Boris backs off his Russia-bashing rhetoric when it comes to discussing Tory Party donors
15 Nov, 2019
British PM Boris Johnson has voiced some harsh views on Russia and its leadership in recent years but during a radio phone-in, he tried to mend fences when questions arose about Russian donations to the Tory Party.
Boris Johnson has some history upsetting the Russian people. In the last year alone, he has likened Putin to Hitler, decried “the anvil of communism,” and accused the Kremlin of deploying a lethal nerve agent in the UK.
But when it comes to wealthy Russians making donations to his beloved Conservative Party, that’s a different story. Then it’s a case of ‘Let’s not rush to judge people just because they come from a country with which we have had our differences.’
And so to this morning’s BBC radio phone-in with the prime minister.
When quizzed about donations from Russian oligarchs, his knowledge of their identities, their number or even the amounts they donated was non-existent, simply claiming that all donations were properly vetted and properly publicized. He said that any donations offered to his and other parties from people who were not considered “fit and proper” would be rejected.
When pushed about whether donations from Russia were evidence of that country meddling in UK politics, he countered: “There is no evidence for that.”
The PM went further to defend his position, saying: “You have to be very careful before you simply cast aspersions on everybody who comes from a certain country just because of their nationality.
“It is very important that we show balance and fairness.”
Wise words, you might say. Balance and fairness.
So maybe it is worth looking at his own remarks through that lens of balance and fairness.
In September, while paying tribute to Poland, he commented: “As Poles defended their country against the Nazi onslaught, Soviet forces attacked them from the east, trapping Poland between the hammer of fascism and the anvil of communism.”
Meanwhile, last year when he was foreign secretary, Boris accused President Vladimir Putin of directing the use of a nerve agent “on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War.”
This came after he agreed with remarks from a fellow MP that the World Cup would be used the same way that Hitler used the Nazi Olympics, saying: “I think that your characterization of what is going to happen in Moscow, the World Cup, in all the venues – yes, I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right.”
These remarks drew fire, understandably, from the Russian ambassador and Moscow officials.
But when foreign nationals who happen to come from such an apparently malign power wish to donate money to the Conservative Party that he leads, well then, it is a completely different matter. There are no insults, no references to history viewed from a single perspective, and no name-calling.
As he tends to do when facing an interrogator asking awkward questions, Boris ummed and aahed, deflected, flattered and basically rode out questions on Russian donations to his party because he doesn’t want to upset those people who contribute to party finances, whether they be Russian, American, Saudi or otherwise.
Wealthy donors from Russia are friends of his party and he’ll defend them, their homeland and their right to give him money to the very end.
When it suits him.
By Damian Wilson, UK journalist & political communications specialist