The Establishment has gone into overdrive over the last few days to cover for Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, since the emergence of video footage showing Johnson claiming the Porton Down chemical weapons facility had been ‘absolutely categorical’ in telling him ‘there is no doubt’ that the source of the Salisbury toxin was Russia – and a bombshell admission by Porton Down’s CEO that they have not identified a source.
The Foreign Office (FCO) has deleted a tweet in which it had also claimed Porton Down had confirmed the Russian origin of the poison – while the BBC was caught, by this blog, obscuring the question Johnson was asked by the Deutsche Welle broadcaster in order to support a claim that his claim had been ‘equivocal’ or about the type, rather than a direct answer about the source of the toxin.
But those may not be the only examples of the Establishment’s attempts to muddy the waters about the FCO’s and its boss’ emphatic – and now disproven – claims.
On 22 March, the UK’s ambassador to Russia, Dr Laurie Bristow, made a speech to brief “the international diplomatic community in Moscow on the UK government’s response to the Salisbury attack”, according to the FCO (archived here).
The FCO helpfully provided a transcript of his speech under the bold claim:
But it wasn’t, quite.
The transcript of the speech omits a small word that completely changes the meaning of the passage from which it has disappeared:
‘[No] doubt that Novichok was produced in Russia‘ – the Russians deny even this is true, but this reads as a general claim that Russia at some point produced the toxin said to have been used in Salisbury.
But video of the ambassador’s speech shows conclusively that this is not ‘exactly as it was delivered’:
There is no doubt that the Novichok was produced in Russia by the Russian state.
This makes the claim specific – that the Novichok used in Salisbury was made in Russia – and by the Russian state.
If this was an attempt by the FCO to fudge an initial claim of absolute certainty, they missed a bit – because further down the transcript we find:
If this was an attempt to whitewash the original claim, it was a bit ‘half-arsed’.
But then, given the government’s and Johnson’s handling of this issue so far, a half-arsed attempt at ‘tidying up’ in the wake of Johnson’s calamitous dishonesty would surprise very few people.
And the missing ‘the’ is far from the only obfuscation in the statement that poor Laurie Bristow was no doubted ordered to deliver from a script – he’s clearly reading it out – to the assembled international officials.
The statement also claims – as has every government mouthpiece from Westminster or the media – that:
Whereas, in fact, the expert organic chemistry professor David Collum of Cornell, one of the world’s leading universities, told the SKWAWKBOX:
Half-arsed cover-up – or an accidental omission in the middle of a ‘dog’s breakfast’ attempt to ‘sex up’ claims to justify action the government wanted to take for whatever political reason?
Neither inspires any confidence in a government that looks morally bankrupt and completely out of its depth.
Not to mention ever more terrified of a Labour leader who has looked statesmanlike, competent and composed in the teeth of fierce opposition and scurrilous attack – and in spite of every Establishment attempt to mock, undermine, ridicule or smear him.
And has been proven on the right side of a thorny issue yet again in his call for caution, respect for international law and evidence-based decisions.
The FCO was asked why the transcript did not reflect the actual speech but did not respond by the deadline for publication.
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