21/02/2018 10:01 GMT | Updated 21/02/2018 13:49 GMT

Jeremy Corbyn Czech Spy Story Is 'Newspaper Revenge' For Leveson, Says Barry Gardiner

'There is a possibility that they are spies.'

Newspapers have accused Jeremy Corbyn of helping Communist spies in the 1980s as “revenge” for Labour’s plans to give the go ahead to part two of the Leveson Inquiry, Barry Gardiner has said.

The shadow international trade secretary told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme the claim Corbyn had worked with Jan Sarkocy, a Czechoslovakian agent, to hand over British secrets was “stupid”.

And he said MPs “assume” that “half the people that we meet from foreign embassies are spies”.

“Of course, you know that if people are coming from the embassies that there is a possibility that they are spies,” he said.

“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.”

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Gardiner said newspapers had pushed the allegations because Labour was committed to going ahead with part two of the Leveson Inquiry which was planned to investigate the culture, practices and ethics of the press.

“These smears are coming now because they know that is coming back into the public forum and that is exactly why the newspapers are trying to get their revenge in first - they are trying to discredit Jeremy,” he said.

David Cameron set up the Leveson process. But the Conservative Party scrapped plans for part two of the inquiry in its 2017 manifesto.

Jeremy Corbyn yesterday hit out at The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and The Express for the spy story. “We’ve got news for them – change is coming,” he said in a video.

“They’ve found a former Czechoslovakian spy whose claims are increasingly wild and entirely false,” he said.

“He seems to believe I kept him informed about what Margaret Thatcher had for breakfast and says he was responsible for either Live Aid or the Mandela Concert - or maybe both.”

Jan Sarkocy, who was a member of Czechoslovakia’s Communist secret service Statni Bezpecnost (StB) last week told The Sun that Corbyn was named ‘Agent Cob’ and that he met him in the House of Commons.

BBC Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban revealed on Tuesday that he had talked to former UK intelligence agents who also dismissed the spying claims as ‘nonsense’.