Jeremy Corbyn has accused the press of going “a little bit James Bond” and warns media owners that “change is coming” in a video published in the wake of stories claiming he met with a Czech spy during the Cold War.
The nearly two-minute video was shared on the Labour leader’s official Twitter account yesterday evening and at the time of writing has been liked more than 20,000 times and retweeted nearly 10,000 times.
Claims Corbyn met with the communist spy were first reported by the Sun on Thursday last week, with the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Daily Express all picking up the story.
The Sun said Corbyn had met Jan Sarkocy three times, including twice in the House of Commons, and “warned him of a clampdown by British intelligence”, according to secret files the paper claims to have obtained.
Addressing the camera directly in his video, Corbyn said the spy’s claims were “increasingly wild and entirely false”, including that the MP informed him about what Margaret Thatcher had for breakfast.
He said: “It’s easy to laugh, but something more serious is happening. Publishing these ridiculous smears that have been refuted by Czech officials shows just how worried the media bosses are by the prospect of a Labour government. They are right to be.
“Labour will stand up to the powerful and corrupt and take the side of the many, not the few. A free press is essential for democracy and we don’t want to close it down, we want to open it up.
“At the moment much of our press isn’t very free at all, in fact it’s controlled by billionaire tax exiles who determine 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 are 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.”
Sharing the video on Twitter, Labour MP John Woodcock said: “Are we really threatening the press with more regulation because they printed a story we didn’t like? This is not ok.”
The Daily Mail carried a double-page spread in Wednesday’s paper, saying Corbyn’s response to the spy row was a “chilling threat to Britain’s free press” and asking eight questions the Islington MP “must answer”.
In response to Corbyn’s video, a Sun spokesperson said: “Over the past few days, we have revealed substantial, documented evidence from the Czech Security Archive that a Czech spy met with Jeremy Corbyn at the height of the Cold War.
“It is in the public interest to know how that meeting was arranged, why it was accepted, and what was discussed, particularly given what was known then and what we know now about the brutality of the Soviet-backed regime in Czechoslovakia.
“Those questions are yet to be answered and we will keep asking them, no matter how inconvenient they might be, nor how many times we are threatened with ‘change’ – whatever that may mean.
“They are questions that we would put to anybody who aspires to the highest office in the land.
“We would urge Mr Corbyn to answer the questions that have already been put to him, as well as to open up the Stasi file kept on him that he has so far been content to leave in storage.
“Mr Corbyn has been admirably open and transparent on issues such as his tax return – a story we have reported on more than once, as well as his demand for the Prime Minister to do the same.
“We look forward to such openness on this issue, too.”
Picture: Labour Party