BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Programmes: True Spies  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
True Spies Friday, 1 November, 2002, 02:56 GMT
MP 'spied on by the state'
Dave Nellist
Former Labour MP, Dave Nellist, has reacted angrily to revelations that he was spied on by Special Branch during the 1980s.

At the time, Mr Nellist was a supporter of Militant, who critics saw as a highly organised Trotskyite group set on infiltrating the Labour party.

The "Secret State" - Special Branch and MI5 - had no doubt that Militant was subversive and believed its leading lights should be watched.

During the second edition of True Spies, to be shown on BBC Two on Sunday, BBC reporter Peter Taylor reveals evidence of how Mr Nellist's activities were being monitored.

A Special Branch spy handler confirms to the programme that an agent infiltrated Militant and got close to an unsuspecting Mr Nellist.

I think it was completely out of order

Dave Nellist
Mr Nellist, now a Socialist Alliance Councillor in Coventry, says: "What was the state doing in investigating, if it was me, an elected Member of Parliament who had the support of thousands of people in the area to go off and do a job down in London?"

Mr Nellist says, "I think it was completely out of order."

Threat

Britain had been convulsed by strikes and street violence between Far Left and Far Right during the late 70s and early 80s. "The Secret State" believed parliamentary democracy was under real threat.

But Mr Nellist says: "I've got nothing to apologise about for being a socialist, but I think that the state has got something to apologise for."

It was the epic showdown between Mrs. Thatcher and the miners that tested the "Secret State" to the limit.

Arthur Scargill
Arthur Scargill leads a march during the strike
Mrs Thatcher was determined to take on the militants she believed were destroying British industry.

Arthur Scargill was President of the National Union of Mineworkers at the time. He had been the Conservatives' sworn enemy since the 1972 miners strike.

Then his flying pickets had forced the closure of Saltley Gate coke depot and ultimately helped topple the Conservative government of the day.

Arthur Scargill says: "I'm an enemy of capitalism, I am a supporter of socialism and it's for that reason that it doesn't surprise me that the state and its security services have always targeted me and regarded me as a subversive."

To meet the political threat, the "Secret State" decided to use covert means to monitor its perceived enemies.

Stella Rimington was Assistant Director of the MI5 division that countered industrial subversion at the time.

I wanted at all times to get rid of a Conservative government by legitimate means

Arthur Scargill
She says: "The leaders of the miners strike themselves had actually said that one of the purposes of the miners' strike was to overthrow Mrs Thatcher who was the elected Prime Minister of the country."

Mr Scargill does not disagree, but argues that this was not a subversive attack on the state.

He says: "I wanted at all times to get rid of a Conservative government by legitimate means, but above all what I intended was that the British mining industry should survive and it should be developed and expanded."

The millionaire, David Hart, was one of the Prime Minister's closest advisers during the strike.

Working as a journalist for The Times he saw the violent intimidation faced by some miners determined to return to work.

Behind the scenes, he helped devise and finance a strike-breaking strategy by giving active support to those who wanted to get back to their pits.

It was a brave or rash miner who, under police protection, was prepared to run the daily gauntlet of hate from his neighbours to go to work.

Protection

True Spies reveals for the first time that Mr Hart arranged for former SAS soldiers to protect the working miners and paid for them out of his own pocket.

In order for them to get through the pit gates, Scargill's pickets had to be outmanoeuvred. The police had to be one step ahead.

Intelligence provided by a "Secret State" spy was the key to David Hart's strategy being effective.

An agent was in place close to Scargill and the leadership of the NUM, the programme reveals the spy's codename was "Silver Fox", and they gave the police the crucial advantage.

John Nesbit, who worked for South Yorkshire Police at the time, says, "we were in a position to get information, very, very specific and precise information that was correct every time, as to where the violent picketing would be taking place..."

That information we got from Special Branch I think beat the strike

John Nesbit
"Every time we got the information - that I understand came from a Special Branch informant - was absolutely spot on and allowed me to deploy men and to successfully carry out a police operation."

More miners went back to work, the strike collapsed and the miners' union split. Hart's strategy had worked.

John Nesbit says: "That information we got from Special Branch I think beat the strike, there's no doubt about that. And without that information I don't think we could have managed it."

Arthur Scargill believes the "Secret State" fought the battle in an underhand and repressive way.

He says: "All their surveillance on Arthur Scargill is not only illegal, is not only against the whole question of human rights and civil liberties, but in my view flies in the face of democracy itself."


True Spies: Something Better Change was broadcast in the UK on BBC Two on 3 November 2002.
True Spies home
E-mail us
Your comments
FAQs
The making of True Spies
Secret State quiz
SECRET STATE TIMELINE
The beginning
The Cold War Era
Post Cold War
  WATCH/LISTEN
  VIDEO CHOICE
  VIDEO CHOICE
 Launch console for latest Audio/Video
Links to more True Spies stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more True Spies stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes