Just another Foot-note to Cold War history

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL FOOT, the former Labour leader, today returned unexpectedly to the political limelight when his past relationship with Soviet officials in London came under scrutiny.

Mr Foot is the latest in a line of politicians and journalists whose links with the Russians have been called into question.

Today's Sunday Times claims that two former Soviet spies say they gave cash to Mr Foot to help him fund the left-wing Tribune newspaper he ran in the 1960s. The KGB apparently regarded Mr Foot as an "agent of influence" who would give them information about British politics.

In response to newspaperinquiries, Mr Foot, now 82, made a statement explaining that he had good relationships with diplomats from all over the world, including the former Soviet Union.

"I was especially friendly with the Soviet ambassador, Ivan Maisky, who was a good friend of this country as well as mine. I reported all these matters in my book Loyalists and Loners." Mr Foot said he would be happy if newspapers making allegations against him "reprinted that chapter for the education of their readers".

Earlier this year accusations were made against five Labour politicians and a Guardian journalist, arising from claims made by Oleg Gordievsky, former head of the KGB's London's section, after he defected to the West.

Mr Foot said how his contacts "were reported back by the KGB, heaven knows. Reputable newspapers should be careful not to be fooled by the Soviet secret police."

Suggestions that he may have overstepped the bounds of propriety in relations with diplomats met disdain from Labour MPs. One said: "All that was involved was the exchange of low-level political gossip. This has been flammed up to sell someone's book and to smear the Labour Party in the process. It should be treated with contempt."

Asked yesterday whether Tribune, with which Mr Foot has been associated since the 1930s, had taken money from the old Soviet Union, Mr Foot said the embassy had occasionally paid for advertisements.

Allegations that larger sums were involved worried him, he said, "because I don't think, if that was the case, that Tribune ever got the money".