dancing russians
© AFP / LEON NEAL
Russophobia has reared its head in the UK general election campaign, with 'centrists' & 'liberal-leftists' getting into a right old flap over the delayed release of a report into alleged Russian interference in British politics.

For a long while we were told that Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-war UK Labour leader, and his left-wing Director of Communications Seumas Milne, were 'Kremlin stooges.' Now it seems that the right-wing Tory leader Boris Johnson, his Special Adviser Dom Cummings, and the whole UK government are too. That's how psychedelic Russophobia (November 2019 version) has become. The whole of our establishment is riddled with Kremlin agents! 'Putin controls EVERYTHING.'

The trigger for the latest and most doolally outbreak yet of this virulent and highly contagious mental disease has been the UK government's decision to delay the release of an Intelligence and Security Committee report into alleged Russian interference in British politics until after the December 12 general election.

There can only be one logical reason for this, the Russophobes cry: Johnson and company are in Putin's pockets! Yes, that's right - the very same Boris Johnson who called on people to protest outside the Russian Embassy in London when he was foreign secretary (in breach of all diplomatic protocol), and who supported tough new sanctions on Russia. Who knew that all the time Johnson was taking draconian anti-Russian measures, he was secretly doing Moscow's bidding? What a cunning actor the man is! His Christian name should perhaps have alerted us to where his real allegiances lie. After all, it is very Russian isn't it? Boris, your cover-up is just not Godunov!

When there are sinister conspiracies involving Russians to be peddled, rest assured the monomaniacal duo Bill Browder and Hillary Clinton are never far away. On the BBC Radio 4's programme Today, the former (who was interviewed for the report), claimed that 'the Putin regime,' through 'a number of Russian oligarchs,' was paying members of the British establishment to try and stop the sanctions on Russia that he had been advocating.

Hillary, who was also interviewed on Today (how's that for balance?), said it was "inexplicable and shameful" that the UK government hadn't yet released the report. Given her lack of self-awareness, it probably never occurred to her that in making such a statement she was actually doing the very thing that she accuses Russia of - namely interfering in another country's internal political affairs. At least we should be relieved that this oh-so-principled opponent of foreign interference in other countries hasn't yet done to Britain what she did to Libya. Or Syria.

The UK's government defence that the timescale for the report's publication is perfectly normal given the security aspects has been dismissed out of hand by the know-alls. #ReleasetheReport has become a trendy new Twitter hashtag, the ultimate social media fashion accessory for those who want to show how concerned they are by the 'threat to British democracy' from Russia.

But what is actually in the report?

Alleged leaks from it claim that nine wealthy Russians based in the UK have donated money to the Tories. Proof of a diabolical Kremlin scheme to subvert British democracy? That's certainly what we're expected to think by those pushing the anti-Russian narrative.

But the conflation of wealthy Russians living in the UK and donating to political parties and 'the Kremlin' is erroneous as it ignores the fact that quite a number of those wealthy exiles living in Britain are anti-Putin, which is why they're in the UK in the first place. Monday's newspaper listed five Russian plutocrats who are known to have donated 'large amounts' of money to the Tories. They include Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of the banker and former Russian deputy finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin, who fell out with Putin. Again, it doesn't fit the narrative that wealthy Russians donating to a UK political party equates to Kremlin interference in British democracy. The truth is that the very rich, whatever their ethnic background, have traditionally favoured the Tory party. Saying that very rich Russians are only donating because they are acting on the Kremlin's orders denies them any agency. Donate to the Conservative Party is what very rich people tend to do.

Instead of hyperventilating about the delayed release of the report, those who are genuinely concerned about outside interference in the UK's domestic affairs should be calling for an in-depth, impartial inquiry into ALL foreign money in British politics, wherever it comes from. The bigger picture here is not how British democracy is being subverted by 'Russia,' but by money power and lobbying activities generally.

As for foreign powers trying to influence or interfere in UK domestic politics, it's not that long ago that were watching the Al Jazeera documentary, 'The Lobby,' which revealed how 'Israel penetrates different levels of British democracy.'

Whatever happened to the investigation into that, I wonder? One was never even commissioned, let alone commissioned and delayed, which shows you what humbug the hysteria over the Russia report really is.

Meanwhile, guess who got accused of carrying out a cyber-attack on the UK Labour Party which, don't forget, we have been told for the past four years, has been led by 'Kremlin stooges.' Yes, you've guessed it - Russia. Even though GCHQ sources ruled out a state-actor attack, the usual suspects were still spouting their evidence-free conspiracy theories.

The way things are going, Putin will be accused tomorrow of causing the floods in Yorkshire, and on Friday 'evidence' will no doubt be presented that the Kremlin was behind England's Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa. Brexit? Trump? Boris Johnson? Jeremy Corbyn? Seumas Milne AND Dom Cummings?

In the feverish liberal imagination, them dastardly Russians are to blame for everything.
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66