Jeremy Corbyn says the UK shouldn’t ‘rush way ahead of the evidence’ over the Salisbury nerve agent attack

Britain's opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

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Britain’s opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
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Thomson Reuters

  • Jeremy Corbyn says Britain shouldn’t “rush way ahead of the evidence over the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
  • The Labour leader wrote in a column that Russia was likely responsible, but that it could have also been “mafia-like groups.”
  • Corbyn has come under criticism from his own MPs over his response to the incident.

Jeremy Corbyn has urged caution over the Salisbury nerve agent attack, arguing that the people shouldn’t “rush way ahead of the evidence” and that mistakes have been made before, like the “flawed intelligence” that led to the Iraq War.

Britain, France, Germany, and the USA issued a joint statement on Thursday accusing Russia of being behind the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in England. Corbyn has said Russia is likely to blame. But he has also been more reticent in his approach than much of the British political establishment – with many Labour backbench MPs openly distancing themselves from him to support Theresa May’s response.

Writing in The Guardian on Thursday, Corbyn refused to shift his position in the face of this criticism. “To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security,” he said.

“Either this was a crime authored by the Russian state; or that state has allowed these deadly toxins to slip out of the control it has an obligation to exercise. If the latter, a connection to Russian mafia-like groups that have been allowed to gain a toehold in Britain cannot be excluded.”

He also pointed to the Iraq War, a comparison previously made by his spokesperson and denounced by some Labour MPs: “In my years in parliament I have seen clear thinking in an international crisis overwhelmed by emotion and hasty judgments too many times. Flawed intelligence and dodgy dossiers led to the calamity of the Iraq invasion. There was overwhelming bipartisan support for attacking Libya, but it proved to be wrong.”

A poll published by Sky prior to Corbyn’s column found that 57% of Britons surveyed thought Corbyn was doing a bad job dealing with Russia, while only 18% thought he was doing well. 69% said they would rather have May dealing with Russia, while 31% said Corbyn.