Jeremy Corbyn was last night facing damaging claims that one of his most powerful advisers held a series of meetings with a communist spy at the height of the Cold War.
Andrew Murray, 61, is expected to secure an influential job in 10 Downing Street if Labour win the General Election, but his past political associations have led to concern over his level of security clearance and whether he should be allowed to see sensitive intelligence material.
The Mail on Sunday can disclose that in the mid-1980s, Mr Murray was regarded by the Czech security service – then actively seeking to undermine British interests – as a ‘contact’ who could help identify politicians susceptible to recruitment.
Concerns: Andrew Murray (left) with Jeremy Corbyn (right) at a protest outside the BBC in 2009
According to intelligence files unearthed by this newspaper, Mr Murray met Czech agent Josef Konecny– codename Senkerik – at least four times in London between October 1983 and January 1984 against a backdrop of worsening East-West relations.
Last night Mr Murray denied having ‘met or known’ Konecny and called the files ‘a fabrication’.
The documents claim that Mr Murray, then a parliamentary correspondent with the socialist Morning Star newspaper, appeared willing to assist Konecny by sharing his views on Britain’s tactics in the run-up to the 1984 Stockholm Disarmament Conference and, separately, on the deployment of Cruise missiles in Europe.
Extracts from the StB papers. Last night Mr Murray denied having ‘met or known’ Konecny and called the files ‘a fabrication’
Assessed by the Czechs as a ‘friend of the Soviet Embassy’ and ‘hostile’ to the US, Mr Murray, who only quit the UK Communist Party in 2016 after 40 years, also agreed to help with specific enquiries, according to the files.
One was to try ‘to find out more about the British right-leaning Monday Club’, the influential Tory group which had been demanding the expulsion of spies from the Soviet Embassy in London.
There is no suggestion that Mr Murray passed on any classified or confidential material and he may have had no idea that the person he was meeting was a spy.
Konecny, whose cover at the embassy was as press attaché, was an officer with the Statni Bezpecnost (StB) which worked closely with the KGB and was considered among the most brutal enforcers of Communist tyranny, using both torture and blackmail.
The Mail on Sunday can disclose that in the mid-1980s, Mr Murray was regarded by the Czech security service – then actively seeking to undermine British interests – as a ‘contact’ who could help identify politicians susceptible to recruitment. Pictured: some of the intelligence files
Figures from politics, diplomacy and the intelligence community last night expressed concern over Mr Murray’s alleged links to the agency –and their possible implications should Corbyn reach No 10.
Sir Tony Brenton, a former British Ambassador to Russia, said: ‘You cannot have people acquiring close access to the intelligence services if they have had unhealthy links with the Soviets.
‘With the renewed aggression of modern-day Russia… these revelations ought to be taken very seriously indeed. The major concern is whether this could deeply affect whether other countries trust us.’
Mr Murray’s meetings with Konecny are contained in Cold War StB files archived by the current Czech government and examined by a highly placed British intelligence source who told us: ‘There was a convention among the Warsaw Pact intelligence services that they did not actually recruit as paid sources known members of other Communist Parties. From reading these papers, it is clear that the case officer observed the convention.
‘However, Murray appeared to be willing to help [Konecny]. The implication from these documents is that Murray might help the case officer meet other journalists and MPs.
‘The Czechs hoped he might be useful as a ‘talent spotter’ who would help the case officer identify others who might be susceptible to cultivation by a WarsawPact intelligence officer – though I am sure Murray would protest that he was merely doing his job for The Morning Star.’
In the Czech state security archive, which is available to the public, Konecny describes a meeting with Mr Murray on January 3, 1984, at the Dragon Gate restaurant in Gerrard Street in London’s Chinatown lasting just over an hour, in which he aimed ‘to determine Britain’s position and the positions of other developed capitalist countries about the upcoming meeting in Stockholm…
‘Murray was not deeply informed about this position… but that from conversations he had with MPs, it was apparent to him that Nato countries would not focus solely on the narrow issue of disarmament.’
It is understood Konecny was eventually withdrawn from London after his cover was blown when he was caught posing as an Italian journalist.
Murray, chief of staff at the Unite union as well as policy adviser to Mr Corbyn, was last year banned from entering Ukraine on the grounds that he is a national security threat because of his alleged links to Vladimir Putin’s ‘global propaganda network’.
Lord West, a Labour peer and former First Sea Lord said in response to the revelations: ‘People who are privy to secrets normally have to have to be vetted… the security services should be aware of these things.’
Former Labour Minister Ian Austin, who last week urged voters to back Boris Johnson said: ‘Andrew Murray is a lifelong communist and should have no place working for the leader of the Labour Party. How can Corbyn and Co be trusted with our country’s security? I do not believe they are patriots.’
A spokesman for Mr Murray said: ‘It is regrettable, even if predictable, that once again you seek to promote and publish wildly inaccurate information gleaned from thoroughly discredited sources. The allegations in their entirety are denied.
‘Mr Murray denies ever having met or known the individual referred to, was never asked to provide any information nor act as a so called ‘spotter’. The whole file, should it exist, is a fabrication.’