Theresa May tells Jeremy Corbyn not to 'shoot the messenger' over press clampdown after Czech spy claims

Posted On: 
21st February 2018

Theresa May has accused Jeremy Corbyn of trying to "shoot the messenger" after he pledged a press crackdown following allegations he passed secrets to a Czechoslovakian spy during the Cold War.

Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions.
PA Images

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the media "performs a vital role in holding to account the rich, the powerful and those who seek or hold high office in this country and that should never change".

Mr Corbyn last night warned the newspaper industry that "change is coming" following days of stories about his contact with former Czech 'diplomat' Jan Sarkocy in 1986.

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In interviews, Mr Sarkocy claimed Mr Corbyn was one of several Labour MPs who passed on information to the former communist country - allegations dismissed as a "ridiculous smear" by party bosses.

The Labour leader posted a video online last night in which he said: "It’s easy to laugh, but something more serious is happening. Publishing these ridiculous smears that have been refuted by Czech officials shows just how worried the media bosses are by the prospect of a Labour government.

"They’re right to be. Labour will stand up to the powerful and corrupt - and take the side of the many, not the few."

Labour sources said if they win the next election, the party will crack down on tax dodging, hike taxes on the rich, and set up the second part of the Leveson inquiry into allegations of media corruption.

But Mrs May's spokesman said: "As the PM said in her speech on public life recently, a free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy rests. It performs a vital role in holding to account the rich, the powerful and those who seek or hold high office in this country and that should never change.

"Shining a light into dark corners and asking awkward, uncomfortable questions is the press's job. It's the job of elected politicians to provide answers, not complain or seek to shoot the messenger because they have been subjected to legitimate scrutiny."

But a spokesman for Mr Corbyn rejected the Downing Street claims, and insisted the Labour leader was right to challenge those reporting the allegations of communist collusion. 

"These allegations are so transparently absurd and ridiculous and contradictory that anyone assessing the evidence in a sensible and even-handed way would realise that to be the case," he said.

"We're interested in opening up the media and the press, not closing it down. A free press is absolutely vital to a democracy and that has nothing to do with shooting the messenger."