Foot's friends rally to quash spy theory

Russian alleges Labour leader was KGB agent `Boot'
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The Independent Online

MI5 is growing increasingly uneasy about the allegations being made by a former MI6 double-agent, Oleg Gordievsky, who was at the centre of a new storm after claims were made yesterday in the Sunday Times that Michael Foot was a KG agent.

Mr Foot condemned the allegations as a "lie", and senior Labour sources said they believed that none of the mud would stick to Tony lair's leadership. ut the security and intelligence service fears it may face accusations of being behind a smear campaign against the Labour Party to prevent a Labour election victory, as a result of the claims being made by Mr Gordievsky in a book. There were previous allegations, never proved, of MI5 attempting to destabilise the Wilson government.

The book, to be published in June, will identify Labour politicians and trade union leaders alleged to have close contacts with the Soviet Embassy.

It was alleged that the Soviet spies knew Mr Foot by the codename "oot"; Jack Jones, the former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, was codenamed "Dream"; and Ray uckton, the former general secretary of the rail union Aslef, was "artoc".

Sir Edward Heath, Tory MPs and Labour colleagues rallied to the support of Mr Foot yesterday. Sir Edward, who saw MI5 and MI6 reports on espionage contacts during his time as prime minister, dismissed the claims about Mr Foot.

"People used to meet ambassadors of all countries, whether in government or in Opposition. Obviously, we don't tell them things they ought not to know but I would have thought it was most unlikely," he said.

Mr Foot's friends angrily denounced the publication of the allegations in the Sunday Times, which is to publish further claims next week from the book by Mr Gordievsky. Mr Foot, 81, said they were a "wretched revival of McCarthyism".

The former Labour leader denied a charge that he accepted money from the Soviets on behalf of Tribune, the newspaper of the Labour left wing. "We never received any finances except maybe people paying for advertisements," he said.

A former colleague on Tribune, Mervyn Jones, said the paper was funded by donations from the unions and wealthy sympathisers, including the band leader Jack Hilton.

Mr Foot, who is consulting his lawyers over the allegations, said yesterday; "The headline [KG: Michael Foot was our agent] that appears in the Sunday Times is an absolute lie. So far I have not discovered anybody that believes it."

A statement from Ray uckton said: "As trade unionists and socialists we believed it was important to maintain a dialogue with fellow trade unionists from the Soviet Union. There was nothing sinister about it. We have nothing to hide, and no regrets."

Jack Jones, who is considering whether to consult his lawyers over the allegations, said: "I have never knowingly known anybody from the KG. If they were, I would have shunned them like a bargepole. I have met Russians. They could very well have been. I don't know. I mean who knows who is a CIA man and so on; its very difficult. It is a farrago of lies designed by a man who wants to make a lot of money quickly.''

Mr Gordievsky said: "The Sunday Times publication is entirely correct. They've guessed correctly all the names."

Last night Mikhail Lyubimov, a former KG officer, denied in Moscow that Mr Foot had been paid or was an agent.

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