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True Spies Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 13:35 GMT
Your comments on the programme
Your comments will be posted on this site at regular intervals until Tuesday 29 October.

Have your say

We try to publish as many of your comments as possible but, due to the high number sent, we cannot post them all. We always aim to use a good cross-section of your comments.


In answer to Bob Nakian of Lewes: the man who drank 8 - 9 pints of beer did admit to "losing it" in the end.

As for taking impressions of keys: once a rough shape has been obtained a bit of tweaking with a fine file will soon make the key fit!

However, I do agree with Mr Nakian's question "why should we believe them?" Yes, indeed, why should we?
Pete James, Coventry

Evan Roberts - what are you talking about? The government is there to do the best overall for the people. It isn't there to do what people want.

Most people would rather not pay tax. Most people don't know what's best for them.

Appeasing even the average person's short term views and wants would ruin the country within weeks.

As for MDS from Durham, the unions did very good work looking after workers in terrible conditions in the early 1900s but we already have a "union" to look after everybody.

It's called the government.
Ian, UK

"If the unions had got their way what state would this country be in now," writes Tim Harris from Luton.

I smiled wryly when I read this.

Apparently Thatcher and the state services won the day, and the state we live in now is down to their efforts.

So when Tim complains about industries that move abroad, rather than employ people that suffer some of the lowest wages and inhospitable working conditions in Europe, due to privatisation, liberalisation and destruction of our industries and skill-base, perhaps Tim should ask "how could it be any worse?"
Martin, Birmingham


Unions have a place in industry, but the militant hard-liners needed curbing

Tim Harris, Luton

I would suggest that those who watched the programme should take some of the things said by the ex-Special Branch men with a big pinch of salt.

Try, if you will, to take meaningful impressions of a set of keys with plasticine and you will see what I mean.

Try to drink 8 or 9 pints of beer and still retain an ice-cool brain.

And if two of the statements made by these people are open to doubt, why should we believe the rest of what they have to say?
Bob Nakian, Lewes

Thank you for your expose on right wing stooges within the trade union movement.

I can remember during the 70s and 80s the right wing of the labour movement pointing the finger at supporters of the militant tendency and accusing them of being wreckers and infiltrators.
W Martin, Ramsgate

If the unions had got their way what state would this country be in now? Look at the industry that is moving its manufacturing bases out of the UK, why?

It has become too expensive to compete because of high wages and costs like Health and Safety.

The militant unionists, whilst doing good for the generations of their time, have done damage that we are seeing now. Unions have a place in industry, but the militant hard-liners needed curbing.
Tim Harris, Luton


It's good that the security services are that vigilant

Kieran Dempsey, Morden
Protecting "OUR" way of life? There is no general way of life in Britain, there is the luxury life of the minority and then the life of the majority, that which was on the verge of becoming much better until the minority acted to destroy our wishes.

The people were not being made to strike by these Socialists, they were choosing to strike because they saw it as the answer to their problems.

Any attempt to stop a mass movement cannot live in the name of democracy.
Evan Roberts, London

A fantastic programme - very entertaining and enlightening! It's good that the security services are that vigilant.
Kieran Dempsey, Morden

I'm afraid I found the programme disappointing. It pursued naive lines of questioning about betrayal and lying - all of which one assumes to be the sine qua non of professional espionage.

I was hoping - rather than old footage interspersed with interviews from some of the more usual suspects - there would be a genuine attempt to investigate the extent of the spying in this country.
Charlie Guest, Carlisle

I thought that the programme was excellent in the way that it dealt with the secret state and its view of freedom and liberty.

As a former member of the CPGB I was very interested in the material on the black list.

In the 1980s I found it very hard to find work and was restricted to low paid jobs.
Chris Shelley, Birmingham


How can the police force ever claim to be politically impartial?

Sam Dawson, Tadley, Hants
Special branch and MI5 showed this country that you cannot get away with any corrupt act or inciting riots. Extremist groups can run havoc.

Without our intelligence officers where would our country be?

Someone needs to infiltrate these trouble makers we have in our society. If you make an idle statement concerning any act of abuse you have as good as done the act. Well done to the producers of True Spies.
Josy Birmingham, Preston, Lancashire

Should the programme not have been called "True Blue Spies? How can the police force ever claim to be politically impartial?

By suppressing the anti-apartheid movement they encouraged apartheid.

By suppressing the anti-Vietnam war protest, US war was approved. Can the police ever be trusted again?
Sam Dawson, Tadley, Hants

I found part one of your True Spies interesting and informative. What I cannot understand though is your politically correct stance.

The reason that such outrageous lengths had to be taken to find out who were the members of these Trotskyite organisations was national survival.

It's easy to look back at events and tut about civil liberties but in the late seventies militant Trotskyite groups felt that they were within a whisker of bringing down the state and bringing about the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Dave, Mansfield

Like many figures on the programme, my family was victimised due to their beliefs and wanting to get a fair wage.

My father was blacklisted for many years. Also my uncle was involved in the fight to get the Shrewsbury Two released. I would be interested to know if they were on the subversive files.

Subversive my arse right enough. They were two good men trying to get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.


Barry Sheridan, Glasgow


I'd love to be able to read my own file and find out just how dangerous they thought I was

Chris Smith, Amsterdam

I quite enjoyed the revelations in the first programme. At the time I was involved in left-wing politics,

I think all of us would have been very disappointed if we didn't have at least a Special Branch file.

What kind of a threat to the status quo would we have been if they didn't even take us seriously enough to spy on us?

Now that they've revealed they considered even CND members and campaigners against asbestos as worth keeping a file on, it seems they were almost as incompetent and paranoid as the left.

I'd love to be able to read my own file and find out just how dangerous they thought I was.
Chris Smith, Amsterdam

Surely, the 'take home message' conveyed by the series it is to be found in the title of the final programme 'It could happen to you'.

Rather than being an expose of the abuse of power and the subversion of democracy by the state that will lead to any changes this programme is little more than a warning to those who do not share the views of the establishment and the 'Tony' party that, as the saying goes, 'resistance is futile'.
Howard Peel, Hull


It's an unfortunate fact of life that democracy needs to be protected from those who would destroy it

Nik, Preston
Like others who have commented I was a member of a left wing group in the 1970s and had suspicions and some evidence that spying was going on.

Much of the Government and media propaganda at the time related to the 'police states' that existed in the Communist bloc, but all the time our 'own' state was using the same methods of surveillance.

The irony is that most of the dissidents in the Eastern bloc were fighting for the same thing as us - a democratic society based on the majority and not the power and privilege of the minority.
Martin, Bristol

It's an unfortunate fact of life that democracy needs to be protected from those who would destroy it.

Communists and militants, by definition, are anti-democratic and, therefore, a danger to the state and to all our freedom.

Those who join these groups should be thankful they still have their freedom and stop complaining that they are being watched.

This programme highlights a necessary job and we ought to honour those who go undercover and risk their lives so that we can sit comfortably in our armchairs watching great documentaries on the BBC.
Nik, Preston

Isn't it ironic that a country that prides itself on being a democracy could be so anti-democratic to workers just because they wanted fairer pay, and better working conditions?

I think it's a case of democracy as long as the rich control the workers.
Simon, London

I watched your programme with much interest; it was a real eye opener. I was involved with left-wing politics when I was younger - Young Militants and The Communist Party.


It is comforting to know that there ARE people in the security services dedicated to protecting our way of life ....

James Morgan, Liverpool/Sheffield, UK

For a long time I was convinced that my mail was being tampered with, so I complained to the Post Office with no satisfaction. Over the years it has slowed down and now all my mail arrives intact! Watching last night makes me wonder! I cannot wait for the second part.
Wayne, Lydney/Forest of Dean

This was a truly excellent programme; it was well investigated and put together. It is comforting to know that there ARE people in the security services that are dedicated to protecting our way of life from subversion by left wing union and political groups.

Many of the people who were the subject of the investigations complained they were just 'trying to get a better deal for the workers'. This is admirable, but completely shown to be false by Scargill's comments that they were trying to change the political system in this country.

I can hardly wait for the next episode - it is shaping up to be fantastic.
James Morgan, Liverpool/Sheffield, UK

True Spies certainly had an effect on me. I wanted to jump into the TV and throttle that man whose one word response was, "tough" when asked what he thought about supposedly "subversive" employees being blacklisted.
Pat, London


As an ex-member of the Militant Tendency I wanted to bring down the State that most people supported

Stephen Brent, Chichester
I was sorry that the programme tried to sensationalise the issue. It was interesting to hear the former Trotskyites complaining about the infringement of their democratic rights by MI5.

They were doing their best to put us under the control of a Russian Government who had no concept of freedom, democracy or human rights. These weak minded love junkies do not know how good they have it.
R. Parsons, London

In response to Julian Hood's comment: "Hence they were no better than the secret police of Eastern Block countries!" Come off it! How many people spied on in England were imprisoned, tortured, put in mental hospitals or murdered?

As an ex-member of the Militant Tendency I wanted to bring down the State that most people supported. I'm glad the likes of me and my ilk were prevented from doing so in the moderate and reasonable fashion that they were. Thank you Special Branch.
Stephen Brent, Chichester


The secret services really show themselves to be the true enemies within

Fran, London

Watching True Spies has restored my faith in this country at last. My only hope is that state organisations are more efficient these days.

As a member of the working class in the 70's and 80's my life, and millions of others, were totally disrupted by these so-called Socialists who were not interested in the working man but only their own political ends.
Norman Burton, Pinner

A very interesting programme, given that the "Secret State" is after the power to monitor email, they are probably reading this now.

I always thought it was a right of people in this country to disagree with the government, but obviously this leaves you open to surveillance and oppression. But of course, it is always done under the heading of the GREATER GOOD.
Mark Nicholl, Plymouth

It's a great documentary - about time it was all exposed. The secret services really show themselves to be the true enemies within. How can we say we live in a democracy when this goes on? When will there be something done to curtail their powers?

Maybe a follow up could show how life would be so much better for the vast majority if we had a true democracy instead of the sham we have now.
Fran, London

My reading of the comments made by the Special Branch officers interviewed was that they were protecting the country from subversives by subverting the rule of law themselves. Hence they were no better than the secret police of Eastern Block countries!
Julian Hood, Colchester


I remember family members talking about impending strike action and being helpless to do anything other than 'carry' the union line

Chris McGeachin, Warsaw, Poland (ex UK)

Overall I was disappointed with the production of this programme. What could have been an interesting insight in to the workings of the 'secret state' was in my opinion poorly written and presented.

The whole program boiled down to the notion that the public is not aware that operations of this type go on in this country, when in reality no-one is truly surprised. This was illustrated when Arthur Scargill believed more union members would have been talking to the police.

Overall, the program had few consistencies and was attempting to make a mountain out of a molehill. The reporting was clearly intended for the tabloid viewer will little attention span, who needs sound bites and controversy to excite them, rather than facts and evidence gathered through a well structured balanced argument. Sorry, but I though this program was absolute tosh.
John Francis, Durham

I was born and raised in a working class household on Merseyside during the 60's and 70's and remember with some clarity what the world was like then. Programmes like 'True Spies', whilst factually accurate, cannot convey the atmosphere and mood of a bygone era.

Undoubtedly unions existed, then as now, primarily to protect their members but some senior unionist operated to entirely different agendas. I remember family members talking about impending strike action and being helpless to do anything than 'carry' the union line.

The work of Special Branch and MI5 may not have been within the bounds of the law but the very fabric of the country was at stake.
Chris McGeachin, Warsaw, Poland (ex UK)


I was shocked and horrified by the extent of the paranoia of the state and the secret services

MDS, Durham

The news that Joe Gormley and other leading trade unionists were in the pocket of Special Branch did not surprise me. The trade union movement throughout the years has been littered with traitors to the class they were supposed to represent and it is still going on today.
Tony Martin, Glasgow

I would just like to say well done to the BBC for another cracking programme. I was a strong Militant supporter back in the 1980's and it has opened my eyes as to the sort of things that go on.
Steve Kings, Winsford, Cheshire


There is a case to be made for greater surveillance of individuals in society ..

Graham Paterson, Edinburgh

I watched this programme with very mixed feelings. My politics are left-wing and I am a member of a union which recently took strike action in which I participated. I was shocked and horrified by the extent of the paranoia of the state and the secret services.

On the other hand I am afraid that I was equally as shocked by the militancy of the unions whose aggression and belligerence seemed to know no bounds.

I firmly believe in the democratic right to union representation for the safe-guarding of workers' conditions and pay but using the unions as a tool to topple democratically-elected governments and to incite revolutions - is this democracy?
MDS, Durham

I applaud this series. The whole issue of state security and so-called "civil liberties" needs to be properly debated in the public arena.

There is a case to be made for greater surveillance of individuals in society and for a proper definition of the limits of "civil liberties" to be defined. After all, we don't want "criminal liberties" masquerading as "civil liberties".

However, that said, the whole process needs to be subject to proper democratic safeguards and those within the "secret services" not only need to be properly accountable for their actions.
Graham Paterson, Edinburgh

Now that I've sent this e-mail, will they open a file on me too? The attitude of the "hairies" when interviewed was disgusting. How could they ever look anyone in the eye again?
Paul Roach, Liverpool


A number of times I suspected that my telephone was being listened to

Tony Clark, Someset

What a disappointing programme - I just about managed to stay awake through part one. As somebody who has a strong memory of the era in question, this programme came across like a party political broadcast on behalf of the Communist and Workers Revolutionary Parties.
David Stewart, Teddington

The first programme of the series last night was very informative. I suppose we always knew that the security services were doing this but never had any proof.

During the 1980's & 90's I was an active member of the Communist Party, active trade unionist, visited the USSR and Germany etc. A number of times I suspected that my telephone was being listened to. There was one time when I finished a call put the phone down and picked it up to make another call. I could hear the end of my last phone call being played back! Even now I am not sure if this actually was the security services or not.

The security people in last nights programme seemed to think that they were doing a good job in support of democracy, where as they were actually being undemocratic.

I suppose that the establishment are inherently undemocratic but just don't want the population to know it!

I look forward to the rest of the series.
Tony Clark, Somerset

After watching your programme last night, I am not surprised to find out what went on in the name of national security. But to think that some of the people you interviewed are surprised astounds me.

And I wouldn't be shocked to learn that it's still going on. ALL in the name of national security, of course.
Mr J W Smith, Chester

I would just like to say that True Spies was one of the best documentaries that I have seen, it was interesting and well researched. Well done!
Tim Bennett, Oxford

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