I spoke in Parliament about Labour’s call for sanctions on Lord Evgeny Lebedev. 

It’s important to make the point that the vast majority of Russians are decent people, and not everyone is linked to Putin, in the same way that, fortunately, not everyone in the UK is linked to our corrupt Tory Government. 

Labour is not calling for Lord Lebedev to be stripped of his peerage because of his Russian citizenship, but because of his links to the Kremlin. 

It is well known that Lebedev’s father was a member of the KGB, a fact which in the post cold-war era we may have been able to place in the rear view mirror previously, but when the current President of Russia is also a former KGB agent who continues to act as if he is carrying out orders from inside the Lubyanka, who has killed people on British soil in that process, it cannot be right that an associate of Putin is sat in his robes in the opulence of the House of Lords, able to influence our democracy. 

As the proprietor of London’s largest newspaper, The Evening Standard, Lebedev has repeatedly intervened to influence the outcome of elections. On 30th April 2012, just before our now Prime Minister was facing an election to secure a second term, the front page of the Evening Standard screamed: ‘Boris Johnson: The right choice for London’.  On 5th May 2015, just before the General Election, again the front page of the Evening Standard instructed its readers with the following quote: ‘As we prepare to go to the polls in a knife-edge election, the Standard urges its readers to consider what is best for our capital…and support the Tories’. The link is clear, it is present, it is direct. 

In any functioning democracy such levels of propaganda would have been called out. Sadly, here in the UK, the press barons wield enormous influence. You have to question whose strings are they pulling? Are they pulling the Prime Minister’s? There is no real reason for the Prime Minister to be so averse to stripping Lebedev of his peerage because to do so would be biting the hand of the puppet master who feeds him.

This Government’s insatiable greed has blinded them and continues to play fast and loose with our national security. The Prime Minister’s failure to act makes a cesspool of our democracy and highlights cronyism and corruption at the heart of this Government.

It cannot continue.