Jeremy Corbyn is a secret Communist who would sell out Britain for a few quid to pursue his dream of turning the UK into East Germany.
At least that’s the impression you might get from a number of newspapers, Tory MPs and political commentators over the last week, following an intital report in the Sun.
The most solid accusation levelled at Corbyn came from former MI6 Chief, Richard Dearlove, who told the Sun: “Either Jeremy Corbyn was incredibly naïve or he knew exactly what was happening to him, so he was complicit in all this.”
Since then a number of front pages have been plastered with headlines using less-than-subtle language to suggest Corbyn was always more loyal to Lenin than the Union Jack.
WHAT’S THE LATEST?
The Telegraph and Daily Mail were still leading with the story on Tuesday, reporting on comments made by Theresa May calling for the Labour leader to be “open and transparent” about the matter.
SO WHAT’S CORBYN HIDING?
When you actually dig down through all of the reports, not very much - if anything.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The stories rely on two sources - documents publicly available in the Czech Security Service Archive and the 65-year-old former spy, Jan Sarkocy, the man Corbyn is said to have been approached by.
Intriguingly, they contradict each other.
The files held in the Czech Security Service Archive outline attempts by Czech intelligence to make contact with Corbyn and obtain information from him.
They include passages such as:
Corbyn, Labour MP of the House of Commons of the British Parliament, contact initiated 25.11.1986.
Let’s approach carefully as Labour MPs are also under control of the British intelligence service.
He seems to be the right person for fulfilling the task and giving information.
Behaviour is reserved and courteous, however, occasionally explosive (when speaking in defence of human rights), though the performance is calm and collected
The documents do not mention Corbyn handing over any information or receiving any kind of payment but appear to be proof an attempt was made to make contact with the now-Labour leader.
And no-one is denying that happened - Corbyn has admitted meeting Sarkocy but was under the impression he was a diplomat.
Forget what the Sun, Mail and Telegraph printed about Jan Sarkocy, it’s what they didn’t print that is important.
None of the papers have reported three key claims he made in an interview with Slovakia’s best-selling tabloid newspaper, Nový Čas.
When asked about the information Corbyn gave him, Sarkocy said:
I'll tell you this. I knew what Thatcher would have for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and what she would wear next day.
He also claimed credit for organising Live Aid.
In the end we put on a concert in Wembley. That was financed by Czechoslovakia. I did that.
Professor Anthony Glees, from the University of Buckingham, is the expert quoted in the original Sun piece and historically, he’s not exactly been a fan of Corbyn.
He has said Corbyn’s Labour will “turn the UK into East Germany”.
SO WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?
Svetlana Ptacnikova, Director of the Czech Security Service Archive and expert on the very documents that form the basis for the accusations, has told the BBC:
Mr Corbyn was not a secret collaborator working for the Czechoslovak intelligence service.
She added: “The files we have on him are kept in a folder that starts with the identification number one.
“Secret collaborators were allocated folders that start with the number four. If he had been successfully recruited as an informer, then his person of interest file would have been closed, and a new one would have been opened, and that would have started with the number four.
“He stayed in that basic category - and in fact he’s still described as that, as a person of interest, in the final report issued by the StB agent shortly before he [the agent] was expelled from the UK.”
So there you have it. But the damage has already been done - those who already had a dislike of Corbyn will double-down on their beliefs now.
Speaking on Tuesday at the EEF Manufacturing conference about Brexit and the City, Corbyn was quizzed by reporters about allegations that his office has dismissed as a “ridiculous smear”.
A reporter from the Daily Mail asked: “Mr Corbyn, you say you want these business leaders to put their trust in you to run the country how can they do that when serious questions remain about your past?
“And will you give permission for your Stasi file to be released to help clear things up?
In his first public remarks on the claims, a clearly irritated Corbyn replied: “Thanks for your question, I’m very sorry that the Daily Mail has reduced itself to reproducing some nonsense that was written in The Sun beforehand.”
But The Sun’s journalists are not giving up, and it remains to be seen if they have any more documents from any more countries about ‘Comrade Corbyn’.
BUT CORBYN WASN’T FINISHED THERE
In a personal video message following the encounter at the EEF conference, Corbyn initially made light of the allegations saying: “In the last few days, The Sun, The Mail, The Telegraph and The Express have all gone a little bit James Bond.
“They’ve found a former Czechoslovakian spy whose claims are increasingly wild and entirely false.
“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.”
But the main thrust of the message was to criticise newspapers, attacking their owners as “billionaire tax exiles” and warning them “change is coming”.
“At the moment, much of our press isn’t very free at all,” he said. “In fact it’s controlled by billionaire tax exiles, who are determined to dodge paying their fair share for our vital public services.
“The General Election showed the media barons are losing their influence and social media means their bad old habits are becoming less and less relevant.
“But instead of learning these lessons they’re continuing to resort to lies and smears. Their readers - you, all of us - deserve so much better. Well, we’ve got news for them: change is coming.”