LONDON – The British love their spy dramas. This one is a doozy.
Last week, the Sun newspaper published an expose that asserted that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was once a “paid asset” who had been “recruited” by Cold War Czechoslovakian spies.
The tabloid reported that an agent “Lt. Jan Dymic — real name Jan Sarkocy — alleged that the Labour leader was in collaboration with the Soviet-era Czechoslovakian intelligence agency StB in the late-1980s.” And that Corbyn’s code name, said the Sun’s former State Security source, was “COB.”
The Sun based its report, in part, on government files unearthed in Prague archives.
Corbyn and his party spokesman called the accusations absurd. “The claim that he was an agent, asset or informer for any intelligence agency is entirely false and a ridiculous smear,” the Labour office said.
And yet. The story lives on, provided oxygen by none other than Prime Minister Theresa May.
The Sun reported that Corbyn had met with a Czech agent in London, posing as a diplomat, in the House of Commons. Corbyn’s press team responded, essentially, so what? “Like other MPs, Jeremy has met diplomats from many countries. In the 1980s he met a Czech diplomat, who did not go by the name of Jan Dymic, for a cup of tea in the House of Commons. Jeremy neither had nor offered any privileged information to this or any other diplomat.”
Corbyn is a committed Socialist who represents the left-wing of the Labour Party. It is no secret that over the years the former backbencher, now unrivaled leader of his party, has allied himself with left-wing and revolutionary movements abroad, including Venezuela’s now deceased strongman Hugo Chávez.
The accusation that Corbyn might have been an asset for spooks behind the Iron Curtain was quickly embraced by top Tory politicians. Britain’s Defense Minister Gavin Williamson said, “That he met foreign spies is a betrayal of this country. He cannot be trusted.”
Williamson did not say how someone could be blamed for meeting with a spy if they didn’t know he was a spy, which is basically what spies do.
A more tepid May ventured: “It is for individual members of Parliament to be accountable for their actions in the past.”
“Where there are allegations of this sort,” the prime minister said, then parliamentarians “should be prepared to be open and transparent.”