I STILL don’t be­lieve he was a Rus­sian spy

The Mail on Sunday - - The Agent Boot­file - By JOE HAINES FOR­MER PRESS SEC­RE­TARY TO HAROLD WIL­SON

IT IS true that he was on the far-Left, and that he con­sorted with peo­ple who were sus­pected agents of the Rus­sians. But I don’t be­lieve Michael Foot was ever a paid agent of the Soviet Union. The Tri­bune news­pa­per, of which Foot was ed­i­tor, and the MPs who took its name had many slav­ish ad­mir­ers of Stalin and his mur­der­ous crew. But Foot was a pa­triot.

When the Falk­lands War broke out and Mar­garet Thatcher sent a task force to ex­pel the Ar­gen­tine in­vaders, Foot led the Labour Party in sup­port of her, de­spite the fact that many on the Left dis­agreed with him.

The odds were against her suc­ceed­ing. The safer po­lit­i­cal bet would have been to op­pose her. But Foot didn’t.

The only plau­si­ble rea­son that he would ever have taken money from the Sovi­ets would have been to sup­port the peren­ni­ally hard-up Tri­bune, but if he did I doubt he gave any­thing in re­turn.

The KGB files on which Rus­sian dou­ble agent Oleg Gordievsky based his al­le­ga­tions have to be treated with cau­tion. Soviet spies were in the busi­ness of forg­ing re­la­tion­ships with key fig­ures on the Left. It was in their pro­fes­sional in­ter­est to in­flate their in­flu­ence in their writ­ten re­ports.

I am equally sure oth­ers were on the Krem­lin pay­roll. I have no doubt that Jack Jones – the most hon­oured trade union leader in his­tory – was a Soviet in­for­mant and ac­cepted cash from them.

Mor­gan Phillips, Labour’s gen­eral-sec­re­tary in the 1940s and 1950s, kept a list of MPs sus­pected of com­mu­nist sym­pa­thies and called it the ‘Lost Sheep’. Four on the list were ex­pelled from the party.

As Harold Wil­son’s press sec­re­tary, I was aware there were Soviet sus­pects who served in the Gov­ern­ment. Stephen Swingler was made Trans­port Min­is­ter by Wil­son even af­ter for­mer Labour leader Cle­ment At­tlee said out­right he was a com­mu­nist.

In­deed, his name was on a list of 16 Labour MPs that Hugh Gaitskell be­lieved were covert com­mu­nists or sym­pa­this­ers that was sent to Sir Roger Hol­lis, the head of MI5. The fact is post-war Labour was rid­dled with them.

On the Gaitskell list were well-known names such as the Left-wing Welsh MP Will Owen, who was charged un­der the Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act with sup­ply­ing in­for­ma­tion to Czech in­tel­li­gence, but found not guilty at the Old Bai­ley.

Leo Abse, Frank Al­laun, the Sil­ver­man brothers, Syd­ney and Julius, Tom Driberg and Ju­dith Hart were oth­ers. Her hus­band was a com­mu­nist, but I be­lieved her protes­ta­tions that she was not. She was re­jected as a Min­is­ter be­cause of MI5’s ad­vice which turned out to be mis­taken.

And MI5 it­self was hardly in­fal­li­ble. Af­ter all, it em­ployed ‘Cam­bridge spy’ Kim Philby to a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive role.

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