A Tory MP has apologised to Jeremy Corbyn for a ‘seriously defamatory’ claim that the Labour leader sold British secrets to communist spies.
In quite the comedown from Monday, Ben Bradley said his tweet was ‘wholly untrue and false’ and he accepted the distress caused.
He offered to pay a ‘substantial’ sum of money to a charity of Mr Corbyn’s choice and he will even pay his legal costs.
Bradley repeated a false claim that the Labour leader had met a Czech intelligence agent on three occasions in the 1980s during the Cold War.
Replying to the Far Right Watch account, he tweeted: ‘Corbyn sold British secrets to communist spies… get some perspective mate!!’
Ben Bradley's apology in full
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 tweet was later deleted, but screenshots continued to circulate online – with author and columnist Owen Jones urging Corbyn to take legal action.
A spokesperson 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.’
Earlier this week, the Labour leader directed lawyers to demand damages from Bradley, suggesting they be paid directly to a charity of Corbyn’s choosing – as well as legal costs, and a public apology.
‘Your statement that our client sold British secrets to communist spies is untrue,’ the letter stated.
‘The inference that our client, whom you know to be the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition and the Leader of the Labour Party, had engaged in criminal acts of treachery and spying could not be more seriously harmful of a British citizen, let alone such a prominent politician.’
It added: ‘The natural and ordinary meaning of your words is that our client engaged in criminal activity at the most serious level.’
Bradley’s claim came after a series of allegations in some tabloid papers about meetings the Labour leader and other MPs attended in the 1980s.
Jan Sarkocy, a spy from the former Czechoslovakia, claimed Corbyn was on his payroll during the Cold War, sparking calls for the leader to release his ‘secret Stasi file’.
Since then, intelligence experts from both the UK and the Czech Republic have said the claims are undeniably false.
The German authorities responsible for the Stasi archive also weighed in, and said on Tuesday that they had found no documents on Corbyn – including within their collection of classified files.