Clap or do something meaningful? An easy choice for Boris ‘hope it all goes away’ Johnson

Where the UK could act, and could make a difference, would be to impose meaningful sanctions on Putin’s favourite oligarchs. It has failed to do so. When Keir Starmer asked Johnson “why on earth” Roman Abramovich has not faced sanctions (as Johnson claimed last week he had done, and subsequently had to correct the record), he could only reply that he “could not comment on individual cases”.

Tom Peck www.independent.co.uk

The whole of the Commons were up on their feet for more than a minute, applauding in a moving show of solidarity with their guest in the public gallery, Vadym Prystaiko.

Boris Johnson, being Boris Johnson, was unable to suppress his trademark smirk as he did so. It will not be lost on him that almost a fortnight has now passed since he became the first prime minister ever to be interviewed under police caution, and as yet nobody has asked him a thing about it.

The ambassador seemed genuinely humbled by the gesture, though the speed at which the house shot to its feet would be outdone seconds later, by the speed at which His Excellency’s eyes rolled to the back of his head.

Ukraine has not found gestures of solidarity hard to come by in the last horrific week. They are grateful for them. Why wouldn’t they be? But they also know that gestures of solidarity are easy. It’s harder to take action, and there has been plenty of action. But what’s really hard is to take action that you don’t want to take. UK government ministers have taken to saying, whenever asked, that they are “leading the world” in action against Putin, a claim that lacks any demonstrable evidence whatsoever.

Germany cancelled Nord Stream 2, despite being heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas. The UK was keener than others to kick Russia out of the Swift payment system, precisely because it doesn’t rely to the same extent on Russia being in it, in order to pay them for the energy it needs. Germany has committed to spending a very long overdue extra £84bn on defence.

Where the UK could act, and could make a difference, would be to impose meaningful sanctions on Putin’s favourite oligarchs. It has failed to do so. When Keir Starmer asked Johnson “why on earth” Roman Abramovich has not faced sanctions (as Johnson claimed last week he had done, and subsequently had to correct the record), he could only reply that he “could not comment on individual cases”.

There are two flats near Westminster, worth £11m, owned by Putin’s former deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov. Shuvalov was one of the oligarchs gathered for last week’s preposterous meeting with Putin in the Hall of the Order of St Catherine. He is on the EU’s sanctions list but not on ours.

What did Johnson think of that? “We are doing everything we can to expose ill-gotten Russian loot blah blah blah yadah yadah yadah murble burble make it go away.”

He’s not doing everything he can. He knows as well as the next person that the UK’s entire economic model is based on incentivising dubious foreign wealth to park itself here and the small matter of a terrifying land war in Europe is not going to be enough to make them do anything about it now.

Speak to any of London’s obscenely wealthy immigrants, and I’ve spoken to a few, and they all tell you variations of the same thing. They’re not here for the staggering beauty of London’s grey skies and general low quality of life. They’re here because comparable countries, like France or Italy or Germany, simply don’t let them do the kind of outrageous nonsense they get up to here.

There are no shortage of bankers in the City, working for the usual handful of major investment banks, whose salaries get paid directly offshore, and if they want to use that money to buy a property abroad, quite possibly in the country of their actual birth, they’ll never have to pay a penny of tax on it.

The UK’s “world beating financial sector” is world beating precisely because nobody else lets them get away with it. Which is precisely why, even at this unimaginably rarefied hour, all Johnson can do is swat away the questions about the things he hasn’t done and hope they’ll go away.

They won’t go away. And nor, in all likelihood, will the oligarchs. We don’t even want them to. We’re all much happier clapping in solidarity and hoping for the best.

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