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It woz the Russians (Part 87)

We do do a Russian Manchester tour but we want to put in an early plug for our Russian London all-day extravaganza: “Spies, Saboteurs, Soviets and Samovars”.


In condemning Jeremy Corbyn for being ambiguous and vague about the Russian Salisbury poisoning scandal no one seems to have mentioned the obvious reason for his reticence to criticise. One of his predecessors as Labour Party leader – Hugh Gaitskell – was possibly poisoned by the Russians at their embassy in 1962 as “punishment” for hounding communists out of the Labour Party.

I refer to my own London Compendium (Penguin, 2003). Gaitskell visited what was then the Soviet Consulate at 5 Kensington Palace Gardens on 23 December 1962 to obtain a visa for a visit to the USSR. While waiting he was given tea and biscuits. A week later he complained of feeling unwell and was taken to Middlesex Hospital. On 18 January 1963 he was dead from heart and kidney failure.

According to Peter Wright, the agent who later wrote Spycatcher, the biscuits may have contained hydralazine, a drug that produces the symptoms of lupus disseminata erythematosis, a tropical disease rare in Britain, even rarer in someone who had not visited the tropics, and not usually seen in men over 40 (Gaitskell was 56). The drug induces heart and kidney failure, and had already been outlined as a method of assassination in a Soviet journal.

Gaitskell’s “elimination” allowed the more pro-Soviet Harold Wilson to take over the party and eventually the country. Now turn to the Daily Telegraph 16 March 2016: “Was Harold Wilson a Soviet agent?”…