Labour takes lead in polls after Czech spy claims fail to damage Jeremy Corbyn support

Labour leader dismissed claims about his contact with a former Czech agent as 'ridiculous smears'

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Saturday 24 February 2018 11:00 GMT
Jeremy Corbyn hits back at communist spy claims

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Labour has moved ahead in the polls amid ongoing allegations about Jeremy Corbyn’s meetings with a former Czech spy in the 1980s.

A new YouGov survey put Labour up one point to 42 per cent, ahead of the Conservatives on 40 per cent, in the first poll since claims first emerged about the Labour leader’s contact with Jan Sarkocy, a Czechoslovakian agent posing as a diplomat.

Opponents seized on the reports in an attempt to discredit Mr Corbyn but the latest Yougov poll for The Times found the attacks had almost no effect on the Labour leader’s popularity ratings.

Only 8 per cent of voters think less of Mr Corbyn because of the allegations, most of whom were Conservative supporters, the poll found.

Some 64 per cent said it made no difference to their views, while 6 per cent said it made them think better of him, mostly made up of Labour voters.

Mr Corbyn has dismissed the accusations as “ridiculous smears” and provided records to show he was in Derbyshire when he was supposed to be meeting the former Czech StB agent in London.

It comes as ex-MI6 boss Sir Richard Dearlove said Mr Corbyn had “questions to answer” over the affair and could not “laugh off” the claims.

The former spy chief said holding several meetings with Mr Sarkocy would amount to “stupidity” but if the spy’s claims that many more took place were true then “this affair takes on a completely different aspect”.

Mr Sarkocy was branded a fantasist by Mr Corbyn’s allies but Sir Richard, who was posted to Communist Czechoslovakia, said “everything I learned about the way the StB operated tells me that these accusations should be taken seriously”.

The Labour leader accepts he met a Czech diplomat once in 1986, as one of many meetings with ambassadors, politicians and activists, but insists he had no idea the man was a spy.

He also strongly denies handing over any information, in response to unsubstantiated allegations that he acted as an informant to the then communist country.

German officials took the unusual step of announcing that there are no records on Mr Corbyn in the former East Germany secret police archive in response to widespread speculation in the British press.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “Richard Dearlove, who as head of MI6 was involved in the infamous ‘dodgy dossier’ that helped take us into the disastrous Iraq War, should not be trying to give credence to these entirely false and ridiculous smears.”

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