Conservative minister Michael Fallon is being ridiculed online after criticising a quote apparently by Jeremy Corbyn — only to be subsequently told it was really written by foreign minister Boris Johnson.
In a televised interview with Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Friday night, the defence secretary was on the offensive against the Labour leader’s speech that day about the war on terror. (You can watch the full video below.)
He characterised Corbyn’s position as “the idea that the attack in Manchester can be traced back to British foreign policy, that it’s somehow somebody else’s fault, it’s the fault of the British government or someone else” — when Guru-Murthy read him out a quote:
“Isn’t it possible that things like the Iraq war did not create the problem of murderous Islamic fundamentalists, though the war has unquestionably sharpened the resentments felt by such people in this country and given them a new pretext?”
The Tory MP, apparently interpreting this as a quote from Corbyn, was highly critical.
“Well, I don’t think you should allow pretexts for people who blow up innocent children,” he said. “They’re not entitled to excuses. You know, this was an act of murder, and callous murder at that, taking the lives of innocent civilians.”
But it wasn’t Corbyn’s words — it was now-foreign secretary Boris Johnson, in a column written in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005.
“[Johnson] goes on to say,” added Guru-Murphy, “‘The Iraq war did not introduce the poison into our blood stream, but yes, the war did help to potentiate that poison.'”
Fallon scrambled to defend himself, arguing that Johnson meant that “you can’t use attacks like this to explain away terrorism.”
But Guru-Murphy shot back with another quote from Johnson: “It is difficult to deny that they have a point, the ‘I told you so’ brigade.”
“Well, I don’t agree with that,” Fallon replied.
So Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary is wrong?” Guru-Murphy pressed.
“Well I’d have to see the words you’re trying to quote me,” the minister said defensively. “I don’t have them in front of me.”
“Well I just told you them,” replied the presenter.
“Well, I’ll have to look at them,” said Fallon. “What I don’t accept is that you can explain away terrorist attack in this country by simply saying there’s been an issue with our foreign policy over the last few years.”
In his speech, Jeremy Corbyn said that “no rationale based on the actions of any government can remotely excuse, or even adequately explain, outrages like this week’s massacre.” But, he went on, “we must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working.”
Boris Johnson also laid into Corbyn’s remarks, calling them “monstrous” — despite his 2005 column.
“This really can’t be tweeted enough,” left-wing commentator and journalist Owen Jones wrote on Twitter alongside a video of the exchange. “This is a work of art.”
American journalist Keith Olbermann wrote: I’m American, so: Who is this Michael Fallon; what’s he doing now, post-politics; and has he reinstalled his arse after it was handed to him?”
Footballer-turned-television-presenter wote simply: “Oh dear.”
Here’s the full 11-minute Michael Fallon interview. The relevant exchange starts around the 1:36 mark:
I’m American, so: Who is this Michael Fallon; what’s he doing now, post-politics; and has he reinstalled his arse after it was handed to him? https://t.co/KT1BmCTGHX
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) May 26, 2017
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