Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has slammed claims by the Sunday Times paper that Russian bots sought to swing support for Labour during the general election as “farcical” and a “smear campaign” by a Tory-backing newspaper.
Speaking on Monday during an interview to Sky News, the Shadow Chancellor rejected a research by the Sunday broadsheet and Swansea University claiming some 6,500 suspect Twitter accounts spread pro-Corbyn messages during the June 2017 election. He said the allegations are merely another attempt to undermine the Labour party ahead of this week’s local elections in May.
“This is ludicrous. This the thing they accused [former Labour leader] Neil Kinnock of during the general election.
“If I remember rightly, the Russian Embassy was putting out supportive noises towards the Tory party.
“If there’s an issue here about anything on Russian influence within our society, it’s about Russian oligarchs funding the Tory party. Let’s have an inquiry into that,” he told Sky News.
McDonnell then called on MPs to back his Labour party’s anti-laundering legislation due to be debated in the Commons this week, before having a go at what he said was the Sunday Times’ fake news.
“This Sunday Times story – a Conservative-supporting newspaper – [is] farcical. They tried it in ’92 on Neil Kinnock. They’re doing it again just before election this time.
“It’s a classic Sunday Times smear campaign. If they’re really serious about tackling influence of Putin and his allies in our society, get them to support my legislation that we’re promoting which is tackling money laundering and dirty money coming through the city from Russian oligarchs.”
The Sunday Times investigation was widely mocked by Labour supporters on Twitter, who claimed the paper has “taken the hysteria to a whole new level of risible.”#WeAreAllRussianBots kicked off to counter the “absurd smear piece.”
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