Ex-spy unhappy at paper's handling of Foot KGB story

Author says names were not in his manuscript. Chris Blackhurst reports
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The former MI6 double-agent, Oleg Gordievsky, yesterday distanced himself from the article in the Sunday Times at the weekend which claimed that the Soviets regarded Michael Foot, the veteran Labour leader, as one of their spies.

Mr Gordievsky, whose memoirs are being serialised in the newspaper, said he was unhappy with the sensational headlines, and said Mr Foot's name had not been in the manuscript agreed with his publishers.

Mr Gordievsky's down-playing of allegations against Mr Foot echoed remarks by John Witherow, editor of the Sunday Times, who told BBC Radio on Sunday that he believed Mr Foot was not a KGB agent.

After consulting its lawyers, Macmillan, publishers of Mr Gordievsky's book, Next Stop Execution, insisted on the removal of the names of Mr Foot and others listed as perceived by the KGB as "agents of influence".

Mr Gordievsky said: "Several names were taken out. I understand it's the general attitude of all publishers that they take a careful line about names . . . They go through all the names, while newspapers take a more daring line."

While the Sunday Times was careful not to claim that the article was an extract from the book or even directly based on information contained in the book, it was accompanied by an advert for the forthcoming serialisation. Mr Gordievsky said he had not seen the Foot story. "It was basically my information but they made additional researches. In that sense it is not quite the information I gave."

In an article in today's Independent, Mr Gordievsky rejects the idea that he is motivated by money. He says that in his 11 years of working secretly for British intelligence, "I refused to accept payment for my underground work."

A senior executive at the Sunday Times said it had moved quickly to snap up Mr Gordiev-sky `s book after the recent revelation in the Spectator magazine that Richard Gott, a Guardian journalist, had accepted money from the KGB.

The executive did not disclose how much the paper had paid Mr Gordievsky but what it received, he said, was disappointing. "When we started looking at what we'd got, we realised he hadn't got a manuscript close to publishing. What he had was limp, it was all single-sourced and it was all him saying it." A journalist was urgently sent to Moscow to investigate the author's claims.

William Armstrong, Mr Gordievsky's editor at Macmillan, said that after the Sunday Times journalist's endeavours, it was likely that the references to Mr Foot would be incorporated in the book. "Things are moving very quickly - our final version will be similar to the Sunday Times," he said.

Mr Witherow last night maintained Mr Foot's name was in the "original manuscript" supplied to the Sunday Times. "We went out and independently verified it," he said. Asked if the forthcoming extracts were Mr Gordievsky's work or the journalist's, he replied, "it's all Gordy's."

Another View, Letters, page 14

Comments