THE British fell for John le Carré and have stayed spellbound ever since.
And that’s not just because he is such an exceptional storyteller — the BBC’s The Night Manager being one of his stupendous tales.
Initially it was his page-turning skill that made him the literary equivalent of The Beatles, when he burst on to the scene in 1963 with The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
Le Carré earned his place among the cultural giants by treating his audience as adults.
Whereas Ian Fleming’s boyish James Bond was a fun but fantastical figure, le Carré dealt in ambiguity, betrayal and conscience.
His readers were introduced to a world of confused allegiances and difficult questions to which there were often no answers.
To protect a free society, he observed, particularly during a crisis, we need spooks and public servants who live in the shadows and do in our nation’s name what is necessary but sometimes unpalatable.
But if they go too far in pursuit of protection, to what extent are we any longer truly free?
Now, as then, it is hardly unpatriotic to harbour reservations about the scope of the so-called deep state, particularly during a virtual state of emergency.
Members of the Cabinet and plenty of MPs have long been sceptical about the “securocrats”.
Thankfully, the agencies are accountable, although perhaps not as much as everyone would like.
Parliament has primacy and the debate over police and intelligence agency powers will never end.
This is what it is to live in a democracy under attack.
We disagree on the extent of the danger and what should be done, but we are all on the same side.
Or are we?
This brings us to the rank unsuitability of Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister — and the fact that a once-great party like Labour can seriously propose him as the person who could, in a matter of weeks, be chairing the Government’s emergency Cobra meetings.
Almost without fail, Corbyn has expressed support for this country’s enemies, opposed British military deployments overseas or sided with assorted fringe elements who say we deserve what we get.
The man is by no reasonable definition a patriot. He is simply unfit to hold office.
It is not just that Mr Corbyn supported the IRA, though that is bad enough.
Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary (this is not a joke) declared in the 1980s that any defeat of the British state is a victory for us all, apparently.
Corbyn himself invited Gerry Adams to the Palace of Westminster several weeks after the Sinn Fein leader’s goons had come close to killing Margaret Thatcher.
Just as bad, until 2015, he was chairman of the Stop The War Coalition –— the ghastly anti-Western support group for Assad-admiring Stalinists and confused Trots –— that morphed out of legitimate opposition to the Iraq War.
And he spoke to it as recently as last year.
Andrew Murray from the coalition was drafted in just a few weeks ago to work in a senior capacity on the Labour leader’s campaign.
He only recently gave up his membership of the Communist Party of Britain.
Jeremy Corbyn is either a bear of such little brain that he does not understand the toxic implications of these associations — perhaps because he has undertaken no fresh thinking since the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 — or he knows fine well and cloaks it all in spurious talk of peace.
Either way Mr Corbyn and his sidekick John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, and their associates are well outside the moderate traditions of the Labour Party.
Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin (an architect of Nato), Hugh Gaitskell and Jim Callaghan, and the modernisers of the 1980s and 1990s such as George Robertson, were among many patriots on the centre Left committed to national defence and the wider Western cause of freedom.
Their party is now in the hands of the Corbynistas, an alien virus that has latched on to the host.
So soon after the Manchester bomb attack, many within the party who agree with these sentiments fear that they are off-limits on grounds of good taste.
The reverse is true, I’m afraid. What could possibly be a more relevant topic for consideration right now after Manchester than security and which of the leaders best handles it?
When full campaigning gets under way again, many a hard-headed voter not buying the media politesse and Corbyn’s crocodile tears about terror will have fresh cause to ponder his links and views.
This is extremely difficult territory for anti-Corbynite Labour candidates and millions of patriotic Labour voters, whose embarrassed defence is they don’t like him one bit but take comfort from the belief that he won’t win.
That’s a pretty threadbare reason to defend voting for a non-patriot, for all his cultivation of the “cuddly uncle on the allotment” image.
Especially when he will claim every vote as an endorsement.
None of which is to say that Theresa May is flawless.
The farce over social care earlier this week cruelly exposed that she has weaknesses and is too reliant on a small group of aides.
Those failings, however, fall within the normal parameters of democratic life.
Mrs May is a steady leader in a crisis — as her well-judged statement after Manchester proved — and a sincere patriot of the sort sneered at by the Left. Corbyn is not.
Too much? Not enough. Jeremy Corbyn must not become Prime Minister.
He is a risk to national security beyond the imaginings of le Carré.
NOV 1984: Invited Gerry Adams to Westminster just after the IRA’s Brighton bombing.
1985: Voted in Parliament against the Anglo-Irish agreement, the first step in what became the Northern Ireland peace process.
JUNE 1986: Arrested outside the Old Bailey while demonstrating against the “show trial” of IRA terrorists, including Brighton bomber Patrick Magee.
MAY 1987: At a Republican rally in London Corbyn stood for a minute’s silence to honour eight IRA terrorists shot dead by the SAS in Co Armagh.
He said: “I’m happy to commemorate all those who died fighting for an independent Ireland.”
OCT 1989: Invited Gerry Adams to speak at a fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Brighton.
Adams, now Sinn Fein president, described Corbyn as “a friend of Ireland” and said the Labour leader was “on the right side of history”.
1996: Corbyn again invited Adams to Parliament to launch the former IRA man’s autobiography Before The Dawn.
After protests from Tony Blair the event was moved to Corbyn’s Islington constituency.
MAY 2011: The killing of al-Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden by US Navy Seals in Pakistan.
Corbyn called bin Laden’s death “a tragedy”.
On Iranian TV he criticised President Barack Obama and asked: “Why the burial at sea – if indeed there was a burial at sea – and indeed if it was Bin Laden?”
2012: Praised Raed Salah, an Islamist charged with inciting racial hatred and violence who claimed Jews were behind 9/11.
Corbyn said: “Salah is a very honoured citizen… a voice that must be heard”.“Salah is far from a dangerous man.”
FEB 2015: Shares a platform with the British representative of Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Iranian-backed militia killed 70 British soldiers in Iraq.
Corbyn helped Sayyed Hassan al-Sadr celebrate Iran’s “all-encompassing revolution”.
AUG 2015: Interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster, Corbyn refused five times to condemn IRA violence during the Troubles, which claimed the lives of 2,139 victims.
MAY 2016: Vowed to continue talking to terrorist organisations Hamas and Hezbollah, both regarded as terrorist groups by EU and USA.
At a Stop the War rally in 2009 Corbyn called Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”.
MAY 2017: Again refused five times on TV to condemn IRA killers.
Sky’s Sophy Ridge said: “So you don’t believe you did anything wrong and that you have nothing to apologise for?”
Corbyn replied: “I represent a constituency that had many people who had been criminalised.”