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Labour is right to focus on dodgy oligarch property rather than bang the war drums

AS THE government, its spies and their allies in the Establishment press continue with their ludicrous scaremongering and belligerent campaign against Russia, it is good that the Labour Party leadership is focusing on sensible measures rather than join the Tories in the game of “Who can shout the loudest?”

While Theresa May and her cronies are trying to whip up the hysteria about “big bad Vlad” in a transparent attempt to portray Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as somehow soft on “national security” — because he doesn’t want an insane bloody war — his shadow chancellor has been setting out the sort of rules that would curtail foreign meddling in our country’s politics.

John McDonnell is absolutely right to target purchases of property by secretive offshore companies, which has allowed the world’s dodgy super-rich to stuff their ill-gotten cash in Britain.

The snapping up by foreign buyers of posh flats in London, only to leave them empty, is just the tip of the iceberg. And it is right that Labour draws up plans to root out this corruption — not that its only source is people from abroad.

Naturally, this kind of common-sense policy, going after those with suspicious and unexplained wealth, is something that May’s mob has been reluctant to pursue.

Would it perhaps be because the Tories were paid £30,000 for Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson having dinner with the wife of one of Vladimir Putin’s former ministers?

Or perhaps it would be the £160,000 that purchased a tennis match with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson?

In fact, as this newspaper reported last November based on Electoral Commission documents, May “is being propped up by a shady outfit of oligarchs and oil barons … with Russian tycoons leading the pack.”

Of course, oligarchs, oil barons and tycoons of all stripes — not just dodgy Russians — are drawn to the Tory Party, defender and promoter as it is of their class interests.

And it is perhaps this thread that is in need of drawing out. It takes an act of wilful ignorance to transform Corbyn’s cool analysis of the poisoning of two people in Salisbury into an apologia for Putin.

He said that people must let the police get on with a thorough investigation and pursuit of the suspects. This should not be a controversial opinion about such a crime.

Yet nothing less than full-throated, evidence-free denunciations of Putin as murderer-in-chief will do for our Establishment.

Now we have Britain’s spooks feeding stories to their mates in the press about the “real beast from the east” — as the New European’s racist front-page headline read the other week — supposedly plotting to turn off granny’s boiler and empty our bank accounts.

And Johnson suggesting that not only does Putin have a personal hit list but that he has placed his throne atop a decade’s worth of stockpiled chemical weapons.

And Newsnight editing a photograph of Corbyn to mock him up as a Russian leader, complete with appropriate winter headgear, and then bizarrely denying that they’d touched it.

They make a farce out of a situation that demands to be treated with care and consideration.

A serious crime demands a serious police response. Serious financial meddling demands a serious Treasury response. A serious international dispute demands a serious diplomatic response.

But allowing the reaction of May’s war party, now frantically banging the drum, and indulging bellicose MPs’ fantasies of “war with the Russians” provides justice for no-one on any count, instead only making a fraught situation more dangerous.


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