Tribune leader, 7 February 1992
The relationship between the British Labour Party and the Soviet Union is a fascinating subject.
The diplomatic reports from the Soviet embassy in London on meetings with Labour politicians during the eighties, unearthed by Tim Sebastian, are without a doubt a legitimate, if unreliable, source for researchers.
But they are not news. There was nothing in the Sunday Times “exclusive” last weekend on what the paper’s promotions department called “Kinnock’s Kremlin connection” which told anyone anything not already widely known. The opinions of Denis Healey and Michael Foot on the arms race and the dangers of Reaganism were expressed forcefully in speeches and articles throughout the early eighties. That Neil Kinnock was critical of Arthur Scargill’s leadership of the 1984-85 miners’ strike can surprise no one who sat through Mr Kinnock’s speech at the 1985 Labour Party conference. The Labour National Executive Committee’s arguments over the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981 were widely reported at the time.One could go on.
It could be that the Sunday Times‘s decision to splash Mr Sebastian’s report was simply a matter of misjudgment on the part of Andrew Neil, its editor. But such an explanation is too charitable to Mr Neil and his paper. The “Kremlin connection” story is nothing more or less than a traditional red-scare smear, an attempt, in the run-up to an election, to encourage voters to speculate that maybe there was something in the idea of Labour being part of a giant Soviet conspiracy to take over the world.
One expects this sort of garbage from the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. They have always been lower than vermin. But the Sunday Times used to have a reputation as a serious paper. Mr Neil severely damaged that reputation with his handling of the Gibraltar shootings. Now he should hang his head in shame.