It was Private Eye magazine that first called out Chapman Pincher, who had made all manner of claims about Soviet spies in the UK’s security services. Nicknaming him “Body Pincher”, because all his targets were dead by the time he made his claims, the Eye observed “dead men don’t sue”. That truism, from the 1970s, has now been understood by the Murdoch goons at the increasingly propagandist Times.
Hence today’s front page lead “MI6 believed Michael Foot was paid Soviet informant”, which is total crap. But far worse is the sub-heading, “Truth about former Labour leader emerges 23 years after he sued Sunday Times for libel”. If it were mere “belief”, then what has allegedly emerged cannot be claimed as “truth”. But, sadly, there is more.
“MI6 believed that Michael Foot had been a paid informant of the Soviet Union and was prepared to warn the Queen of his ‘KGB history’ when he stood to become Prime Minister, its officers have revealed in a new book … The British intelligence apparatus concluded that the evidence presented by a Soviet defector about the Labour leader’s links with the KGB was strong enough to warrant the unprecedented constitutional action”.
And who, pray, might this “Soviet defector” have been? You’ll love this one. “The book, The Spy and the Traitor, presents the first corroboration by MI6 officers of the allegations made by the Soviet defector Oleg Gordievsky that Foot had received a series of clandestine payments from the KGB, which classed him as an ‘agent’ and ‘confidential contact’”.
Oleg Gordievsky. Oleg sodding Gordievsky. The same Oleg Gordievsky whose allegations about Foot got the Sunday Times into such hot water in the 1990s. It’s the same otherwise unsubstantiated smearing as before; the same libellous piss in a differently-labelled bottle.
The only difference this time is that we have an unnamed “MI6 officer” - or maybe unnamed “MI6 officers” plural - who “believed” Gordievsky’s fiction. And note all those quote marks in the Times story. The difference 23 years later? Dead men don’t sue.
Hence the reaction, not least from Foot’s family, with John Foot telling “My great-uncle Michael Foot was a lifelong anti-Stalinist. Friend of Orwell, Koestler and Silone. Ludicrous to claim he was a Soviet spy. Sued successfully for libel around this when he was alive. No evidence. Shameful and cowardly”. And those in the media didn’t buy the story, either.
Andrew Neil, who knows a little about the Murdoch press and being sued for libel, observed simply “I find this surprising and in need of greater corroboration because: 1. Michael Foot was not a Soviet sympathiser. 2. He wasn’t that interested in money”. And Alastair Campbell added “And because he won damages when it was run before. 'You can't libel the dead' being abused. Really shabby”. Quite.
Ben Macintyre, a Murdoch columnist, has a book out. No doubt a little literary shock and awe will shift a few copies. But this dross is utterly beyond the pale. It was a pack of lies when the Sunday Times tried it on in the 90s, and it’s a pack of lies now.
The Murdoch press, leaping from gutter to sewer in no style at all. What a shower.
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