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Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK


UK Politics

Driberg always under suspicion

The Kremlin had two MPs on their books

By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder

It will come as no surprise to contemporaries of flamboyant former MP Tom Driberg that he was a KGB spy, codenamed Lepage.

Britain Betrayed
The notoriously homosexual MP for Barking was a close friend of Guy Burgess and visited Moscow with him.

He was a supporter of Stalin and throughout his time in the Commons and later the Lords there were persistent rumours that he was a Soviet agent.

It is claimed it was during one visit to Moscow that the KGB used his habit of picking up men in public lavatories - known as cottaging - to trap him.

Allegedly he attempted to seduce a KGB man in the urinals behind the Metropole Hotel.

But he did nothing to hide his political sympathies which were well known in Westminster and more widely.

He rose to prominence as a journalist working for Lord Beaverbrook's Daily Express where he used his contacts to start the hugely-successful William Hickey gossip column.

Pursued Jagger

He was also accused of chasing Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger.

He was made a peer by Harold Wilson in 1975 and when he died a year later, his coffin was draped in a red flag.

What many were wondering in Westminster was exactly how much use Lepage would have been to the Soviets.

He would not have been party to any great state secrets and he had a reputation for unreliability but, at the height of the Cold War, both sides were eager to recruit anyone near the centre of power - which he certainly was.

More surprising is the revelation that little-known ex-MP Raymond Fletcher was also a KGB agent.

Mr Fletcher, who sat for Ilkeston, Derbyshire, was codenamed Peter and died in 1991.

He was always thought to be a moderate in the Labour Party, but had a maverick streak which led him to abstain on a key vote on entry into Europe.

As a result he was sacked by Harold Wilson from his only government job, as parliamentary private secretary to Roy Mason after only three months.

He was a part-time journalist with the left-wing Tribune newspaper but apparently moved to the right over the years.

He had undergone open heart surgery after two heart attacks and, after the 1979 election, was targeted by his own constituency party.

He quit politics and the Labour Party in 1983 and moved to the south of France.

The revelations about the two MPs activities will have little effect on the Labour Party or Tony Blair's government.

In the 1960s and 1970s there were constant rumours about left-wing members of the Labour Party being in the pay of the Kremlin - mostly born out of Cold war paranoia.

And there is no suggestion so far that either of the men did anything that harmed national security or put lives at risk.



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