How close were Labour and the Soviets during the cold war? At the time, many newspapers were on the hunt for links - but allegations were hard to prove. Today, the Spectator tells the story from the horse's mouth
- Anatoly Chernyaev, the Kremlin's link man with Labour in the 70s and 80s. Unbeknown to his visitors - Michael Foot (who welcomed Brezhnev as 'comrade') and even Charles Clarke (who comes out of this quite well) Chernyaev was keeping a diary. It shows how various Labour visitors begged for help - after all, Labour and the Soviets had a common enemy: the Conservatives. They said so in terms. Edward Short, as Harold Wilson's deputy, said: "if you, the Communist party of the Soviet Union, want a Labour government in Britain then help us". It goes on like this. Chernyaev records how he promised Neil Kinnock "everything they wanted from us to beat Thatcher and get to power".
How do we know this is genuine? Well, Chernyaev is alive and remembers this still (Dasha Afanasieva, who helped pull the story together for us, spoke to him on Monday). He gifted his diary to the US National Security Archive which has translated the post 1985 passages (when he was prompted to work with Gorbachev).
Pavel Stroilov, a Russian living in London who has written our cover story, found the passages about Labour between 1973 and 1985. His translations were independently verified by Svetlana Savranskay from the US National Security Archive who describes the Chernayev diary as ‘the single most authoritative source on Soviet policy-making in the last 20 years of the Cold War’.
All told, the diaries offer a fascinating insight into Labour Soviet relations, and Peter Oborne and Gerald Kaufman give their takes in this week’s magazine. We have more disclosures in next week's magazine. This is a story that is just beginning to be told.