The security services are a rum lot. All that intrigue gets to you eventually, and that’s not counting those who sign up with less than laudable intentions. Harold Wilson was paranoid but not necessarily wrong.
So when Jeremy Corbyn’s MI5 file finds its way onto the front page of the Daily Telegraph, even those not well-disposed to the Labour leader could be forgiven for arching an eyebrow. Are the spooks spooked by the possibility of Britain’s first Marxist prime minister?
For those who came up with Corbyn in 1970s and ‘80s, those heady days of the hard-Left when revolution was ever round the corner, this is obviously the case. Their comrade is being done in by the establishment in much the same way as Harry Perkins, protagonist of Chris Mullin’s Bennite potboiler, A Very British Coup. Unable to find any real dirt on him — the best they can uncover is a long-ago romantic indiscretion — the intelligence agencies set to work stitching him up. What Labour MPs would give for Jeremy Corbyn’s sins to be of the flesh.
But 007 isn’t slandering Corbyn; he really did support Spectre. There is no need to smear a man who volunteers his own prosecution. The Telegraph reports that Corbyn’s activism on behalf of a United Ireland extended to sharing a platform with Angelo Fusco, an IRA terrorist on the run from his trial for the murder of an SAS officer. (He was convicted in absentia.) The paper also alleges that he petitioned Margaret Thatcher for better prison conditions for Hugh Doherty, a member of the murderous Balcombe Street gang who was serving 11 life sentences. As well as bombing pubs in Guildford and Woolwich, they assassinated television personality Ross McWhirter, who had offered a reward for information leading to their capture. According to the Telegraph’s investigation, Corbyn’s petition described IRA inmates as 'political prisoners'.
Weeks after the attempted assassination of Mrs Thatcher in Brighton, Corbyn invited two prominent Sinn Fein/IRA personalities to Parliament. Following the Grand Hotel bombing, a far-Left magazine on whose editorial board Corbyn served as general secretary reiterated its backing for the Irish republican movement, adding: 'Let our "Iron Lady" know this: those who live by the sword shall die by it. If she wants violence, then violence she will certainly get.’
These reports (some of which have surfaced before) are shocking and yet wholly unsurprising. There is no suggestion that Corbyn ever broke the law. But nor was the Labour MP simply an old romantic who joined in with a verse or two of Go on Home, British Soldiers, Go on Home. He was an active fellow traveller of Irish republicanism at a time when British soldiers and civilians were being slain. Despite such outrages, Corbyn was far from punctilious about whom he shared platforms and made common cause with.
Corbyn is not the only IRA sympathiser at the top of the Labour Party. His shadow Chancellor John McDonnell attended a 2003 memorial for Bobby Sands, a republican terrorist who committed suicide by starvation in 1981. McDonnell told the crowd:
'It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process.’
These insincere men, their shameless flacks, and their half-cretinous, half-gullible followers now claim they were working towards peace. No matter that Corbyn opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement and McDonnell was attacking the Good Friday Agreement as late on as 1998. They point to John Major's and Tony Blair's willingness to talk to deeply unsavoury types to bring an end to the conflict. But prime ministers are in a position to do something and they talked to both sides. To date no one has been able to demonstrate a similar record of associations with Loyalist terrorists on the part of the Labour leader or his sidekick. Corbyn and McDonnell did desire peace but their idea of peace was British surrender. They may not have wanted the IRA to kill but they wanted them to win.
Corbyn’s fondness for psychopaths with a cause isn’t limited to balaclavaed Shinners. He has spoken warmly of his 'friends' in Hamas and Hezbollah. He has shared platforms with people so anti-Semitic they would struggle to gain membership of the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn has a three-decades-long career of siding with and sucking up to reactionary bigots and violent thugs. He has done so because his politics is animated by anti-Westernism as much as by socialism, and probably more so. The Labour Party knew what he was and they made him leader. Now the country knows what he is and no one can blame MI5 for that.
This isn't a very British coup, it's a very British comeuppance.
Stephen Daisley is a columnist for the Scottish Daily Mail