Welcome to my day: 31 October 2022 – whatever happened to Grigori Zinoviev, anyway?…

Historians amongst our readers might recall the “Zinoviev letter”, published on 25 October 1924, just four days before the General Election of that year, in which the Daily Mail suggested that the normalisation of UK relations with the Soviet Union under a Labour government would radicalise the British working class and put the Communist Party of Great Britain in a favourable position to pursue a Bolshevik-style revolution. It was, of course, a hoax but did its job, leading to a huge Conservative win and, in the process, the crushing of the Liberals.

The notion that Labour might be the opportunity that the Soviet Union needed was sufficiently credible to allow the hoax to work.

And here we are, nearly one hundred years later, in a situation where the Russian Government has infiltrated a British political party at the highest level. You wouldn’t have predicted that a decade ago, would you? And, whilst there is no suggestion that the Conservative Party is acting for the Putin regime, it is a mystery that Conservative and other right-wing politicians have been so welcoming towards Russian influence.

The receipt of significant sums of money from Russian donors, the welcome mat put down for Russian oligarchs, the willingness to be seen in public with said oligarchs, the appointment of one of their number to the House of Lords, all of these would have been unthinkable for the anti-communist warriors of the Conservative Party in the eighties.

It is, perhaps, a sign of naivety, a willingness to turn a blind eye to the risks in order to ensure that the Party can continue to hold power. Fundraising, especially when you need large amounts to pay for all of that campaigning, tends to cause politicians to overlook the risks in order to keep the money flowing in. And yes, before anyone mentions it, all political parties face that challenge and, sometimes, fail it.

That brings you to governance and security. It turns out that Liz Truss’s personal mobile had been hacked by the Russians, something that wouldn’t be a problem if it hadn’t been used for Government business. I was surprised, because anyone who has signed the Official Secrets Act would know that using non-governmental telecoms for official business is a pretty serious breach of security. And it appears to be a cultural problem, in that Suella Braverman has been found guilty of similar behaviour.

The normal next step would be a government enquiry, led by the Cabinet Secretary, as has been called for by Alistair Carmichael and Layla Moran over the weekend. Unfortunately, the Cabinet Secretary has been accused of covering up the Truss incident, and thus is compromised in turn… again.

Perhaps the Daily Mail could call for a full enquiry into the affair…

In answer to the question posed by the headline, Grigori Zinoviev was executed by firing squad on the morning of 25 August 1936.

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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8 Comments

  • Barry Lofty 31st Oct '22 - 9:42am

    It has been rather surprising that more has not been made of the Conservative Party’s willingness to accept large donations from Russian oligarchs? Sometimes I think we mere mortals are played for mugs that allow these situations to be swept under the carpet?

  • Michael Cole 31st Oct '22 - 10:16am

    I agree with Barry Lofty.

    I think most people are not fully aware of the extent to which dirty Russian money and influence has infiltrated the Conservative party.

    Our leadership should make more of this issue.

  • Gwyn Williams 31st Oct '22 - 11:06am

    We do not need to go back 98 years. A mere 4 years ago Jeremy Corbyn was defending the Russian state following the Salisbury poisonings.
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/14/jeremy-corbyn-under-fire-over-response-to-pms-russia-statement
    When the Leader of the Opposition is asking questions on behalf of the Kremlin, it gives cover to the links between the Russian oligarchs and the Conservative Party, even if that was a couple of Prime Ministers ago.

  • nigel hunter 31st Oct '22 - 11:29am

    Money, greed talks. Those in power (or high ups in the system) usually also have wealth or idealism it seems. Flatter them, make them richer,support them opens the door to influence.They become servants to maintain their position and become vulnerable to exploitation.I had to sign the official secrets act when working (now retired) and could be sacked if I broke it. However, I was just a little man and thus did not have powerful position.
    It would seem the Conservatives are prone to allow their arrogance feelings of superiority to regard themselves as above the law.
    The Mail ,1924. Is this where they started to be the paper they have become ? Where they have influence, power to help Conservatives to control the agenda and to avoid paying tax cos the paper and owner are registered abroad?

  • >I was surprised, because anyone who has signed the Official Secrets Act would know
    Not really, it is politicians we are talking about, who don’t go through the usual vetting process. Wouldn’t be surprised if many MP’s who achieve cabinet posts, would, if they had been normal job applicants, have failed vetting. But because they have been appointed, arrangements have to be made because what would be the outcry if say the appointment of a PM or Home Secretary were to be blocked by the security services…

    Remember recently it was reported circa 30 ex-RAF pilots were training Chinese pilots, obviously using the information and experience they had gained whilst working for Her Majesty. Something that would have been illegal under the old Official Secrets Act and which is reported is legal under the (Conservative) revised OA. We are living in different times to when people had an inate appreciation of official secrets and thought nothing of saying nothing and taking their knowledge to the grave.

  • Roger Young 31st Oct '22 - 2:00pm

    @Gwyn Williams
    I was one of many Liberal voices who marched against launching a war on Iraq, didn’t believe the claims of the UK government at the time and continues to mistrust anything claimed on the basis of secret ‘intelligence’ ever since. Remember, those of us who distrusted the claims were proved right. We know that the Russians will lie to justify actions they wish to take but we also know that Western countries will do exactly the same.

  • There are plenty of links between Russian donors and the Conservative party – some of it very recently:

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/feb/23/oligarchs-funding-tories

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/conservative-party-russia-donors-ukraine-invasion/

    And just today The Times reports that the Treasury has allowed a Russian oligarch with links to President Putin to spend £60,000 a month to maintain his lifestyle.

  • Helen Dudden 1st Nov '22 - 9:54am

    I think the Russian donations present a problem as what they want in return?
    Is funding questionable? Would having a KGB officers son within Westminster be a healthy option?
    When I’ve been in Westminster and another government department, I was searched it was known I was there.
    We are now much weakened by the consequences of this Tory government.
    I have made comments in a French newspaper after the immigration issue’s. There is a need to look for a long term answer that helps within the EU. Putting the blame on France is not the answer.

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