Lizzy Buchan, Political Correspondent
A Tory MP has been forced to issue a grovelling apology and to make a “substantial” donation to charity after making false claims about Jeremy Corbyn’s links with communist spies.
Ben Bradley said his comments were “wholly untrue and false” and agreed to pay out an undisclosed sum to a homeless charity and a food bank in his Mansfield constituency.
Lawyers acting for the Labour leader contacted Mr Bradley this week over a potentially libellous tweet, in which he made unsubstantiated allegations about Mr Corbyn’s interactions with a Czech agent who was posing as a diplomat.
- The party said Mr Bradley had agreed to tweet an apology, which will say: “On 19 February 2018 I made a seriously defamatory statement on my Twitter account, ‘Ben Bradley MP (bbradleymp)’, about Jeremy Corbyn, alleging he sold British secrets to communist spies. I have since deleted the defamatory tweet.
“I have agreed to pay an undisclosed substantial sum of money to a charity of his choice, and I will also pay his legal costs.
“I fully accept that my statement was wholly untrue and false. I accept that I caused distress and upset to Jeremy Corbyn by my untrue and false allegations, suggesting he had betrayed his country by collaborating with foreign spies.
“I am very sorry for publishing this untrue and false statement and I have no hesitation in offering my unreserved and unconditional apology to Jeremy Corbyn for the distress I have caused him.”
The row centres on allegations that Mr Corbyn met with Jan Sarkocy, a former agent with the Czechoslovakian security service StB, who Mr Corbyn believed to be a diplomat, on several occasions in the 1980s.
His office produced diary records showing that at least one of the alleged meetings between Mr Corbyn and Mr Sarkocy in Parliament did not take place as Mr Corbyn had been attending a conference in Derbyshire that day.
Mr Corbyn dismissed the claims as “ridiculous smears” and threatened legal action against Mr Bradley for repeating unsubstantiated claims that he had acted as an informant to the then communist regime.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “We are pleased Ben Bradley has admitted what he said was entirely untrue and apologised, and that charities in Mansfield will benefit.
“Following the botched smear campaign against Jeremy, this case shows we are not going to let dangerous lies go unchallenged.”
Mr Bradley, who won Mansfield for the Conservatives for the first time since its creation, has previously come under fire for a blog post where he suggested benefits claimants should have vasectomies.