Once again, the righteous of the Pundit Establishment have rained down scorn upon Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, this time after he was deemed to be insufficiently bellicose in response to Theresa May’s wall of outraged flannel against Russia for the poisoning of former - perhaps - spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury a week and a half ago. Jezza, is is agreed, got it wrong. But the crowing may be short-lived.
Let’s first of all consider what happened in the Commons. The PM told the Commons that Skripal had been poisoned with a nerve agent of the Novichok type. Then she declared that the Russians had until later to day to explain themselves. There may be, as a consequence of whatever they do - or, more likely - do not do - all manner of actions available to the UK Government. I mean, how dare they.
Corbyn, for his part, wanted to ensure we kept talking, rather than engaging in any kind of stand-off. He also reminded the Tories that they have, in the recent past, accepted around £820,000 of Russian money, with some MPs enjoying significant enrichment as a result, not least party chairman Brandon “Barrow Boy” Lewis, who has trousered £28,000, Liam Fox (£10,000) and New Conservatism favourite Nigel Adams (£33,000).
It was the combination of wanting dialogue, not condemning the Russian Government strongly enough, and raising the point about all the Russian money the Tories have accepted that got the Pundit Establishment in such a froth. This is, not least, because at times like this, the opposition is supposed to forget such inconveniences and pull together with the Government in a pre-ordained show of patriotic solidarity.
But Jezza, whisper it quietly, was right, just as he was right over Iraq, and right on keeping a dialogue open in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the world. A stand-off will get us nowhere. Nor will any kind of military threat, not that we are in any position to make one.
And he was right on the money question, too. Charlie Falconer - not exactly a screaming leftie - put it plainly: “The law on donations aims to ensure donations come from UK based sources, so politicians and parties don’t become beholden to foreign power. £826,000 has come from Russian sources to Tories. PM should order the Tory party and individual Tory politicians to return it”. Our politicians should not be bought by foreign interests.
Moreover, there was no point jeering at Corbyn, or any other Labour politician, over appearing on Russia Today, as Owen Jones pointed out: “For those yelling ‘but Russia Today!!!’, Tory MPs have received four times as much money from Russia Today as Labour MPs have”. On top of that, there was all that Russian money in the City.
Or has the righteous part of the Pundit Establishment forgotten what happened, or rather, didn’t happen, over Ukraine? “Britain is drawing up plans to ensure that any EU action against Russia over Ukraine will exempt the City of London, according to a secret government document photographed in Downing Street” reported the Guardian in 2014.
One very good reason we won’t be doing anything more than blustering over Sergei Skripal is that our financial sector is heavily dependent on Russian money. So is our Governing party. No wonder Corbyn hit a nerve yesterday afternoon - because he was, once again, right. What you will not read in most papers any time soon.