Attacks on Corbyn risk danger to his safety – spokesman
The Labour leader has threatened court action against a Conservative vice-chairman.
Jeremy Corbyn’s personal security may have been put in danger by newspapers and political opponents branding him a terrorist sympathiser, a spokesman for the Labour leader has said.
The comment came after Mr Corbyn accused newspapers of spreading “lies and smears” about his alleged links with a Czech intelligence agent in the 1980s, and warned media barons that “change is coming” if Labour wins power.
Lawyers acting for the Labour leader have written to Conservative vice-chairman Ben Bradley threatening court action unless he apologises over a tweet linking the Labour leader with communist spies.
The letter also calls on the Mansfield MP to pay Mr Corbyn’s legal costs, make a donation to charity in lieu of damages and provide a written undertaking not to repeat what the lawyers describe as a defamatory statement.
Mr Corbyn’s spokesman told reporters that Finsbury Park attacker Darren Osborne – jailed for life last month for driving a van into a crowd outside a north London mosque – had said the Labour leader was his intended target because of his supposed support for terrorism.
The case “highlights the serious dangers of the use of language in some of the reporting and the language used by politicians around Jeremy’s leadership, and the importance of framing completely legitimate political debate in ways that don’t incite hatred and violence”, said the spokesman.
“The constant repetition both by Government politicians and sections of the press portraying Jeremy Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser or as in some way an apologist for terror – which is entirely false – has dangers to it which have been quite clearly demonstrated. There needs to be an awareness of the dangers of using that kind of language.”
He denied that Mr Corbyn’s comments suggested he would clamp down on the free press, insisting Labour was committed to a review aimed at opening up media plurality.
In the last few days The Sun, The Mail, The Telegraph and The Express have gone a little bit James Bond.— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) February 20, 2018
We've got news for the billionaire, tax exile press barons: Change is coming. pic.twitter.com/3ehSKfaAgZ
Meanwhile, the spokesman challenged records of supposed meetings between the then Labour backbencher and the former agent of the Czech StB intelligence agency Jan Sarkocy.
Mr Corbyn recalled speaking to a diplomat from the then communist country in 1986, as one of many meetings with ambassadors, politicians, activists and dissidents from “the majority of countries in the world”, said the spokesman.
But another meeting with the same man was recorded in StB files as taking place the following year in the House of Commons, on a Saturday when the Labour MP’s own diaries record he was attending a conference in Chesterfield.
Theresa May sought to make capital out of reports of Mr Corbyn’s supposed Cold War links at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.
Mrs May said the Labour leader normally used his question to ask her to “sign a blank cheque”, adding: “I know he likes Czechs.”
Mr Corbyn appeared to pretend to yawn following the joke.
He has flatly denied reports that he was a spy for communist Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, describing claims, which originally appeared in The Sun, that he passed information to an agent of the StB during the 1980s as “nonsense”.
Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “All politicians are meeting diplomats every day of the week and some of us assume that half the people that we meet from foreign embassies are spies, we just assume that.
“So of course you know that if people are coming from the embassy that there is a possibility that they are spies, 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 stand up for this country, but equally of course you meet diplomats from every country around the world.”