IF you genuinely cherish patriotism as a virtue and not some shallow artifice that you reach for when all other arguments have failed, then I must commend Jeremy Corbyn’s initial response last week to the Salisbury poisoning outrage and his conduct in the days since. Long after the UK has reached a grubby diplomatic compromise with Vladimir Putin’s Russia over the incident, Corbyn’s leadership and statesmanship will be seen in stark contrast to the UK Government’s hysterical reaction.

Corbyn described the poison attack on the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia as an “appalling act of violence”. The Labour leader then chose his words carefully, seeming to be much more aware about the consequences of careering into another ruinous Cold War than the Prime Minister of the UK.

The Labour leader said: “Can the Prime Minister update the House on what conversations, if any, she has had with the Russian Government and while suspending planned high-level contact does the Prime Minister agree that it is essential to maintain a robust dialogue with Russia? We should urge our international allies to join us and call on Russia to reveal without delay full details of its chemical weapons programme.”

In the absence of any published evidence directly linking the nerve agent Novichok which we have been assured is “military grade” to the Kremlin, Corbyn simply said what any responsible democratic leader would have. The Conservative party is never slow to talk aggressively in these circumstances and to stir the fires of patriotism, especially when this can serve a dual purpose. After all, their family fortunes and the offshore tax-savvy investments of their supporters always provide security in the event of any geo-political uncertainty. And in times of war they are never to be found anywhere near the front line.

Writing in The Guardian afterwards, Corbyn expounded on his theme. “This horrific event demands first of all the most thorough and painstaking criminal investigation, conducted by our police and security services,” he said. “They have a right to expect full support in their work, just as the public should also be able to expect calm heads and a measured response from their political leaders. To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security.”

Yet, for refusing to call for the gunboats, Corbyn and all those who dared to call for calm and irrefutable evidence encountered the familiar cat-calls of Britain’s hard right and its lickspittles in the press and among the backbenches of the UK Labour Party. They were apologists for the Kremlin and friends of Britain’s enemies. The BBC, which never needs a second invitation to misrepresent Corbyn, grotesquely depicted him in front of the Kremlin wearing a Russian hat.

The naked contempt our public sector broadcaster reserves for Corbyn is astonishing to behold. It began during Labour leadership election and continued apace during the 2016 UK election until it suddenly dawned on the Oxford-educated producers and wannabe Tory spin doctors among them that he might actually win the blasted thing.

Yet he is the only true patriot among them. That is if you define patriotism as wanting the best for your country but never being blind to its faults; of wanting it to be governed not for the benefit of an elite few but for the greatest many and, most importantly, of trying to avoid war and the unnecessary sacrifice of thousands of our bravest men and women while you and your leaders sit safely in secret bunkers constructed for your comfort. And If that occasionally means talking to your enemies in a civilised manner then so be it.

In the midst of the feverish war-mongering of Westminster following the Salisbury attack and Boris Johnson’s unhinged and dangerous ravings, a few facts were conveniently forgotten. Among them were the curious reluctance of Theresa May while Home Secretary to probe too deeply into the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and the refusal of the Conservative Government since to curb the money-laundering of Russian oligarchs as London became the favourite destination of global gangsterism.

And let’s seek clarification on reports that Porton Down scientists, according to Craig Murray, our former man in Uzbekistan, “are not able to identify the nerve agent as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressure being placed on them to do so”.

According to Murray: “Porton Down would only sign up to the formulation ‘of a type developed by Russia’ after a rather difficult meeting where this was agreed as a compromise formulation.”

And if the UK Government is now so exercised by alleged transgressions by Russia of nerve-agent protocols, why are we only hearing about it now? And in the rush to hang this around Vladimir Putin’s head why has there been no consideration of how many other interests would be served by stitching up Russia?

Ukraine, anyone, or rogue agents working on behalf of states involved in the Syrian conflict? And what about some of those same oligarchs who gorged themselves on Russia’s state assets pre-Putin and who fled here with their booty and are resentful at moves to claw back from them the money that belongs to the Russian state? Of course we know where some of it ended up … inside various bank accounts held by the UK Conservative party in the hope that the Government’s policy of “nothing to see here” continues to prevail.

Of course a special level of contempt is reserved by the establishment for people like Murray, “one of our own” who has turned whistle-blower on the perfidy and unaccountability of our secret state within a state.

The same contempt has been experienced by Alex Salmond since he began his stint as a political presenter on Russia Today.

The BBC in London is a jobs factory for the UK Conservative party; either providing lucrative soft landings for its retired politicians or being a recruitment vehicle for its advisors. Salmond, who has proven to be an able interviewer and political commentator, was ignored. Now he is ridiculed because his thoroughly watchable programme is hosted by a Russian state broadcaster. The hypocrisy of his critics is breathtaking.

We are talking here of people who sign up unquestioningly to a foreign policy which permits close ties with China and Saudi Arabia, two of the biggest human rights abusers on the planet, and who rarely ask questions about Britain supplying arms to dozens of the world’s most unstable and violent regimes.

Vladimir Putin is doubtless a very dangerous man who sits at the top of a malevolent and corrupt regime which brooks very little dissent. He is not to be trusted and he must remain a major suspect in the Skripal poisonings.

But I will refrain from any degree of sanctimony while my country still has the blood of innocent civilians from Northern Ireland to Iraq to Afghanistan on its hands. And whose conduct while raping Africa and leaving India to civil war after first ransacking it for hundreds of years led to the slaughter of millions.

Only if you are Finland or Luxembourg or Iceland do you get to be judgmental about the conduct of other nations.