ANALYSIS: Claims Jeremy Corbyn was a Communist informer will not damage him at all

Posted On: 
15th February 2018

As Sun splashes go, this one was a classic of the genre.

Jeremy Corbyn say Labour's support soar at the general election.
Credit: 
PA Images

'CORBYN AND THE COMMIE SPY' screamed the front page of the country's biggest-selling newspaper.

In a rip-roaring tale which could have come straight from the pages of a John le Carre novel, it claimed that Jeremy Corbyn - then a slightly-eccentric left-wing backbencher - had met a Czechoslovakian spy for a cup of tea at the height of the Cold War.

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What's more, the paper claims, Corbyn warned the 'diplomat' about a clampdown by British intelligence on eastern European spies operating in the UK.

The claims are based on documentation unearthed in Prague relating to the former Czech state police, known as the Statni Bezpecnost, or StB.

According to the papers, Corbyn was first approached in 1986 by left-wing activists and agreed to further meetings.

The information elicited from these encounters does not appear to have been extensive, however. They confirmed that Corbyn was "negative towards USA, as well as the current politics of the Conservative Government", which will not come as a surprise to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the Labour leader's political hinterland.

There is also no evidence that Corbyn - despite being given the codename COB - ever came remotely close to being an asset for the Eastern Bloc. 

A spokesman for the Labour leader dismissed the story as "entirely false and a ridiculous smear".

"Like other MPs, Jeremy has met diplomats from many countries," he said. "In the 1980s he met a Czech diplomat for a cup of tea in the House of Commons. Jeremy neither had nor offered any privileged information to this or any other diplomat.

"During the Cold War, intelligence officers notoriously claimed to superiors to have recruited people they had merely met. The existence of these bogus claims does not make them in any way true."

That is not to say, however, that The Sun's story is not legitimate (full disclosure here: I was a political correspondent on the paper for five years).

Corbyn's past associations are fair game, given he wants to be the next Prime Minister. Robert Colville of the CPS think tank and editor-in-chief of CapX has compiled a lengthy list of said associations here which is well worth a look.

Numerous Tory MPs and supporters have piled in on Twitter this morning, proclaiming the story as the smoking gun which will surely convince the Great British public that the Labour leader should never be allowed anywhere near Number 10.

This begs the rather obvious question: did they sleep through the general election campaign?

The Conservatives and their media supporters threw every piece of dirt they could at Corbyn at that time and none of it stuck. In fact, there is a strong argument to be made that it merely served to burnish his anti-establishment credentials and therefore boosted his support.

Does anyone really think that an electorate unmoved by documentary evidence of Corbyn's contacts with Sinn Fein at the height of the IRA bombing campaign will read The Sun's splash and think: "Hang on, that Labour leader is a bit of a wrong 'un."

In his Labour conference speech last September, Corbyn said: "The day before the election, one paper devoted 14 pages to attacking the Labour party. And our vote went up nearly 10%. Never have so many trees died in vain. The British people saw right through it. So this is a message to the Daily Mail’s editor: next time, please could you make it 28 pages?"

That would suggest that, if anything, Corbyn's office will be delighted by The Sun's treatment of their man this morning.

A fine piece of tabloid journalism it may be, but as an attempt to hole Jeremy Corbyn's lofty political ambitions below the water line, it is destined to fail.