Jeremy Corbyn rejects John McDonnell suggestion Labour should boycott Russia Today
Jeremy Corbyn has ruled out a boycott of Kremlin-backed TV channel Russia Today – just hours after his right hand man John McDonnell backed the move.
by Emilio Casalicchio
11th March 2018
A Labour spokesman said the approach to the broadcaster would be “kept under review” after Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal was attacked with a nerve agent.
Fingers have been pointed at Moscow in the wake of the attack – but Russia Today has rejected the claims and peddled a suggestion Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia took a self-inflicted drug overdose.
Mr Corbyn is among a number of Labour MPs who have regularly appeared on Russia Today. Shadow Treasury Secretary Peter Dowd appeared on the broadcaster just yesterday.
But Shadow Chancellor Mr McDonnell said today he would no longer appear on the channel and urged his colleagues to do the same.
Asked if the leader’s office would support a boycott, a spokesman told PoliticsHome: “As John said, we are keeping the issue under review.”
But a source close to Mr Corbyn said the party would not engage in a boycott and suggested Ofcom should be left to regulate the broadcasters.
Mr McDonnell had told the Andrew Marr show: “I have been looking overnight at what’s happening in terms of changes in coverage on Russian television in particular and I think we have to step back now.”
He added: “I can understand why people have up until now because we have treated it like any other television station…
“We try to be fair and as long as they abide by journalistic standards which are objective, fine.
“But it looks as though they have gone beyond that line. So, we’ll be having that discussion.”
The move is embarrassing for Mr Corbyn, who in 2011 told a Twitter user: “Try Russia Today. Free of Royal Wedding and more objective on Libya than most.”
@andrewsberry68 Try Russia Today. Free of Royal Wedding and more objective on Libya than most
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) April 26, 2011
Mr Skripal and Yulia remain in hospital after being subject to the chemical attack in Salisbury last weekend.
Theresa May has said if the Russian state is implicated in the incident the UK will take the “necessary action” in response.