Did a UK state-funded body target Jeremy Corbyn?
Foreign Office to investigate if Fife-based firm promoted anti-Labour tweets
The Foreign Office has ordered an investigation into whether a government funded Scottish-based company responsible for countering online Russian propaganda also spread unfavourable views about Jeremy Corbyn.
Documents leaked to the Sunday Mail, appear to reveal how the Institute for Statecraft tried to promote tweets calling the Labour leader a “useful idiot” who helped the Kremlin cause, and attacked members of his staff.
“On the surface, the cryptically named Institute for Statecraft is a small charity operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife,” says the Daily Record, “but explosive leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail reveal the organisation’s Integrity Initiative is funded with £2 million of Foreign Office cash and run by military intelligence specialists”.
According to The Guardian, “the body’s programme is supposed to counter Russian disinformation by using 'clusters' of journalists and others throughout Europe”, but its official Twitter feed has also re-tweeted anti-Corbyn messages that seemed to link the Labour leader with the Kremlin.
In reference to Corbyn, one of these read: “His open visceral anti-westernism helped the Kremlin cause, as surely as if he had been secretly peddling Westminster tittle-tattle for money.” Another targeting Corbyn’s chief aide, Seumas Milne, said: “Milne is not a spy – that would be beneath him. But what he has done, wittingly or unwittingly, is work with the Kremlin agenda.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said he had learned about the allegations at the weekend and ordered an immediate investigation.
“I don’t know the facts but if there is any kind of organisation for which we are paying which is involved in domestic politics in that way, I would totally condemn it,” he said.
Nevertheless, politicians and academics have reacted with fury to news a covert government-funded unit has been attacking Her Majesty’s official Opposition.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “It would appear that we have a charity registered in Scotland and overseen by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that is funded by the UK Government and is spewing out political attacks on UK politicians, the Labour Party and the Labour movement.”
“Such clear political attacks and propaganda shouldn’t be coming from any charity. We need to know why the Foreign Office have been funding it,” he added.