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True Spies Friday, 8 November, 2002, 14:53 GMT
Your comments on the programme
Your comments on True Spies: Something Better Change will be posted at regular intervals until Tuesday 5 November 2002.

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.


Back in the 19th Century, John Stuart Mill delivered the greatest argument for liberty, but was aware of its demands and potential dangers.

The grey area that is the background to the debate on what constitutes true liberty and its protection is forever changing.

And yet, in some respects it remains the same now as it did for Mill. Power is the key concept to understanding the debate.
Richard Stephenson, Portsmouth

I am not pleased to learn that there is no structure in Britain that defends us, the people, against the conspiracies of minorities who seek to impose their political philosophy on the majority by spying and surveillance.
Richard, UK


If you try to overthrow democracy by violent means you must expect democracy to defend itself

Niall Sullivan, Chester

Surely there is a paradox in that the State purport to be defending the principles of democracy, whilst, they infringe individual civil liberties and prevent legitimate political actions?
Lauren, Halifax

I laugh at the feigned surprise of Arthur Scargill, Ricky Tomlinson, Red Robbo et al when they are informed of the surveillance by Special Branch and MI5.

What did they expect?

If you try to overthrow democracy by violent means you must expect democracy to defend itself.
Niall Sullivan, Chester

It was stated by MI5 that they do not target the individual, but the organisation. That's rubbish!
Paul, London

A brilliant programme. In hindsight there was a struggle between Marxism and capitalism that culminated in the miners strike of 1984/85.

The part that interested me was that production at Longbridge fell alarmingly during Red Robbo's tenure as senior convenor 1975-1979 and rose after he departed.

Those who took him on probably saved Longbridge.
Ian Nicholls, UK


What I find surprising is that anyone should not consider Marxists subversive

Richard Laversuch, Andover
The True Spies programmes are very revealing and show the extent of MI5 and police paranoia about small and thoroughly unrepresentative minorities and the threat which they supposedly constitute to society at large.

That threat in the 1970s and 1980s was grossly overestimated.

I think police and MI5 resources should have been devoted to combating the serious crime wave in the UK especially in the 1980s under the Conservative government.
Phillip Hilton, Bristol

What I find surprising is that anyone should not consider Marxists subversive.

The programme seems to want to question this. They believe in revolution and in a theory fundamentally mistaken.

In a Marxist state everyone would lose their rights and freedoms, including workers.
Richard Laversuch, Andover

How ironic to hear Stella Rimington describe Arthur Scargill, the democratically elected leader of the NUM, as a "subversive".

Mrs Thatcher secretly enlisted the help of the unelected and unaccountable David Hart to help her break the strike by undermining the unity of the miners!
Fergal, Dublin


In today's world there will always be a requirement to look closely at extremist groups

Simon Edwards, Swansea
I was very interested to hear what Mr Scargill had to say, and I must agree with him in as much that people should have the freedom of speech and the power to come and go as they wish.

But when it comes down to one man who is in a strong position of leadership, such as in the NUM, and can "pull the wool" over the eyes of the people who put him in this position for his own political war against the government of this country, then it is no longer a matter of freedom of speech.
Dave, Peterborough

For reasons of state security, in today's world there will always be a requirement to look closely at extremist groups. The process of spying is necessarily secret.

When we catch a glimpse of this shady world what we see is often not reassuring.

The programme showed a Special Branch officer showing no remorse for blacklisting a member of public because he was a member of the Communist Party.

As a result, the person involved did not work for a number of years.

The secret state was punishing this person for his political views.
Simon Edwards, Swansea


Does the right of the government to protect itself outweigh the right of its citizens to live freely in a democracy?

Hazel Taylor, Liverpool
What about Greenham Common? I don't believe there were no MI5 agents there.

The women's peace movement that preceded the miners strike involved thousands of women from all over the country and posed a major challenge to the nuclear state and the Cold War.
Gica Loening, Edinburgh

Does the right of the government to protect itself outweigh the right of its citizens to live freely in a democracy?
Hazel Taylor, Liverpool

Stella Rimington states that "contributions from Russian miners to the NUM" is interference in another country. Have we or the US never interfered in other countries internal conflicts?
Sam Dawson, Adley, Hants

Clearly 'True Spies' raises serious questions about the role of the security services themselves in subverting the democratic principles of the UK - in so far as they have targeted legitimate, democratic dissent, and even elected representatives.

Your programmes paint a disturbing picture of a secret elite who have the power to decide what is and is not legitimate political discourse.

What control does the elected government have over the activities of these people?
Eric Watkins, Rochester


I am pleased to learn that there is a structure in Britain that defends us, the people ..

John Hole, Wells
So the Secret State believes that it is upholding democracy by spying on people who are going about advocating their political beliefs.

Now if these people are not advocating the violent overthrow of the democratic state but nonetheless advocating the removal of the present political system through the ballot box, do the secret agencies of the state see it as their duty to prevent this replacement taking place?

If so can we really claim to live in a democracy?
James Hamilton, Coventry

I am pleased to learn that there is a structure in Britain that defends us, the people, against the conspiracies of minorities who seek to impose their political philosophy on the majority by violence and intimidation.
John Hole, Wells

Having watched the excellent programme looking at how the unions and left wing organizations were infiltrated by the secret services in the 70s and 80s, I feel it proves beyond doubt that theThatcher years were the nearest thing this country has ever had to a dictatorship.

Before the Conservatives were finally forced out of office and went into the election knowing they would never win, they ensured the miners would never prove a threat to any government again.

This had less to do with economics and more to do with quashing one of the last collective working class threats.
Jen, Neath


My dad was a union man, and I have seen the dark side of this country for real

David Turner, Birmingham
Had there been a more balanced reporting of the disputes at the time and the activities of the faceless 'security' services the communities which are now still suffering from the destruction of industry might instead be prosperous and productive, giving jobs to the unemployed.

And what would be the consequence of this? A safer and happier society for everybody.
Paul Higgins, Tamworth

Thankfully we have Special Branch and MI5 to keep tabs on the likes of Scargill, Nellist and Tyndell. I think without them the mob might rule in Britain, MI5 do good work.
James Crofts, Rugby

My dad was a union man, and I have seen the dark side of this country for real.
David Turner, Birmingham

Entertaining and engaging program, but I feel facts were left out that altered the perception of the events surrounding the miners strike.

Firstly Arthur Scargill never held a vote on the strike, further hypocrisy from the man who supposedly believes in democracy.

Secondly the strike was brought to a quicker conclusion by the Nottingham miners, who largely didn't strike.

These workers helped keep the stock piles of coal, which had been built up throughout the early 1980s by generous productivity bonuses paid to miners, topped up.

Also the length of the strike was a bigger nail in its own coffin than a spy in the NUM.

Financial hardship drove the miners back. Then again spies are far more interesting viewing!
T Peniston, West Yorkshire


I find it very disturbing that MI5 were allowed to conduct themselves in this manner ..

George Sherwin, Sittingbourne
So, the Miners' Strike proceeded exactly as planned by MI5. How very convenient.
Nick , UK

After watching the second part of True Spies tonight it brought home certain uneasy feelings that myself and 5,500 other people are all subversives - because we are all fire-fighters and members of the FBU.
Bruce Jackson, Kirkcaldy

I find it very disturbing that MI5 were allowed to conduct themselves in this manner, especially in relation to putting members of trade unions on blacklists.

However I would not be surprised if MI5 where still keeping tabs on trade union activist, bearing in mind what's currently going on at the moment within British industry.
George Sherwin, Sittingbourne

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