da, da,” he whispers. “Activate Agent COB…”

Continue reading

Seumas Sticks to Line, Refuses to Condemn Russia

Theresa May slammed Jeremy Corbyn for his lack of support over the Russian spy poisoning crisis. The Prime Minister told Jezza:

“There is a consensus across the backbenches of this House. I am only sorry that this consesnsus does not go as far as the Right Honourable Gentleman, who could have taken the opportunity as the UK government has done to condemn the cuplability of the Russian state.”

This will lead all the news bulletins tonight, the press will crucify Corbyn tomorrow, his own Labour MPs have disowned him and sided with the PM.

In this type situation Guido would normally expect the leader of the oppostion’s spin doctor to back pedal in the Lobby briefing huddle that follows, he would “clarify” and nuance the wording. Emphasise the more conventional parts of the argument to soften the inevitably hostile headlines coming tomorrow. When that spin-doctor is Seumas Milne however it seems there was to be no compromising on Putin’s line. Under intense questioning he refused to say that the Labour Party’s leader accepted the Russian state was at fault:

“The government has access to information and intelligence on this matter which others don‘t. However, also there is a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly. So, I think the right approach is to seek the evidence to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibitive chemical weapons.”

When Lobby hacks pressed Milne as to if Corbyn believed Russia was responsible for the attack, Milne said the PM continued to leave open the possibility that Russia had lost control of the nerve agent. Milne prefers to doubt MI6 and give the benefit of the doubt to the FSB….

Bercow to Recuse Himself from Bullying Investigation Commission

Guido is hearing a rumour that Bercow will recuse himself from from chairing the House of Commons Commission investigation into bullying after coming under pressure and being threatened with a Point of Order coming up in the chamber. Presumably the Point of Order would ask him to rule on the righteousness of whether there was a conflict of interest in him being able to set the terms for his own investigation…

UPDATE: “Mr Speaker informed House of Commons Commission members this morning that he has decided to recuse himself from the agenda item concerning an Independent Complaints and Grievance Process. This item will now be taken first, with Tom Brake in the chair.” Tom Brake is a Bercow ally…

Corbyn Takes Putin’s Line

Jeremy Corbyn has taken the line used by the Kremlin when it refused to comply to the UK’s deadline for explaining Sergei Skripal’s poisioning. Corbyn was booed as told the Commons:

“How has she responded to the Russian government’s request for a sample of the agent used in the Sailsibury attack to run its own tests?”

The Russian Embassy in London tweeted:

The Russian Foreign Ministry said: “Without this, any statements by London are senseless.”

Not much of a surprise though, is it…

Chris Williamson Puts Morning Star in PMQs Shot

Chris Williamson is sitting behind Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs with communist paper the Morning Star deliberately left in camera shot on his lap. Presumably it will stay there for Jezza’s response to the Russia statement too…

PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 14 March.

Q2 Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington)

Q3 Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall)

Q4 Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar)

Q5 Bill Esterson (Sefton Central)

Q6 Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South)

Q7 Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)

Q8 Richard Graham (Gloucester)

Q9 Jeremy Quin (Horsham)

Q10 Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire)

Q11 Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

Q12 Leo Docherty (Aldershot)

Q13 Jo Platt (Leigh)

Q14 Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton)

Comments in the comments…

Corbyn: Putin’s Expansion into Ukraine “Not Unprovoked”

Jeremy Corbyn said Vladimir Putin’s illegal incursion into Ukraine which saw the annexation of Crimea was “not unprovoked” and that there were “huge questions” over Western intentions in the country. In a 2014 article for the Morning Star at the height of the Ukraine War Corbyn wrote:

“On Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion. But it is not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied. And there are huge questions around the West’s intentions in Ukraine.”

At the same time Corbyn was making excuses for Putin’s actions his top spinner Seumas Milne was loudly defending the Kremlin. Milne, who has described Putin as “a centrist”, called the annexation of Crimea “clearly defensive”:

“Putin’s absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive, and the red line now drawn: the east of Ukraine, at least, is not going to be swallowed up by Nato or the EU”

Don’t count on Corbyn backing the tough line against the Putin regime likely to be announced later today…

Greggs Westminster Update

On the issue that is of most interest to folks in SW1, Greggs can only tell Guido Forks “there is no official opening date set yet” for their Westminster shop.

Teasing and tantalising like a cheese and beans pasty…

Labour’s Shameless Scaremongering on Free School Meals

The House of Commons last night voted through reforms to Universal Credit (which Labour opposes in principle). As is now normal with a crucial vote, Labour instigated a co-ordinated outrage storm when their statutory instrument failed…

Rayner told the House:

“1 million children growing up in poverty will lose out on free school meals that they would have been entitled to. “

Earlier in his response to the Spring Statement, John McDonnell had claimed:

“Today the Government are even trying to deprive 1 million children of a decent school dinner.”

Awkwardly for Labour, fact checking organisations have probed that one million claim and found it wanting. A Channel 4 investigation found:

“No one who is currently eligible for free school meals under Universal Credit will lose their entitlement. In fact, under Universal Credit, 50,000 more children will receive school meals by 2022 than would have done under the previous benefits system.

This is not a case of the government taking free school meals from a million children who are currently receiving them: it’s about comparing two future, hypothetical scenarios. Both of them are more generous than the old benefits system.”

That didn’t stop ‘get on your knees, b*tch’ Clive Lewis calling Esther McVey:

“Meaner even than the master in Oliver Twist’s workhouse… [she] seeks not just to stop the second helping, but to stop any meal at all.”

This is why people hate politicians, because they are industrial scale liars. Labour again willing to weaponise the anxiety of poor families…

Update: Sally Bercow Insists on “Bollocks to Brexit”

Guido’s co-conspirator gets in touch to say that Sally Bercow has now put a poster in the car windscreen, embellished with an EU flag, claiming it’s her car and she can do anything she wants. The co-conspirator would send an updated picture if there were not policeman stationed around the car…

The Serjeant-at-Arms’ office has been calling all day demanding we remove the picture because – they now claim – it poses a safety risk to the Bercow family. Perhaps in reality it is the personalised number plate that gives the owner away?

UPDATE II:  In the comments Guido is reminded that Sally previously had a car with her own number plate:

So is this car really hers?

OBR Says Brexit Liabilities Only £2.5 Billion Compared to £500 Billion* Cost of Remaining

Chuka and other remainers are gloating that the UK to EU “other liabilities”, mainly pensions, from 2019 to 2064 will accumulate to £2.5 billion. Of course what they don’t say is that if the UK stays in the contribution would hit some £500 billion* over the same 45 years…

*Assuming contribution payments grow at trend inflation.

‘Too Sick to Face Investigation’ Vaz Attends Two Dance Festivals in One Week

‘Too sick to be investigated’ Keith Vaz was spotted at both a Bollywood and a dance festival at different ends of the country in the last week. The MP was a VIP guest at the Polish Folklore festival at De Montfort Hall, Leicester on Sunday. Earlier, he attended a Bollywood festival in London where he was pictured with a famous actor:

“Shatrughan Sinha was honoured in London by Keith Vaz the MP from the British Labour Party. During a Q-and-A session after being honoured Shatrughan Sinha was asked which distinguished Indian he would like to play on screen.”

Guido revealed how last month Vaz was spotted opening a swimming pool, attending council meetings, an APPG and a music gig in Leicester. In December Guido asked what had happened to the Standards Commissioner’s investigation into Keith Vaz, which still hasn’t reported back after nearly a year and a half. The Vaz inquiry remains “suspended for medical reasons”. Becoming embarrassing for the parliamentary authorities…

Phil’s Box Office McDonnell Takedown

Spreadsheet Phil delivers a surprise box office finale to the Spring Statement with his blistering reply to John McDonnell. The Chancellor made the point McDonnell is still refusing to apologise to Esther McVey over his infamous “lynch” comments, and also picked him up over Russia Today.[…] Read the rest


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Jacob Rees-Mogg on the transition:

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