Keir Starmer today moved to distance himself from Jeremy Corbyn as he declared Labour “under new management”.
The Labour leader attempted to show a sharp break from his predecessor as he condemned the government’s response to the Russia report.
Sir Keir called for action against “Kremlin-backed disinformation” and demanded the PM “look again” at licensing for RT, formerly Russia Today – a TV channel on which Mr Corbyn previously appeared.
It comes after long rows between Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and the Tories about the former leader’s stance on foreign policy.
Mr Corbyn prompted anger among his own MPs for calling for more evidence to show Russia was behind the Salisbury attack in 2018.
At the time, his spokesman said “there’s a history in relation to WMD and intelligence which is problematic to put it mildly.”
Boris Johnson tried to seize on that history – making a false claim in the process – when he was confronted over his own government’s inaction at PMQs today.
Labour’s leader highlighted how the Intelligence and Security Committee, which published the Russia report yesterday, warned “Russia poses an immediate and urgent threat to our national security.”
Sir Keir said: “The PM received that report 10 months ago.
“Given the threat is described as immediate and urgent, why on earth did the Prime Minister sit on that report for so long?
“The government’s taken its eye off the ball – arguably, it wasn’t even on the pitch.”
The PM claimed it was Sir Keir who “sat on his hands and said nothing” while Corbyn’s Labour “parroted the line of the Kremlin when people in this country were poisoned at the orders of Vladimir Putin.”
But Sir Keir hit back by pointing out he had indeed condemned the Salisbury attack and supported then-PM Theresa May on the record.
And in pointed comments he said: “Under my leadership, national security will always be the top priority for Labour.”
Labour’s leader 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.”
It comes hours after Labour moved to distance itself from Mr Corbyn’s record on anti-Semitism by paying damages to seven whistleblowers and retracting “defamatory and false allegations” about them
Seven former employees took Labour to the High Court after the party attacked them in the wake of a BBC Panorama documentary.
In an official statement issued during Mr Corbyn’s leadership, Labour claimed they had “personal and political axes to grind” by appearing on the show.
Today, Labour’s barrister Mark Henderson told the court: “The Labour Party acknowledges that these claims about the claimants are untrue, and we retract and withdraw them and undertake not to repeat them.
“The Labour Party is here today to publicly set the record straight and to apologise to the claimants for the distress and embarrassment that it has caused.”
Mr Corbyn hit back by saying: “Labour Party members have a right to accountability and transparency of decisions taken in their name, and an effective commitment from the party to combat antisemitism and racism in all their forms.
“The Party’s decision to apologise today and make substantial payments to former staff who sued the party in relation to last year’s Panorama programme is a political decision, not a legal one.”
He demanded the party address a leaked internal report on “factionalism and obstruction” during the 2017 election campaign.
A Labour spokesman refused to say how much members’ money was spent on legal fees in the case.
Asked if he regretted that members’ money was used he replied: “Of course, because we never wanted to get to this position in the first place.
“But the decision has been taken to settle and the decision has been taken to unreservedly apologise. That was reflected in the statement issued earlier today.”
Asked if it was a “political decision” to settle the case, the spokesman said: “It’s worth remembering that during the leadership contest all three candidates… said they believed the party had not taken the right approach at the time.”