Canterbury and Whitstable Labour MP Rosie Duffield has accused council leader Simon Cook of trying to “manufacture political division” in the wake of the Russian spy poison case.
Yesterday (Monday) Cllr Cook called on Ms Duffield to support the Conservative government’s position that Russia had “threatened the public safety” of UK citizens after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent.
He added that Canterbury district residents had come to him with concerns about their own security.
“I was quite surprised to hear Simon say that residents have been in contact with him concerned about the possible threat to them from Russia,” Ms Duffield told the Canterbury Journal.
“I have had absolutely no correspondence regarding this from any of my constituents and would ask Simon to share anything he has received so that I might allay those fears, working on a national level.”
Cllr Cook also used a Conservative Party press release to point out that Ms Duffield had been paid to appear on a show for RT (Russia Today), the news channel with strong links to Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.
In response, Ms Duffield said: “I’d suggest that Simon does his research as there have been plenty more appearances on RT by Conservative MPs than by Labour ones.
“This weekend, the chair of the Conservative Party appeared on television defending the frequent very large financial donations received by his party from wealthy Russian donors.
“They pay to play tennis, have dinner and attend receptions with prominent Tory ministers and have given almost £1million to the Conservative party.”
Over the weekend Cllr Cook and Ms Duffield exchanged views on their parties’ positions following the poisoning of the Skripals and police officer Det Sgt Nick Bailey in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on March 4.
Ms Duffield said: “I told Simon I agree wholeheartedly with the Labour Party view that either this was the Russian state or that the state lost control of a dangerous nerve agent.
“The Prime Minister ruled out neither option. Russian authorities must be held to account on the basis of evidence.
“Both major political parties are in agreement on this issue so let’s not try and manufacture a political division when in fact none actually exists.”
Ms Duffield is Canterbury’s first ever Labour MP, defeating Conservative Sir Julian Brazier at the election in June last year.
She added that she would like to see Canterbury City Council concentrate on installing rising bollards to safeguard people and buildings from terror attacks.
“This is a very real danger to a popular tourist city such as Canterbury,” Ms Duffield said.
“I sincerely hope that the council commences this project without any further unexplained delay rather than playing politics by stoking people’s fears.”
Police are investigating the Skripal case as one of attempted murder. The nerve agent used is called Novichok.
In yesterday’s Conservative Party release, Cllr Cook said: “People’s safety is what is important here. Canterbury’s Labour MP has already been forced to apologise after she was called out for accepting money to appear on Russia Today, a channel with close links to the Kremlin.
“Her leader has been luke-warm at best in backing the Government’s efforts to tackle the situation and has been criticised by his own MPs for his stance on the issue.
“We would all welcome our MP’s thoughts on this matter and I look forward to hearing her confirm her support for Mrs May and the Conservative Government in its efforts to keep us all safe.”