“We actually have evidence, within the last ten years, that not only has Russia been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok itself.”
The Foreign Secretary @BorisJohnson has suggested England’s World Cup participation could be affected if Russia was found to be involved in the poisoning of a double agent in Salisbury pic.twitter.com/4OyW4AOdwy
Various news outlets have reported that Boris threatened to pull England out of the World Cup during the Urgent Question on the spy poisoning today. If you look at what he actually said, he mentioned nothing about the England team and was clearly referring to “UK representation”. I.e. officials and diplomats from the UK government, not the England team:
“If things turn out to be as many members suspect that they are, I think we will have to have a serious conversation about our engagement with Russia, and for my own part I think it will be very difficult to see, thinking ahead to the World Cup this summer, I think it will be very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way.”
Yet another example of certain media organisations hostile to Boris using a very serious story to make a cheap shot at the Foreign Secretary. Whether or not the government’s commitment to bring Russia “to heel” is an empty threat is surely a more pressing question…
Boris Johnson was just spotted using what appeared to be some unparliamentary language in #PMQs in response to Jeremy Corbyn suggesting the Foreign Secretary briefed the media that the Working Time Directive would be scrapped after Brexit pic.twitter.com/kyuNwJXU0d
Boris gives a speech reaching out to Remainers. How do some Remainers respond? With a torrent of personal abuse and conspiracy theories, refusing to engage with anything in the speech having already made up their minds beforehand, and calling him “mendacious” and “evil”, among other pleasantries:
Ludicrous situation at @BorisJohnson speech today when the Foreign Sec called @Channel4News Europe Editor @mattfrei to ask a question only for the @Policy_Exchange to veto in favour of throw away question on giving up cake for lent. Just what are they scared of?
“Brexit need not be nationalist but can be internationalist; not an economic threat but a considerable opportunity; not unBritish but a manifestation of this country’s historic national genius,” says @BorisJohnsonpic.twitter.com/xydWBvFbr4
“Brexit need not be nationalist but can be internationalist, not an economic threat but a considerable opportunity, not un-British but a manifestation of this country’s historic national genius.”
A Cabinet minister actually gives an optimistic vision of the opportunities of Brexit, rather than glumly talking about how to make the best of it. Why hasn’t this been the message from the government over the last 19 months?
On Monday Guido reported on anti-press freedom cranks Stop Funding Hate targeting much-loved children’s charity the NSPCC in their hellbent crusade to stamp out free discussion and debate in Britain’s media. The mask slipped and the true nature of the group was revealed…
In this morning’s Sun Boris takes apart Stop Funding Hate’s anti-freedom campaign, lambasting “cowardly” Paperchase and Pizza Hut for capitulating to a few hundred Twitter trolls:
“A small but dedicated group of left-wing activists has launched a campaign to undermine the financial base of some newspapers whose views they dislike. They have attacked the advertisers who help to fund those newspapers, and who make it possible for reporters to bring new facts into the public domain. The tactic of this campaign – misleadingly called “Stop Funding Hate” – is to urge a boycott of all companies who place advertisements in the Sun, the Daily Mail or the Daily Express. This week they even attacked the NSPCC – a much loved national charity – for the sin of running a promotion in the Sunday Express. It is deeply disturbing to learn that this campaign is beginning to have an effect. Last year Lego dropped all advertising in the Daily Mail, and actually apologised to its customers. In recent weeks Paperchase and Pizza Hut have followed suit. I believe that these decisions are sad and mistaken and indeed cowardly.
“It is not as if this internet campaign commands overwhelming public support. Despite all the noise and virulence of their campaign, there are said to be fewer than a thousand people who are actively involved. And these companies should realise that they are bowing to a ruse – the attack on advertisers – that comes straight from some of the worst authoritarian regimes in the world. As for those who are mounting the campaigns, they do not seem to appreciate the irony of what they are doing. They may not like the editorial line of these publications, or the way in which they cover certain issues. But this country has the world’s strongest laws against libel and defamation. We have highly progressive legislation against hate speech and the whipping up of prejudice of any kind. By attempting to drive some newspapers underground they risk fomenting a further sense of alienation in the public – and pushing some into the arms of extremists. They are not sticking up for liberal values. They are not sticking up for freedom. They are attacking the freedom which is the foundation of our democracy. They should remember the great French sage Voltaire, who summed up the approach that has served Britain well for generations. “I may not agree with what you say. But I defend to the death your right to say it.”
Chuka Umunna has emailed supporters this morning claiming “Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said that the Government wouldn’t pay a penny in a divorce settlement – Europe could go and whistle, he said”. This is a lie that keeps being repeated by hardline Remainers.
This is what Boris said, from Hansard: “the sums that I have seen that they propose to demand from this country seem to me to be extortionate, and I think that to “go whistle” is an entirely appropriate expression”. Very clearly he says the EU can “go whistle” for “extortionate” … “sums that I have seen that they propose” (which were the reports of €100 billion at the time). All along Boris has said Britain will pay what it owes. In August he said: “Of course we will meet our obligations. We are law-abiding, bill-paying people. We certainly have to meet our obligations”. Chuka’s claim that Boris said we “wouldn’t pay a penny” is a straight lie…
The Mail on Sunday and the Observer’sCarole Cadwalladr seem to believe Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and the Legatum Institute conspired with Putin and the Russian state to deliver Brexit. There are more than a few problems with this theory, though Guido is going to focus on the most obvious: Boris, Gove and Legatum are all staunch critics of Putin and Russia. Anyone who listens to these Gove comments from 2015, in which he rails against Putin and Russian money “subverting” the West, can be in no doubt as to his view.
“You see the influence of Russian agency and Russian money. We should not underestimate the extent to which Putin and those behind him are seeking to throw off balance and to subvert everything that we’re doing… His aim is to divide, to destabilise, and if not necessarily to conquer, at least to consolidate and advance. And inside Russia the widespread view of the Russian people is that Putin is right and the West is seeking to keep Russia down and to divide and to weaken. And for that reason we need to be sensitive to where Russian public opinion is but also vigilant about the threat. Now what does that mean we need to do in terms of our security and defence profile? The answer to that is several steps above my pay grade. But I don’t believe that any of us for a moment should be naive about what Putin is interested in or fall for some of the interpretations we might get on Russia Today or elsewhere about what his real intentions are.”
Boris meanwhile is on the record condemning Putin as a “ruthless and manipulative tyrant” who has been “illegally occupying parts of Ukraine”, adding “Putin’s proxy army was almost certainly guilty of killing the passengers on the Malaysia Airlines jet that came down in eastern Ukraine” and “he has questions to answer about the death of Alexander Litvinenko”.
As for the Legatum Institute, the focus of the latest Remainer conspiracies, as Mark Wallace notes they have a long record of opposing Putin and employed Anne Applebaum, one of the leading anti-Putin voices around. Legatum was even condemned by Russia Today for anti-Kremlin bias. Which kind of ruins the story.
Perhaps all this was an elaborate double bluff. Or it could be, as the FT’s ultra-Remainer editor Lionel Barber concludes, “a stretch”…
UPDATE: Eurosceptic source: “The idea of Gove and Boris as agents of Putin is about as believable as Geordie Greig’s claim to be an impartial editor offering a clear eyed view of Brexit.”