Just hours after Theresa May announced sanctions against Russia following the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last week, Labour MPs have tabled a motion in Parliament backing the Government, opposing the line taken by Jeremy Corbyn.
Early Day Motions, which have no chance of being debated and are purely symbolic, is being organised by John Woodcock, chair of the Labour Backbench Defence Committee and arch-hawk on military and defence issues. Many of the others are from the right of the party, associated with the Progress faction.
Responding to May at lunchtime, Corbyn called for the maintaining of “robust dialogue” with Russia despite the high-level bilateral contact being suspended. He also criticised the savage cuts which the Conservatives have carried out to the diplomatic service, with the Foreign Office cut by 25% since 2010.
The exchanges were tense as Corbyn raised questions of the Prime Minister, including what steps were being taken to provide Russia with a sample of the nerve agent for their own analysis and if any analysis has been carried out to try and ascertain where the nerve agent was produced.
The MPs behind the EDM, many of whom are longstanding critics of the Corbyn leadership and led the coup in summer 2016, are falling in behind the Government line. This comes just hours after the French Government announced they want to see definitive evidence and proof of Russian involvement before taking action.
As a member of the Privy Council, Jeremy Corbyn will have had access to intelligence that Labour backbenchers haven’t. There are rumours that some frontbenchers may be willing to go as far as to resign in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories.