For those who remember the ‘Wilson Plot’ – that is, the anti-(Harold) Wilson plot of the 1960s and ’70s – or have read about the ‘Zinoviev Letter’ affair of 1924, the following, from the summer of 2017, may set their antennae quivering.
Both those earlier conspiracies involved the British secret services, endeavouring to prevent or oust legitimately-elected Labour governments, on the grounds that they were spies or at the very least ‘assets’ of the Soviets. On both those occasions the right-wing press – especially the Daily Mail – played an important part. We saw in last year’s general election the Daily Mail repeating the same smears against Jeremy Corbyn; clearly advised by MI6, one of whose heads, Sir Richard Dearlove (now thankfully retired), is quoted here.
It’s reassuring in a way to see our modern spooks sticking so lovingly to their old prejudices; which, after the Wilson Plot was revealed and so thoroughly discredited in a number of books – Robin Ramsay’s and Stephen Dorril’s Smear (1992) being the best, and even films and TV dramatisations, like the excellent A Very British Coup (1988) – it is difficult to believe will still have any purchase among the electorate. But you never know. There’s no smear like an old smear, whatever the fetid smell of decay coming off it.
The irony now, of course, is that it’s the political Right which is allegedly in the pay of the Russians. The Daily Mail doesn’t seem to have noticed.