Boris Johnson has been urged to withdraw a false claim about Keir Starmer’s response to Russia.
The Prime Minister is under mounting pressure to get a grip on Russian attempts to interfere in UK democracy.
It follows the publication of the long-awaited Russia report, which slammed the government for not having their “eye on the ball” with regard to Moscow.
And it called for an intelligence-led investigation and report into attempts to meddle in the Brexit referendum.
But in a bid to deflect questions about the damning report, Mr Johnson lashed out at the Labour leader.
During a fiery Prime Minister’s Questions exchange, Mr Johnson accused Mr Starmer of having “sat on his hands” and doing “nothing while the Labour Party parroted the line of the Kremlin” in the wake of the Salisbury poisonings.
This is untrue. In fact, Mr Starmer strongly condemned the attack.
In an appearance on the BBC’s Question Time on 15 March 2018 – just 10 days after the attack – Mr Starmer said: “It deserves to be condemned by all of us without reservation. Without reservation.”
At PMQs, Mr Starmer said: “Mr Speaker, I stood up and condemned what happened in Salisbury and the I supported the then-Prime Minister on record.
“I urge the Prime Minister to check the record and withdraw that.”
One Labour MP was heard to shout: “Do your homework, Boris.”
The PM had been asked why he sat on the report, which describes the threat from Russia as “immediate and urgent”, for 10 months after it was handed to him for sign-off in October.
Mr Starmer said: “The report was very clear that until recently the Government has badly underestimated the Russian threat and the response that’s required. It’s still playing catchup.”
He went on: “The government’s taken its eye off the ball. Arguably it wasn’t even on the pitch.”
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw went on to accuse the PM of “blocking” the report and “trying to fix the committee”.
He told the House of Commons: “This PM has knowingly and repeatedly put his own personal and party interests before the national security of our country.”
Yet the PM replied by boasting there was “no smoking gun” in the report to help Remainers and “they should simply move on.”
On the claim he put his own interests before national security, Mr Johnson said: “That’s a pretty lamentable way of looking at it.”
Later Mr Johnson tried to attack the Labour leader as having “flip flopped” on allowing Labour MPs to appear on Russia Today and on Brexit.
“The leader of the opposition,” he said, “has more flip flops than Bournemouth beach.”
Mr Starmer shot back: “Pre-prepared gags on flip flops. This is the former columnist who wrote two versions of every article he ever published.”
He added: “In case he hasn’t noticed, the Labour Party is under new management.
“No frontbencher from this party has appeared on Russia Today since I have been leader of this party.”
he Intelligence and Security Committee make crushing assessment of Moscow’s attempts to meddle with the UK’s political system, influence decision makers and seek kompromat to damage their opponents.
The heavily-redacted report noted that there had been widespread allegations that Russia sought to influence voters in the 2016 Brexit referendum – and that the government and intelligence agencies had failed to fully look
And the committee said the Government was “slow to recognise the existence of the threat” of Russian meddling and influence.