Mask: MI5s Penetration of the Communist Party of GB by Nigel West

LeftCentral Book Review 

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This book examines MI5`s 1930s infiltration of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) codenamed operation MASK, which involved the interception of radio communications between members of the CPGB and the Comintern in Moscow then headed by Georgi Dmitrov. Nigel West describes the role played by a range of personalities including Olga Gray codenamed M-12. Gray was recruited by British intelligence in 1931 and she had strong CPGB ties given that she was employed as a secretary to John Strachey. She was later identified as Miss X during the trial of Percy Glading, the CPGB national organiser who MI5 directed Gray to “cultivate”. As Nigel West informs us Glading and Douglas Springhall were imprisoned later as spies. Although Sringhall`s professionalism is doubted by West because he “had not been indoctrinated into the principles of Konspiratsia.” West provides individual chapter`s dealing with Springhall and Bob Stewart – BOB is described as the “Party`s spymaster”.

The book is dominated by two sets of primary sources, the MASK communication traffic pages 41 to 199, and the appendix pages 245 – 313. The appendix concerns an in-depth interview with General Krivitsky (aka Samuel Ginsberg) who visited Britain in 1940 the most compelling part of an absorbing book. West argues that the MASK material proves that the Comintern was an extension of Soviet foreign policy, promoting espionage while encouraging members of the CPGB to “take direction from a potential adversary and conspire to undermine Parliamentary democracy.” West informs us that several Labour MPs were “implicated” and are named. Read more of this post

Why did the Labour Party indulge Ken?

Frederick Cowell

Image © Amplified2010

If you are a Labour party member and disappointed at Ken Livingstone’s second defeat, go to a mirror, look at yourself – you are looking at one of the people responsible for his defeat.  Now, this article comes out before the official result; the Sack Boris campaign and the get out the vote drives undertaken by many local Labour parties could have helped turn the tide. But it is unlikely. So go and look at yourself in a mirror. If you are Labour you should use this as an opportunity to learn how to find a credible winning candidate – but then if you were part of the delegation that booed the mere mention of Tony Blair’s name last year you are a lost cause.

 In the primary election to be mayor two thirds of all London Labour members voted for Livingston over Oona King. Deep structural reasons and problems that go to the heart of the Labour party explain why this happened. King started her primary campaign late in mid- May 2010 when all the political action was focusing on the novelty of coalition government, whereas Ken had been unofficially campaigning the day after he was ejected from office in 2008. The primary also fell in the middle of the most contested Labour leadership contest for 30 years. Blame acting Labour leader Harriet Harman for that one – it is difficult to accept that someone of her political experience could not have foreseen that this would effectively make it a one horse race. King also had voted for the Iraq war in 2003 although, like many other Labour MPs, it was a decision she thought was wrong in hindsight and may have been less pertinent had she not lost her seat to George Galloway in the 2005 General Election. This gave a sense of permanence to her pro-war vote back in March 2003 so much so that seven years later it stuck with her as she tried to reach party members in the mayoral primary. Blame Tony Blair for that one – Blairites who bemoan the current state of the Labour party often have an attack of amnesia about the toxicity of the Iraq war and don’t seem to understand how much harm it did to an entire generation of centrist Labour MP’s. For example it did David Miliband’s leadership campaign no favours when he penned an article effectively asking people to ‘get over the Iraq war’.

As even the Economist noted at the time King was a good choice; her background reflected London’s nature as modern dynamic city, her policies were centre leftish and she was unencumbered by Livingstone’s foot-in-mouth tendency. Yet canvassing in the primary some workers for King noticed that a large numbers of Labour party members seemed to have a rose-tinted view of the race; a Tory PM promising cuts was in Number 10, wasn’t it time to get Red Ken back in city hall so he could fight them just like he fought Thatcher? Except this wasn’t 1981 it was 2012, and Ken lost to Maggie the first time round and is set to lose to Boris second time around. This is the answer to Dan Hodges, a Labour journo who took pride at voting Boris, but did quite sensibly ask the question – why does the Labour party indulge Ken? The new leadership aren’t really to blame; Ed Miliband was lumbered with him and as consequence had to defend him.  Instead party members decided to ignore the fact that in spite of a very strong first term record as mayor there were several features about his last two years in office, in particular his proximity with extremists, and the 2008 campaign that made him basically unelectable. This was known in 2010 yet members backed him – if you did that in 2010 look in the mirror today; you are responsible for giving the Conservative party a boost nationally in what should have been their worst election in a decade.

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How to ruin the Party

Daniel Mann

Image © Don Shall

It’s another slightly grey Monday here, and things seem as they always are. The city wakes up to a new day and a new week. As ever, Labour has control over the City Council, and down in Westminster, the ConDems are as muddling and incompetent as ever. To a certain extent, I think we in the Labour Party still don’t entirely understand why we’re in opposition, at least not from an internal perspective. But I’ll get to that in just a minute. First, let me introduce myself. I’m Dan, 21, BA in International Relations and currently an MSc student in Social Change at a certain North West redbrick university that’s a part of the Russell Group. It all sounds straightforward, right?

No, it isn’t. You see, I’m American by birth, but British by choice. I grew up in New York, but this is the second occasion that I’ve lived here in the UK. I wasn’t here for the 2010 election but, when I was living in London soon afterwards, I witnessed the numbness that we as a Party found ourselves in, having joined in mid-June of that year. But I digress. When I moved back ‘across the pond’, several months ago, I did the natural thing and plunged headfirst into local Party activities here, and I haven’t looked back. One such activity has been my involvement with my local Constituency Labour Party (CLP).

Quite recently, the CLP had its Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was, as ever, held in our Town Hall, an appealing Gothic edifice overlooking the city. As was expected, a great deal of members showed up, including quite a few whom I’d never seen at CLP meetings previous, all but one of which I’ve attended.

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A Defence of Ed Miliband and the Labour Leadership Electoral System

Image

Image © The CBI

Andrew Hyams

Since Ed Miliband became leader of the Labour party in September 2010 there have been murmurs about the nature of his election. Some commentators clearly need reminding that Ed’s win over his brother was fair and square. The real issue here, though, is about the actual system Labour uses to elect its leader, and I believe the current one is better than the often touted alternatives.

The fact that Ed only drew ahead of David Miliband in the fourth round of voting is misleading. If the election had been a straight fight between the two, assuming this did not change anybody’s vote, then Ed still would have won. Taking preferences into consideration under the Alternative Vote system enables the party to get the consensual candidate, and not a candidate in sway to a sizeable minority section of the party, as Ed has been construed to be.[1]

Indeed, Ed’s reliance on union votes has come repeatedly under fire. It is true that Ed only lead David in the ‘affiliates and socialist society’ section of the electoral college (which includes not just unions but organisations such as the Fabian Society and Scientists for Labour). Yet David’s lead in the other sections were small in comparison. Ed still needed significant backing in all sections to win.

Look at it this way. David only actually won the support of 18 more MPs and 10,822 more party members than Ed.  Whereas, Ed won the support of 39,139 more union and socialist society members than David. With a score of 147,220 votes and 175,591 respectively, Ed won the votes of significantly more individual people than David.[2]

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Not quite red Ed

Labour Leader Ed Miliband MP Speaks At Progress Conference In London. by mass419

(c) mass419

Tom McGuire

When Ed Miliband took his place on the (curiously almost exclusively blue) platform to make his speech to the conference, there was a mutual understanding that it was time he delivered. A year on from his dramatic victory over his brother Ed Miliband is yet to convince the country that he is a Prime Minister in waiting. Nick Robinson was busy reminding BBC viewers that Margaret Thatcher took a long time to convince her party faithful, and indeed the country, before she seized the initiative so dramatically and speculating outlandishly that we could be about to see one of those moments. Read more of this post

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