As if there wasn't enough drama in parliament today. Peers and MPs have just been warned that a suspected agent working for the Chinese government has been trying to infiltrate the Palace of Westminster, in a plot that wouldn't seem out of place in a James Bond film. Talk about The Spy Who Loved Xi.
MI5 has now released a security threat warning of a specific spying threat targeted by Labour donor Christine Lee. She has been a long-time funder of Labour MP Barry Gardiner’s office through her law firm Christine Lee & Co, which also works for the Chinese Embassy in London. Donations began in September 2015, soon after Gardiner joined Jeremy Corbyn's frontbench. They included £182,284 to pay the wages of two of Mr Gardiner’s Westminster aides — one of whom is Christine Lee’s son, Daniel Wilkes. Whoops!
The Interference Alert issued by MI5 said Lee had been 'engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with Members here at Parliament and associated political entities.' The alert also references Lee's activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department – the first time, to Steerpike's knowledge, that the security services have mentioned this body by name.
Already HM Lobby have been scrambling all over this story and found pictures of Lee mingling with David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn, propping up Barry Gardiner's office and even being given a 'Points of Light' prize by Theresa May. The activity which May's office recognised – engagement between Chinese and British communities – was a front to advance CCP interests and silence critics, the MI5 note suggests.
How long have the security services known? Mr S has found proof that her ties in Westminster stretch back at least 15 years, according to archived screenshots of her British-Chinese project.
The Speaker of the House of Lords, Lord McFall, warned:
“I should highlight the fact that Lee has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China. This facilitation was done covertly to mask the origins of the payments. This is clearly unacceptable behaviour and steps are being taken to ensure it ceases.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith has raised the issue now in the House of Commons, demanding an urgent update from the government and what repercussions Lee will face. Bit of a slip-up by the parliamentary security team it seems. One disgruntled staffer got in touch with Mr S to complain: ‘So a Chinese spy managed to get into parliament but it took me a 114 days to get my pass, sound lads.’
Mr S suspects this won't be the last we hear of Chinese efforts to undermine parliament.