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‘Agent Cob’ and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, leaves the party headquarters on the morning after Britain’s election in London, June 9. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

One of the only sure-fire ways to alleviate worry is to focus on the miseries of others. So to that end, NRO readers might spare a thought for something that is going on in the U.K. at present.

Last week, a story broke about the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour party leader has been in the most obscure corner of British politics for three decades, only moving to the front-bench — let alone his party’s leadership — in 2015. During those decades, he used his obscure corner of politics to only one discernible end: to agitate for almost any group so long as they opposed the British state. He was, for example, the most prominent supporter in Parliament of the IRA, inviting its leaders to Parliament just after they had attempted to assassinate a British prime minister, and even standing to honor as “martyrs” IRA terrorists killed in an attack on a British police station. Today. Corbyn’s supporters like to pretend that their leader was merely the foremost, advance-brigade of the “peace” business and that in all the years supporting IRA killers he was in fact merely paving the way for the Good Friday Agreement. An agreement in which he paid no part.

A similar story has played out since 2015 regarding Corbyn’s support for almost any Islamist extremist he can get his hands on. Whenever he has been quizzed in recent years on why he has been so keen to meet Hamas, Hezbollah, and any free-floating Holocaust-denier who might not otherwise have made it into his orbit, here too his supporters explain that this is all just part of a broader search for “peace.” Albeit a peace that involves only meeting one side and then expressing unyielding solidarity with their cause.

The list goes on. His support for, and apologism on behalf of, the government of Venezuela remains immovable. As do his set-responses when quizzed about an even worse alliance. When asked why between 2009 and 2012 Corbyn received £20,000 from the government of Iran via its “Press TV” propaganda channel, he and his supporters claim that all this happened many years ago and that besides £20,000 isn’t an enormous amount. Few people can honestly assess the record of Corbyn’s beliefs, pay, and connections and come away believing the claim that he is indeed merely a fair-minded fellow with the best interests of his country at heart.

Nevertheless, the most recent allegations take all of this to a new level. Last week the British press broke the story that Jan Sarkocy, a Czech spy during the Cold War claims that Corbyn was an enemy spy, who provided information to, and was paid for that information by, the Czechoslovakian Communist secret service (Statni Bezpecnost or StB). According to Sarkocy, Corbyn was known by the agent’s name “Agent Cob.” Documents apparently show meetings with Corbyn at the House of Commons and his constituency office in 1986 and 1987, at which — among other things — Corbyn warned the Czech spy about British operations against Soviet agents.

Of course, the Labour party is denying that its leader was ever a paid agent of an enemy power. But they don’t seem to be treating it with anything like seriousness. On Sunday, the party’s shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, was in a television studio when reference to the Czech spy allegations, his gratis PR work for the Venezuelan government, and his payment by the Iranian regime were raised. What was Thornberry’s response? “I think it’s great having a leader of the Labour party who’s a proper internationalist — who has real interest in what is going on across the world.”

So there you have it. Bad news though there is in American politics, at least a minority government is not faced with an opposition which thinks that credible charges of being a paid agent of an enemy power can be laughed away as mere geopolitical enthusiasm.

Douglas Murray — Douglas Murray is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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