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A RESEARCHER at a shadowy government-funded think tank was behind suggestions that the Kremlin assisted Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the Labour leadership.
The Institute for Statecraft is in the spotlight after it emerged that it received funding from the taxpayer while spreading anti-Labour propaganda.
The organisation is based in a ramshackle old mill in Fife, Scotland, and avowedly sets out to counter Russian disinformation online. Several of its senior figures have military backgrounds.
In response to a parliamentary question, Europe minister Alan Duncan confirmed the Foreign Office handed the Institute £296,500 for its “Integrity Initiative” in 2017/18. This year, the government has channelled a further £1,961,000 to the scheme.
The Integrity Initiative’s official Twitter account promoted an article saying it was “time for the Corbyn left to confront its Putin problem,” the Sunday Mail newspaper revealed yesterday.
The account also re-tweeted a comment accusing Labour strategy and communications chief Seumas Milne of “supporting the Russian slaughter of Afghanistan.” A further social media post linked to an article alleging Mr Milne had worked “with the Kremlin agenda.”
Now the Morning Star can reveal that a researcher at the same organisation was responsible for highly publicised claims that Russian media worked to support Labour leader Mr Corbyn.
Ben Nimmo, a “senior fellow” at the Institute for Statecraft, co-authored an article with Jonathan Eyal of the Royal United Services Institute alleging that TV news channel RT broadcast “systematic bias in favour of Corbyn” when he first stood for the Labour leadership.
The article went on to say the motivation for this was “most likely to be executing the interests of the government which funds it.”
Mr Nimmo was also quoted in the Sun newspaper saying Russia was “supporting Corbyn against his opponents both in the Labour Party and outside it.”
The newspaper used this to support its assertion that “a twisted Russian cyber campaign which has backed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is aiming to sow division across the UK.”
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said: “It is one of the cardinal rules of British public life that official resources should not be used for party political purposes.
“Why did the Foreign Office allow public money to be spent on attempting to discredit Her Majesty’s Opposition? Did they know this was happening? If not, why not? And if they did, how on earth can they justify it?”
Labour MSP Neil Findlay told the Sunday Mail: “Such clear political attacks and propaganda shouldn’t be coming from any charity.”
The Institute for Statecraft was also quoted in a Herald article hitting back at criticism of the Scottish Parliament for inviting Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Andriy Parubiy, the founder of a neonazi party, to Holyrood.
“Putin’s authoritarian, militaristic, nationalistic regime is far closer to fascism,” a spokesman was quoted as saying. “The history of Ukrainian nationalism is more complex than ‘they collaborated with the nazis’.”
Integrity Initiative spokesman Stephen Dalziel told the Sunday Mail criticism of politicians “shouldn’t be on” the programme’s Twitter account.
Conrad Landin is Morning Star Scotland editor.
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