Barry Gardiner says ‘MPs meet spies all the time’ amid ongoing Jeremy Corbyn row
Labour frontbencher Barry Gardiner has said MPs probably meet foreign spies on a regular basis as he defended Jeremy Corbyn over claims he passed information to the Communists at the height of the Cold War.
The Shadow International Trade Secretary said politicians "assume" that half of the foreign diplomats they speak to "every day of the week" as part of their job are secret agents.
The Brent North MP spoke out in response to reports about Mr Corbyn's dealings with a Czech spy in the 1980s.
He has been accused of passing state secrets to Jan Sarkocy, who was posing as a diplomat, at the height of the Cold War.
Labour has insisted the allegations are a "ridiculous smear", while the Labour leader has warned newspaper owners that he will launch a crack down on their industry if he becomes Prime Minister.
Asked why Mr Corbyn had agreed to meet Mr Sarkocy at all, Mr Gardiner told Radio Four's Today programme: “All politicians are meeting diplomats every day of the week.
"Some of us assume that half the people that we meet from foreign embassies are spies – we just assume that.
"So, of course, you know that if people are coming from the embassies that there is a possibility that they are spies.
"It doesn’t mean that you’re not a patriot, it doesn’t mean that you don’t do your job as a politician and do your job for this country."
The Sun has published a series of reports based on 30-year-old documents showing the Labour leader met with Mr Sarkocy on several occasions.
Papers from the former Czech state police, known as the Statni Bezpecnost, showed Mr Corbyn - who was referred to as Agent COB - was first approached in 1986 by left-wing activists and agreed to further meetings.
In interviews, Mr Sarkocy claimed Mr Corbyn was one of several Labour MPs who passed on information to the former communist country.
However, the allegations have been consistently dismissed by Mr Corbyn’s team.
In a confrontational video last night, Mr Corbyn dismissed the claims and promised to clampdown on “media barons” spreading “lies and smears”.
“We’ve got news for them: change is coming," he said.