Book alleges 1980s British Labour Party leader was Soviet agent

Michael FootThe leadership of the Labour Party in Britain has reacted with disdain after a new book by a leading author and columnist claimed that Michael Foot, who led the Party in the early 1980s was paid agent of the Soviet KGB. Foot, a staunch and vocal representative of the postwar British left, was a member of parliament for over 40 years, eventually serving as leader of the House of Commons. He rose to the post of deputy leader of the Labour Party and in 1980 succeeded Jim Callahan as head of the Party. But he stepped down in 1983 in the aftermath of Labour’s largest electoral defeat in over half a century.

Two years later, in 1985, Oleg Gordievsky, a colonel in the Soviet KGB, defected to Britain and disclosed that he had been a double spy for the British from 1974 until his defection. In 1995, Gordievsky chronicled his years as a KGB officer and his espionage for Britain in a memoir, entitled Next Stop Execution. The book was abridged and serialized in the London-based Times newspaper. In it, Gordievsky claimed that Foot had been a Soviet “agent of influence” and was codenamed “Agent BOOT” by the KGB. Foot proceeded to sue The Times for libel, after the paper published a leading article headlined “KGB: Michael Foot was our agent”. The Labour Party politician won the lawsuit and was awarded financial restitution from the paper.

This past week, however, the allegations about Foot’s connections with Soviet intelligence resurfaced with the publication of The Spy and the Traitor, a new book chronicling the life and exploits of Gordievsky. In the book, Times columnist and author Ben Macintyre alleges that Gordievsky’s 1995 allegations about Foot were accurate and that Gordievsky passed them on to British intelligence before openly defecting to Britain. According to Macintyre, Gordievsky briefed Baron Armstrong of Ilminster, a senior civil servant and cabinet secretary to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Lord Armstrong, a well-connected veteran of British politics, in turn communicated the information to the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in the summer of 1982, says Macintyre. The Times columnist alleges that MI6 received specific information from Lord Armstrong, according to which Foot had been in contact with the KGB for years and that he had been paid the equivalent of £37,000 ($49,000) in today’s money for his services. The spy agency eventually determined that Foot may not himself have been conscious that the Soviets were using him as an agent of influence. But MI6 officials viewed Gordievsky’s allegations significant enough to justify a warning given to Queen Elizabeth II, in case the Labour Party won the 1983 general election and Foot became Britain’s prime minister.

The latest allegations prompted a barrage of strong condemnations from current and former officials of the Labour Party. Its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who like Foot also comes from the left of the Party, denounced Macintyre for “smearing a dead man, who successfully defended himself [against the same allegations] when he was alive”. Labour’s deputy leader, John McDonnell, criticized The Times for “debasing [the] standards of journalism in this country. They used to be called the gutter press. Now they inhabit the sewers”, he said. Neil Kinnock, who succeeded Foot in the leadership of the Labour Party in 1983, said Macintyre’s allegations were “filthy” and described Foot as a “passionate and continual critic of the Soviet Union”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 September 2018 | Permalink

Secret UK envoy convinced Iran Shah to stay away in 1979

Sir Denis Wright

Sir Denis Wright

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The British government sent a former diplomat, disguised as an old friend of the Iranian Shah, to convince the deposed monarch to stay away from the UK, after he was forced to abandon Iran in 1979. The information has been made available in a series of official government documents recently declassified by Britain’s Foreign Office. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the US-backed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, abandoned his throne and ended up in the Bahamas, a former British colony which had gained its independence in 1973. But Britain’s Labour government feared that the deposed monarch aimed to live in England, something that Prime Minister James Callaghan considered a potentially damaging decision by “an immensely controversial figure in Iran”. Read more of this post

EU foreign minister’s husband shunned KGB approaches in 1980s

Peter Kellner

Peter Kellner

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The husband of the recently appointed European Union minister for foreign affairs has acknowledged that the KGB tried to cultivate a relationship with him in the 1980s. Peter Kellner, who now presides over influential British polling company YouGov, is married to Baroness Ashton of Upholland (born Catherine Margaret Ashton), who assumed the prominent EU post on November 19. Intelligence documents show that British domestic intelligence agency MI5 had tagged Kellner and his wife as “communist sympathizers”, because of their anti-apartheid activism and long-term involvement with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, considered a “subversive” movement within the intelligence services. Read more of this post

CIA documents shed light on eventful 1956 Soviet visit to Britain

Hugh Gaitskell

Hugh Gaitskell

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A batch of declassified CIA reports obtained by the BBC sheds light on the diplomatic angle of a historic and eventful Soviet high-level visit to Britain in 1956. In April of that year, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev, and Nikolai Bulganin, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, arrived in Britain aboard Russian warship Ordzhonikidze, which docked at Portsmouth harbor. Their eight-day tour of Britain marked the first-ever official visit by Soviet leadership to a Western country. The tour ended badly, however, after a botched CIA/MI6 undersea operation, aiming to explore the then state-of-the-art Ordzhonikidze, ended in the disappearance of MI6 diver Lionel “Buster” Crabb. The body of Crabb, one of several MI6 agents involved in the operation, was never recovered. In 2007, Eduard Koltsov, a retired Russian military diver, said he killed a man he thinks was Crabb, as he was “trying to place a mine” on the Soviet ship. Read more of this post

“Unprecedented” history of MI5 published

Dr. Andrew

Dr. Andrew

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The MI5, Britain’s foremost counterintelligence organization, made headlines in 2002, when it appointed Cambridge University history Professor Christopher Andrew to produce an authorized account of its long history. The 1,032-page-long book, entitled Defense of the Realm, was published this week by Allen Lane, as announced last March, in time to mark the agency’s centennial. Despite the fact that Defense of the Realm has been officially sanctioned by MI5, (ex-director-general Stephen Lander was sitting next to Dr. Andrew during Monday’s press conference), the book makes some interesting revelations. Among them is that MI5 considered assassinating V.K. Krishna Menon, post-colonial India’s first High Commissioner (an ambassador within the British Commonwealth of Nations) to Britain. Read more of this post