If you’re worried about MPs with links to Soviet Czechoslovakia, it’s not Corbyn you want to be looking at...by Dan Lomas / February 19, 2018 / Leave a comment
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn met a Soviet Bloc intelligence officer in the late-1980s, a report in the Sun newspaper revealed. Based on documents found in Czech archives, the paper reported that Corbyn—then an outspoken Labour backbencher—was approached by Czech State Security (the Státní bezpečnost or StB). Corbyn is reported to have warned a Czech agent about British Security Service (MI5) surveillance.
While it sounds like the stuff of spy novels, the reality is more mundane and Corbyn was certainly not the only MP to fall foul of Eastern bloc spying methods.
The documents reveal that Czech StB thought Corbyn was “reserved and courteous,” occasionally “explosive” on human rights, but often “calm and collected”. The reports noted that the Labour backbencher was “negative towards the USA, as well as the present policies of the Conservative Government.”
It said he took a “positive” view of the Eastern Bloc and was supporting a Soviet-backed peace initiative. The documents also claimed that Corbyn was “well informed” and knowledgeable on people in contact with anti-communist agencies.
Corbyn was initially approached by Tony Gilbert, the general secretary of the anti-colonial civil rights group Liberation, and another campaigner, Sandra Hodgson, before meeting the Czech officer in the House of Commons. The StB were keen to maintain contact and even assigned the future Labour leader the codename COB.
Labour has been quick to deny the reports and a spokesperson said: “Like other MPs, Jeremy has met diplomats from many countries. In the 1980s he met a Czech diplomat.” They added that Corbyn “had not offered any privileged information to this or any diplomat.”
The claims raised questions about Corbyn’s leadership credentials. “Mr Corbyn says he didn’t know, but it shows breathtaking naivety from someone who wants to head the British government”, intelligence academic Anthony Glees suggested. Conservative MP Michael Fabricant called Corbyn an “embittered fool” while MEP Daniel Hannan suggested that the “story would (if true) disqualify Corbyn from holding any elected office.”
But the fact is that there is very little in this report that is revelatory. Corbyn’s views on the Thatcher government, US policy and Eastern Europe were known to many at the time. Contributions to Hansard and public speeches would have provided all…