Mr Jones – a film about a Liberal fighting for liberal values in 1930s Soviet Union

If you were told about a researcher for Lloyd George, who had links with George Orwell, who became a journalist and flew with Hitler and then discovered a famine in Ukraine, which Stalin wish to keep secret, you would have believed it was the plot for a film. It is, but it is also based on fact.

The film “Mr Jones” is on General Release from 7th February. It shows how a young Welshman (and a Liberal), Gareth Jones, who had worked for Lloyd George, in 1933 gained a visa to visit Moscow to seek to obtain an interview with Stalin for an explanation of his five-year plan. Whilst, as a journalist, he was officially confined to Moscow, he evaded Soviet security to travel to Hughesovka (Donetsk) and discovered the Holodomor; the deliberate starvation of between five and 10 million Ukrainians by the Soviet regime. On leaving the Soviet Union, he seeks to expose the truth in a story taken up by many newspapers, including the Guardian and the New York Evening Post.

However, his exposé in the 1930s was unwelcome at a time when there was widespread sympathy for the Soviet “experiment” amongst the liberal establishment. Gareth Jones’ story was vehemently denied by the Soviet authorities and the Moscow cadre of journalists who were under the influence, and sometimes the pay, of the Soviet Union.

Eventually, the truth about the Soviet system comes out, with Orwell’s “Animal Farm” being, perhaps, the best-known exposé. Perhaps, the themes of the film, set in the 1930s, resonate today – independent journalism, fake news, political corruption, expediency and cover-up. The film, which is subtitled “The Truth Cannot Be Hidden Forever”, stars James Norton (most recently appearing as Stephen Ward in the “Trial of Christine Keeler”). The film also stars Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret in “The Crown”) and Peter Sarsgsaard (currently filming in the new Batman movie). The director is the renowned and Oscar nominated, Agnieszka Holland.

The film has received critical acclaim and has received favourable reviews (e.g. in The Guardian). James Norton is due to appear on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 9th February.

Whilst the film is dramatised – a prerequisite for obtaining a large cinema audience – for those who wish to check the facts against the allegorical portrayal, there are various books that set out the factual position. The second edition of “More Than a Grain of Truth: The Biography of Gareth Jones” was published on Amazon Kindle on Friday 31st January at £2.99. “The man who knew too much” (by Martin Hickman) is to be published in paperback in May. Pulitzer prize-winner, Anne Applebaum’s book “The Red Famine: Stalin’s War on the Ukraine” places the film in its historic context. International bestselling, “Blood Lands” (2011) by Timothy Snyder, also describes the killings in Eastern Europe between Hitler and Stalin and starts by describing Gareth Jones’s experiences.

“Mr Jones” is a film about a Liberal fighting for liberal values. Whilst set in the 1930’s, its issues are all too challenging today.

Gareth Jones 3

There is a website dedicated to Gareth Jones here.

* Graham Colley is President of the Lib Dem Lawyers Association. He is the great-nephew of Gareth Jones. He was on the London List in the 2019 European Elections and was candidate for Rochester in Medway in December 2019. He is currently President of Rights Liberties Justice (Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association). He has been helping to promote the film "Mr Jones" on a voluntary basis.

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This entry was posted in Liberal History and TV and film.


  • Great article. I had never heard of him or the new film. I will be watching this.

  • Simon Thomson 4th Feb '20 - 6:07pm

    Looking forward to seeing this. On another point the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (or Aberystwyth University as it now is) has a history of producing a great many Liberal politicians.

  • David Evans 4th Feb '20 - 6:56pm

    You might struggle to find it. So far it seems to be scheduled in one Cinema in Edinburgh, one in Birmingham, one in Cardiff and two in London – one being the “Institut Francais Du Royaume-Uni” in Queensberry Place.

  • Thank you for this. I note that the film was released last year and seems to be available to watch on internet. I really must do so.
    My memory goes back only to the war. I was aware of talk of Uncle Joe, that is Stalin, our ally against Hitler at the time. I remember watching the television production of the film « 1984 » based on George Orwell‘s book – starring Peter Cushing. We were shown a film version of Animal Farm at school. By then Uncle Joe had changed to an ogre from a friend.
    At least it all taught me the dangers of not looking for the evidence before forming views.

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