Jeremy Corbyn has slammed the Daily Mail and The Sun for printing “nonsense” stories suggesting he was linked to Communist spies.
The Labour leader hit back as he was questioned about the claims made by a former Czech agent Jan Sarkocy that he was on the country’s payroll during the Cold War.
After a speech to 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”.
As he replied, he was applauded by some in the audience of businesspeople.
When another reporter, from Channel 4 News, was called by the chair of the Q&A, Corbyn complained: “I thought we were having questions from employers not the media.”
BBC Economics presenter Steph McGovern, who was chairing the event, did jokingly ask at the end of the session: “Are you a Czech spy?”
Corbyn replied: “No.”
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.
The Sun reported that a newly-released archive in the StB’s HQ in Prague included a Sarkocy report that read: “Jeremy CORBYN, Labour MP of the House of Commons of the British Parliament, contact initiated 25.11.1986.
“Followed up to the degree of RS (person of interest) ‘COB’. He has an active supply of information on British intelligence services.”
The paper claimed that Corbyn was also described as having handed communist agents a newspaper article about an MI5 operation against an East German spy.
The Labour leader has not denied meeting the agent for tea - but insists he had no idea Sarkocy wasn’t a normal diplomat as he claimed.
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’.
On Monday night, Corbyn threatened legal action against a Tory MP who had claimed he had “sold British secrets” to spies in Eastern Bloc states.
Tory vice chairman Ben Bradley deleted the tweet after the Labour leader instructed lawyers to purse a libel claim.
However, Security Minister Ben Wallace had not deleted a similar Twitter message that suggested Corbyn had acted like the British spy Kim Philby.
Former spy Sarkocy has claimed that Corbyn was taking money from the Czech state, while others have suggested there are files being held on him by East Germany’s secret police, known as the Stasi.
“These claims are a ridiculous smear and entirely false,” his office said on Monday.
“The former Czechoslovak agent Jan Sarkocy’s account of his meetings with Jeremy was false 30 years ago, is false now and has no credibility whatsoever.”
Speaking in Derby on Monday, Theresa May was asked whether Corbyn needed to “answer questions” about the claims.
She said: “I think it’s for individual MPs to be accountable for their actions in the past but also where there are allegations of this sort MPs should be prepared to be open and transparent.”
Defence Secreatry Gavin Williamson said the report in The Sun - that Corbyn had met the Czech agent three times - was a “betrayal” and showed the Labour leader “cannot be trusted”.