Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for state-backed broadcaster Russia Today (RT) to have its TV licence reviewed on the back of fresh warnings about Kremlin interference in the UK.
Starmer called on Boris Johnson at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) to “stop the spread of Kremlin-backed disinformation”, adding that the UK’s High Court had found “Russia Today broadcasts pose actual and potential harm”.
It comes as Westminster’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) released a long-awaited report yesterday, claiming that Russian interference in UK politics has become “the new normal”.
The report said that Russian actors, close to the Kremlin, had used London a as a place to launder “illicit funding”, while also highlighting the use of Russian state-backed news outlets – like RT and Sputnik – in spreading disinformation.
Starmer said at PMQs that it was “time to look again at the licensing for Russia Today to operate in the UK”.
Johnson did not give a direct answer to Starmer’s challenge, but instead highlighted that former opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn used to regularly appear on RT before he was elected as Labour leader.
“This would come with more credibility from the leader of the opposition had he called out the former leader of the opposition [Corbyn] when he took money for appearing on Russia Today,” he said.
“He protested neither against the former leader of the opposition’s stance on [the] Salisbury [nerve posioning attack], nor against his willingness to take money from Russia Today, he flip flops from day-to-day.”
Starmer hit back with a rebuke of Johnson and an implied shot at Corbyn.
On Johnson’s comments that he flip flops, Starmer said: “This is the former columnist who wrote two versions of every article he published.”
He added: “In case the Prime Minister hasn’t noticed, the Labour party is under new management and no frontbencher of this party has appeared on Russia Today since I’ve been leading this party.”