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The Old Un's Notes

Old Un's Notes | November Issue


Writer and Oldie reader Duff Hart-Davis got in touch with the Old Un with his gripping tale of ghosting Next Stop Execution, the 1994 autobiography of Soviet spy Oleg Gordievsky.

Writer and Oldie reader Duff Hart-Davis got in touch with the Old Un with his gripping tale of ghosting Next Stop Execution, the 1994 autobiography of Soviet spy Oleg Gordievsky.

Gordievsky was the most valuable double agent Britain has ever had – and is now the subject of Ben Macintyre’s new biography, The Spy and the Traitor.

One of the autobiography’s most explosive sections was the account of the Labour leader Michael Foot’s 20-year flirtation with the KGB, which recorded him first as an ‘agent’, and later as a ‘confidential contract’.

‘We described the blue-covered file entitled “Boot” which Gordievsky had read in Moscow, and Foot’s meetings with KGB operatives in London, during which his Soviet contacts would slip him an envelope of used £5 notes,’ says Hart-Davis. ‘Often the rendezvous was one or other of the twin window-seats in the Gay Hussar restaurant in Soho.

‘At the last moment before publication, Foot threatened action for libel, and both the Sunday Times, which had bought serial rights, and the publishers chickened out – with the result that we had to delete the most explosive passages.’

Had they been published, Foot’s remaining political credibility would have been destroyed.

‘Now that a full account has appeared in Macintyre’s book, it seems extraordinary that a latter-day leader of the Labour Party should persist in associating with rebarbative regimes,’ says Hart-Davis.


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