This was a reference to Keir Starmer’s support for Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 general election.
Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly criticised Putin’s human rights record with a consistency very few - and certainly not Boris Johnson - can match. The former Labour leader didn’t just raise concerns about human rights from the moment that Putin became leader twenty years ago, he was also among the first serious critics of Russian money in British politics, long before the cause became fashionable.
As Labour leader in 2018, Corbyn warned: "We’re all familiar with the way huge fortunes, often acquired in the most dubious circumstances in Russia, sometimes connected with criminal elements, have ended up sheltering in London and trying to buy political influence in British party politics." He tellingly added that "there has been over £800,000 worth of donations to the Conservative Party from Russian oligarchs and their associates."
Let’s try a mental experiment. Imagine that Corbyn had somehow won the last election. That he had then filled up Labour Party coffers with Russian money; that his party chairman had an office in Moscow to advise oligarchs; that Corbyn personally had repeatedly visited a Russian oligarch whose father had been a KGB agent and close friend of Putin, and that he had been reported to have ignored security service objections to secure this friend a peerage, and funnelled government money towards his paper.
Johnson is the one who’s done all of these things. But Corbyn is the one, according to Boris Johnson in an inversion of the truth, who’s supposed to be a “Vladimir Corbyn”
Johnson’s use of the term “Vladimir Corbyn” carried the imputation that former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was an apologist for Vladimir Putin. This is not and never has been true. According to the Ministerial Code, “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” Boris Johnson was misleading Parliament. He has not corrected his false statement, meaning that his cheap and inaccurate slur leaves in breach of the Ministerial Code.
We approached Boris Johnson's office, No10 Press Office and the Cabinet Office to give them a chance to comment, but received no response.