2020 08 Editorial – is the Tory Government a Russian Fifth Column?

 Is The Tory Government A Russian Fifth Column?

The Report of the Intelligence and Security Committee of the British House of Commons suggests that the Russian State has been subverting British democracy for at least six years. It suggests further that the Government has been wilfully diverting public attention from this fact.

The Report was compiled about nine months ago and given to the Government. The Government withheld publication, giving various reasons.

Publication occurred only when a Tory member of the Committee, Julian Lewis, defected from his Party, voted against it, and was elected Chairman.

The Tory whip was removed from him—i.e., he was expelled from the Tory Party. But his action was supported strongly by some well-known elements on the Tory Right which is out of joint with the Government.

The Coup was enacted when the Chairmanship of the Committee came up for Election.  The Government nominee was Chris Grayling, the most thoughtful of the Tory Brexiteers, who at the outset of the Referendum campaign argued that the consolidation of the Euro would determine the future course of the EU and that, since Britain would never join the Euro, it should withdraw and let European development continue.

Tory MP Julian Lewis unexpectedly nominated himself to be Chairman of the Committee.  He was supported by the Labour and Scottish Nationalist members of the Committee, who made no nomination of their own.  Lewis won 5 against 4.  The Report was published.  The Committee gave a Press Conference, chaired by Lewis, at which the Report was explained and expanded upon by Kevan Jones, Labour, and Stewart Hosie, Scottish Nationalist.

The Government was indicted of wilful negligence in the face of a Russian threat to British democracy that became plainly obvious in the Scottish Referendum of 2014.

The spirit of the assault on the Government, if followed through into action, could only lead to a McCarthyite inquisition into un-British activities.

It was said that Russian agents were allowed to be active in British political life, and that it was intolerable that there was no law to deal with them.

Who were these Russian agents?  A questioner asked if George Galloway and Alex Salmond were two of them.  They broadcast on Russia Today.  The panel would neither confirm nor deny that these were some of the people they had in mind, but it was quite obvious that they were.

The panel also said that it was strange that there was no law against spies, and that spies only broke the law when they handed over secret information to the enemy.

The implication was that people who expressed views that were critical of the British Parliamentary consensus, and that gave comfort to the Russian State, were Russian agents, and that there should be a way of dealing with them.

Immediately after the Press Conference Lisa Nandy, who speaks for Labour leader Keith Starmer on foreign affairs, came out strongly in favour of what had been said.

There was very little critical media questioning of the panel, but in this case media coverage cannot be held at fault.  If the two major Opposition parties and a section of the governing party assert on behalf of Parliament that the Government has left the democracy of the state defenceless against dangerous foreign tampering with it, and if the Government must be very circumspect in being dismissive of the Report, it is the business of the media to reflect that state of public life.

This British xenophobia is not inspired by the media.  The media is only reflecting the xenophobic nationalism that has been unleashed within the Labour Party under Keir Starmer’s leadership.  It expresses hatred of the world in which Britain must live, now that it has left the European Union.  On 22nd July he called for the shutting down of the Russia Today television channel.  It’s hardly accidental that two major commentators, George Galloway and Alex Salmond, would thereby be silenced.

Starmer—a Remainer who insisted that the holding of a second EU Referendum to overrule the first should be in the Party programme for the Election, prevented Corbyn as Leader from giving the Party a clear direction—seems to have come to the conclusion that it was English nationalism that lost the Party the Red Belt and gave the Tories a clear election victory.  He has therefore decided to outflank the Tories on the Right with a more overt appeal to raw nationalism.  The result at the moment is that only the Tories would be entitled on policy grounds to sing the Internationale.

Prominent in Kevan Jones’s assertion that the Government has left the state vulnerable to Russian State influence, which is undermining democracy, is the fact that there are now many wealthy British citizens who were Russian citizens twenty-five years ago.  These are the “oligarchs”.  They certainly were Russian oligarchs in the 1990s.  They are businessmen today.  But Kevan Jones suggests that they remain in some profound sense Russian and therefore are a danger to British capitalist democracy.

Daniel Defoe wrote a famous poem called The True Born Englishman.  He ridiculed the idea that there was such a thing.  England, he said, was a mongrel drawn from many breeds and that was the source of its vigorous action in the world.

The Russian oligarchs, when they saw that their time was up in Russia, set about finding a future for themselves in Britain.  They transferred their immense wealth to the British economy.  It is now being said that the City of London acted as a Laundromat for them, cleaning their dirty money and making it respectable.

Is Starmer seriously telling us that, if he became Prime Minister, he will somehow locate all that laundered money within the deluge of money that passes through the City of London and give it back to Russia—to Putin who, he says, is undermining British democracy?

The oligarchs were oligarchs in the 1990s—when Russia was recognised as a democracy by Britain.  The socialist economy‚ the only economy in Russia in 1990—had to be made capitalist so that Russia could become democratic.

How could that be done?  The way it was done was that the socialist economy was broken up and chunks of it were given to well-placed and unscrupulous individuals within the crumbling power-structure.  Suddenly there were billionaire capitalists, where a couple of years earlier there were no capitalists at all.  The State crumbled around them.  They had no aptitude for capitalist market activity, so they made deals with the experienced capitalists of the West.  And, in the absence of a State which compelled them to pay taxes, they paid no taxes.  The standard of living of the people plummeted and life expectancy fell.

A State structure was eventually restored by Putin from a base in the security forces.  The billionaires were compelled to pay taxes, and imprisoned if they defaulted.  That was described in the West to be a restoration of tyranny.

The era of oligarchy ended.  The more astute oligarchs transferred their wealth to Britain and learned to be businessmen under effective commercial law.

That is the abandoned hornets’ nest that Starmer tells us is still full of hornets trying to sting us to death.

It puts one in mind of Bebel’s description of Anti-Semitism as “The Socialism of fools”.  There were certainly Jews among the money lenders, and it might be that they were greatly over-represented in that business, but it was a business that would continue without them.  The same goes for the former Russian oligarchs who have become British capitalists.

How might Starmer set about rooting them out?  Close down the Evening Standard and confiscate its assets?  Bankrupt Chelsea Football Club?

Kevan Jones admitted that the Committee had found no actual evidence of damage inflicted on British democracy by Russian action.  But that absence of evidence was proof to him that the Government had prevented it from being discovered.

The thorny point of course has nothing to do with evolved Russian oligarchs.  It has to do with Russia Today television, and with the regular appearance in it of Alex Salmond—who was blackguarded by the Scottish Nationalist Party—and George Galloway, who tells home truths about the Imperialist dimension of the Labour Party.

Starmer says that British democracy is being damaged by “disinformation” broadcast by Russia Today.  By disinformation we assume he means information which is false.  But no instance of it is ever given, so one must suspect that it is factual information which he thinks should be concealed.

Of course Russia Today could be closed down, and an Inquisition could be set up to identify people who express certain opinions as enemy agents and punish them.  Parliament can do what it pleases now.  But Britain would gain little and lose much by doing that.  Its propaganda system across the world is far more extensive than Russia’s.

In the olden days, when there was a fundamental conflict of social systems between Britain and Russia, British democracy coped very well with the clash of opinions in which fellow-travellers had a voice.

Today there is no conflict of systems, only rivalry within the capitalist system.  But Labour under its new management believes that British democracy can now only survive by means of xenophobia.


Simultaneously with accusing the Tories of facilitating Russian attacks on the democracy of the state, Keir Starmer stopped the Labour Party’s defence of a libel action, brought against it by members of the Party who collaborated with the BBC in making a programme which charged the Party of being institutionally Anti-Semitic under Corbyn’s leadership.  He did this in a way designed to be humiliating to Corbyn.  In effect he branded Corbyn as an Anti-Semite who had infected the Party with Anti-Semitism, emphasising that the Party was now “under new management”, and was being purged.

Corbyn could hardly have let this pass without comment.  It was not intended that he should.

Corbyn, having taken legal advice, had decided that the Party should defend the libel action.  When Starmer called off the defence, what Corbyn did in effect was to say that the Party had not lost the action, but that Starmer had made a political decision that the Party should surrender and pay legal costs and compensation against itself, as if it had been found Guilty.

Surrendering from a position of strength is not the same as being defeated.

Corbyn’s statement on Facebook, as reported, was that the move to pay “was a political decision, not a legal one”, describing the decision as “disappointing”;  adding that—

The decision to settle the claims in this way is disappointing, and risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about actions taken to tackle anti-semitism in the Labour Party in recent years.  To give our members the answers and justice they deserve, the inquiry led by Martin Forde must now fully address the evidence the internal report uncovered of racism, sexism, factionalism and obstruction of Labour’s 2017 General Election campaign.

Subsequently, representing the ‘whistleblowers’, Mark Lewis of Patron Law stated that he had been instructed to pursue cases against Mr. Corbyn.


The statement that what Starmer did was political, not legal, is true in commonsense language.  But the settlement actually was legal.

There was no Court verdict against the Labour Party.  There was a political decision to give away the game.  But calling off the Defence, publishing apologies for defamation, and paying damages and costs in order to end the action advantageously to the Prosecution was legal enough.

Starmer, for a political purpose, caused the Party to plead Guilty.

It would, however, have been much more satisfactory to the Prosecution to have won a Court verdict.  The damage inflicted would have been greater.  On the other hand, failure to win in Court would have been very self-damaging.  And, if the expectation was that the EHRC Report on its investigation into alleged Labour Party Anti-Semitism would be mild, Starmer had reason to give at least the appearance of a legal victory against Corbyn’s defence.

Newsnight on July 22nd gave considerable coverage to the matter.  The lawyer against Corbyn said that Corbyn, in dismissing the settlement as political, had repeated the libel, and suggested that libel actions against Corbyn personally were in preparation.

Newsnight Report (transcript):

“Today the Whistleblowers emerged from Court victorious.  They will receive substantial damages from the Labour Party because of what it said after the broadcasts.  The Whistleblowers also received an unreserved apology.  However, the former leader hasn’t said Sorry.  He had this to say today:

The decision to settle these claims in this way is disappointing, and risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about actions taken to tackle Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in recent years.

He was supported by other Labour left-wingers like Unite Secretary, Len McCluskey.  Today in Parliament discussing another chequered Corbyn legacy, in this case the Salisbury poisoning, Starmer told the Prime Minister this:  ‘In case the Prime Minister hasn’t noticed the Labour Party is under new management’.  He could just as easily have been talking about what happened in Court today…’

Emily Maitlis:  ‘First to Mark Lewis, a lawyer representing those Whistleblowers in Court earlier today.  Mark, you’ve one case this morning.  We understand you’ve now been instructed to take further action.  Is that right?  Can you tell us what’s happening?’

Mark Lewis (Partner, Patron Law):  That’s correct.  I mean I’ve seen the front page of today’s Jewish newspaper, and it highlighted very clearly the difference between two leaders, Keir Starmer, I’m sorry;  Jeremy Corbyn, I’m not sorry.

And then an apology, a full apology, was made in Court and it was completely undermined afterwards by Jeremy Corbyn saying he was not sorry, that he’d been advised, that the Labour Party had been advised that there were good defences;  as if to say, there was an apology to you but we had our fingers behind our backs.

EM:  So, just to clarify this, it’s specifically over the statement that Corbyn issued after today’s ruling, that’s where your instruction has come now?

Lewis:  That is in respect of one issue is in relation to the libel is effectively repeated.  What the public has been told, what the ordinary reader has been told, is that those settlements were not legal settlements, they were done out of a pragmatic response to say, We’re getting rid of these cases, that those people ought to have lost those cases.

EM:  I’m guessing that, with the settlement that Keir Starmer made, the Labour Party hoped, it hoped to have drawn a line under the events of the past.  Is this the end of your action against the Party, or does it go further in other cases now?

Lewis : Well the case, the libel case in respect of the Panorama against the Party has gone now.  There are other cases against the Party in respect of the leaked Report which has been mis-characterised, mis-quoted.  It’s a very factional Report, and there are 32 people who’ve instructed me to take action.  Their actions are in respect of data breaches, misuse of private information, libels.  It’s like an exam question for a libel lawyer to look through them and see how many claims you can find.

EM:  So, you’ve got 32 new people, 32 more people, taking actions against the Party.  Can you give us any names.

Lewis:  Well, Lord McNicoll is one of the people who is taking action, who has been named in the Report.  There are many other people who are named in the Report.  They come under different categories, people who work for the Party, people who were in the Party in political positions, and people——

EM:  But, sorry to interrupt you, are you talking about Ian McNicoll, the General Secretary?  What is he claiming for?

Lewis:  Well, Lord McNicoll, Ian McNicoll as you call him, is named in the Report and is blamed for things that simply didn’t happen.  It’s a mis-characterisation of the Report which is being taken on.  And what is being prepared as a Report is a very factional basis, which is incredibly edited, incredibly slanted, incredibly misleading, and of course the Left are quoting from that as if it’s some sort of Gospel, is the answer to everything.  Obviously the people who are quoting it haven’t read the eight hundred and fifty one pages of the Report.

EM: Can I just ask, Mark, I mean clearly what you’re showing is that this hasn’t had a line drawn under the whole affair, and yet there would be those saying, Look, there is new management now.  Aren’t these new claims in danger, if you like, of punishing the guy who’s trying to clear up the mess?

Lewis:  Well, that might be so, but the problem is that the people—the departing Generals—effectively threw lots of grenades at the bunkers they were leaving, and those have to be sorted out.  There are casualties, there are people’s lives that have been ruined, people are being attacked on social media, people are being attacked in real life, and they have to be sorted.  One of the things that Keir Starmer can do is, of course, expel the people who’ve been making all these cases.  It doesn’t matter if they’re in the Parliamentary Labour Party.  If [unintelligible] they need to go.

EM:  Mark Lewis, thank you very much indeed.  Let me pick up with James Mills, who clearly worked very closely with Jeremy Corbyn and with John MacDonnell.  I want to start first of all with that statement that came from Jeremy Corbyn.  Should he have put that out, in your view?

James Mills (Senior Strategic Adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, 2018-19):  Look, I will not confuse your viewers very much from the [unintelligible:  I come from the] ‘draw a line under things and move along’ [camp];  and I actually welcome the settlement.  I think it sends a strong message on Anti-Semitism.  But also from a wider Labour Party perspective.  I think dragging this thing on for months on end:  absolutely no one wins, no one benefits from this.  But, you know, I totally get why some people are angry though.  And look, you know, that’s not different from [unintelligible].  Jeremy Corbyn as an individual obviously rightly feels aggrieved and wants to make his case and put across his case in respect to this but it hasn’t stopped the Labour Party taking a more wider perspective on this from an electoral point of view for what’s in the interest of the Labour Party.

EM:  He’s caused an awful lot of pain to an awful lot of people.  As you heard Mark say, casualties and people’s lives here.  Are you saying that he still should have put out that statement because he felt aggrieved?

Mills:   It was within his right as an individual backbench MP, as an individual for that matter, to put out any statement he likes in respect of somebody that he thinks has [unintelligible] against him to do that.  My point is that, seen from a wider Labour Party perspective, dragging this up doesn’t help anyone really.  I think Mark has got a good settlement for his clients.  He should spend more time rejoicing that before moving on to extra business.  You know——

EM:  Hang on a sec, you know.  Before you assume it’s just a lawyer touting for business—

Mills:  Those are your words.  I just said he should rejoice in getting a good settlement for his clients.  My honest opinion on this is I strong suspect that the legal opinion might have been [unintelligible] the EHRC Report—that the Labour Party has seen it and it isn’t as negative as most people suspected it would be.  I don’t see the utility of carrying on a case over the coming months against that backdrop would be actually quite successful.  So…  And one last point.  I think people shouldn’t forget Keir Starmer, I’m pretty sure, he said he was going to do this when he ran for Leader.  So he was well within his rights to do what he did today, in my view.

EM:  I mean you could say it was the mandate he got from the people who voted him in.

Mills:  [Unintelligible:  several of the candidates in the leadership election] said they were going to do this.  So it’s not a complete surprise.

EM: Yea.  When you hear that there are other claimants, and when you know how close you were to running the campaign, I mean, they destroyed the Party for many of these people, haven’t they?  Do you think that they’re right to go and try to get closure on this?

Mills:  As a Trade Unionist, I think it’s quite sad that people’s personal details, if you’re a member of staff, being shared and laundered in public, and I just wish it hadn’t been done personally.  I wouldn’t have leaked that Report.  I don’t think members of staff should be brought into the public gallery per se, but of course, they would be heartfelt about things about this.  My colleague and friend, James Schneider, got on to it today.  His account, where he turned around and said, describing individuals that Mark represented, and he was saying that there were cases in particular—he’s from a Jewish background—many people who worked for Jeremy Corbyn were from a Jewish background—he was putting across a case in particular [Unintelligible] Anti-Semitism, and he found that he was actually, the Party processes were slowing him down.  And look, my starting position is that Whistleblowers should be protected, regardless of the issue.  In this case they are.  If you ask me, were some of those Whistleblowers opposed to the position of the Labour Party, well of course they were.  One individual had a blog saying so, and he had a very senior position.  That doesn’t meant that we should not be trying to draw a line in the sand.  That doesn’t help the Labour Party.

EM: Let me just ask you then, because as we said at the beginning, Keir Starmer made it clear in the Commons today, New Management.  He’s made a purge of Anti-Semitism central to that leadership.  Do you think he’s doing a good job?  is he on the right track now?

Mills:  Yea.  I welcome it.  I think anyone that was in that leadership election would have made that decision today.  I think it’s sent a strong message that Anti-Semitism is vile.  Look, I think that the Labour Party has got to stop fighting itself.  I run a comedy show and you see me and Margaret debate policy about how we stamp down tax avoidance, for example, rather than debating Anti-Semitism.  An anti-racist party needs to draw a line and move on.

EM:  OK.  Let me bring in Margaret Hodge then…


Mark Lewis said on joining the legal practice, Patron Law:  “I’m delighted to be joining Patron Law. Although based in Israel, modern technology means that I am seconds away for face to face meetings. I am as close to the High Court as when I lived in Manchester!


James Mills wrote an article in Tribune on 14th April 2020, entitled ‘It Became A Kind Of Show Trial’:  An Inside Account Of Labour’s HQ’.  The editorial introduction to the piece says

“A former staffer on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns describes the hostility he faced when he went to work in Labour’s HQ—and says members need to act to prevent an unaccountable clique from taking control again”.

Mills was brought on Newsnight, so that it could be said that Corbyn’s side of the matter had been presented.  He did not speak for Corbyn.  He did not say that the Labour Party defence, presented when Corbyn was Leader, had not had a Court verdict given against it after a Trial, or that the Labour Party—on its transference to new management by Starmer—had stopped the action by pleading Guilty before the trial.

What he did was support Starmer in giving the case away to the Prosecution before trial, by declaring itself to have been guilty when Corbyn was running the Labour Party.

It is hardly to be believed that the producers did not know that Mills would not speak in support of Corbyn.  All he said in that respect was that Corbyn had the right to say what he pleased, as everybody has.  Corbyn’s case was not presented.

Mills’ reasoning seemed to be that the EHRC criticism of the Party was going to be unexpectedly mild, and that it was therefore sensible for the Party to plead guilty before it was exonerated by independent arbitration.

Mills’ statement that Starmer had said in his Election campaign that, if elected, he would end the libel action by directing the Party to plead Guilty and pay costs and damages, came as a great surprise to us!

This journal was open-minded about Starmer in the Election.  It would not have been so if it had heard him say he would direct the Party to plead Guilty if he won, or if it had been known before the Election that, among his many backers was Trevor Chinn, who has been described as a “dedicated pro-Israel lobbyist throughout his life”.  He, like many of Starmer’s supporters, was a donor to Tony Blair.  The full list of Starmer’s supporters did not become known until after the leadership election, while the donors to the other candidates was public before that election.