BBC presenter Andrew Neil accused the Conservatives “outrageous smears” and peddling “outright lies” about Jeremy Corbyn, as he tackled Tory Brexit minister Steve Baker over claims the Labour leader was connected to a communist spy.
The veteran Daily Politics interviewer took Baker to task on Wednesday afternoon over comments made by his fellow Tory MPs.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has accused Corbyn of a “betrayal” of his country.
Security minister Ben Wallace appeared to compare Corbyn to Kim Philby, the British intelligence agent who served the USSR as a double agent during the Cold War.
Corbyn has also demanded an apology and donation to charity from a Tory MP Ben Bradley who falsely claimed he had “sold British secrets to communist spies”.
Jan Sarkocy, a former Czech agent, has claimed Corbyn was on his payroll during the Cold War.
The Labour leader issued a video message on Tuesday night rounding on newspaper proprietors over the “smears”.
Neil repeatedly pressed Baker whether he agreed with his colleagues. “I am asking do you think that Mr Corbyn can be compared to Kim Philby? Do you think he has anyway betrayed this country? Do you think he sold British secrets. Do you think any of that?” Neil said.
“Kim Philby was a traitor. At the time, if he had been found guilty, he would have been hanged. That’s an outrageous smear to say of the leader of the Opposition.”
Neil added: “Surely the real scandal isn’t what Mr Corbyn has done or not done, it’s the outright lies and disinformation that your fellow Tories are spreading. That’s the real scandal isn’t it?”
Baker said he believed Corbyn was a “grave danger” to the country but avoided repeating the language of Williamson, Wallace and Bradley.
“I’m not going to accuse my colleagues of lies or disinformation, they will need to defend what they’ve said,” he said.
“Andrew, I’m not going to allow you to draw me into potentially libeling anybody.”
Baker added he had “no evidence” that Corbyn had sold British secrets.
The Brexit minister was not the only guest who was grilled by Neil.
The BBC presenter told off Andrew Gwynne after the Labour shadow minister attempted to jump on the bandwagon and criticse Baker.
Gwynne gingerly sipped his cup of tea once Neil returned to questioning Baker.
Corbyn has lambasted newspapers over the claims he helped communist spies in the 1980s.
He has attacked their owners as “billionaire tax exiles” and warning them “change is coming”.
In the personal video message, the Labour leader hit out at The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and The Express for printing allegations that he had worked with Sarkocy.
Gwynne told the Daily Politics that banning foreign ownership of the press was one of the options Labour was looking at.
During prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Theresa May joked about the row.
She said: “Normally he stands up every week and asks me to sign a blank cheques, and I know he likes Czechs...”