The Ralph Miliband smear story is merely one in a long line of Daily Mail smears. The most notorious one of all was the infamous Zinoviev Letter. This letter, apparently written by Grigory Zinoviev, a high-ranking Soviet official was passed to the Daily Mail by British military intelligence or MI6.
The first Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald was weak and relied on the support of the treacherous Liberal Party (plus ça change). A vote of no confidence on 8 October 1924 was triggered by the MacDonald government’s decision to drop its prosecution against John Ross Campbell, the editor of the Weekly Worker under the terms of the Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797. The government lost the vote and MacDonald was forced to go to the king to request a dissolution of parliament. He called a general election for 23 October.
During the weeks between the dissolution and the general election, the Daily Mail published the Zinoviev Letter, which purportedly claimed:
A settlement of relations between the two countries will assist in the revolutionizing of the international and British proletariat not less than a successful rising in any of the working districts of England, as the establishment of close contact between the British and Russian proletariat, the exchange of delegations and workers, etc. will make it possible for us to extend and develop the propaganda of ideas of Leninism in England and the Colonies
Tories will tell you that the Zinoviev Letter had no effect on the outcome of the General Election but that view is naive at best and mendacious at worst.
The Zinoviev letter – one of the greatest British political scandals of this century – was forged by a MI6 agent’s source and almost certainly leaked by MI6 or MI5 officers to the Conservative Party, according to an official report published today.
New light on the scandal which triggered the fall of the first Labour government in 1924 is shed in a study by Gill Bennett, chief historian at the Foreign Office, commissioned by Robin Cook.
It points the finger at Desmond Morton, an MI6 officer and close friend of Churchill who appointed him personal assistant during the second world war, and at Major Joseph Ball, an MI5 officer who joined Conservative Central Office in 1926.
The exact route of the forged letter to the Daily Mail will never be known, Ms Bennett said yesterday. There were other possible conduits, including Stewart Menzies, a future head of MI6 who, according to MI6 files, admitted sending a copy to the Mail.
Over the years the Tories have become masters of dirty tricks and their very close relationship with the security services and Fleet Street allows them to undermine other political parties and rig elections.
On October 25, 1924, four days before the election, the Mail splashed headlines across its front page claiming: Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters: Moscow Orders To Our Reds; Great Plot Disclosed. Labour lost by a landslide.
Ms Bennett said the letter “probably was leaked from SIS [the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6] by somebody to the Conservative Party Central Office”. She named Major Ball and Mr Morton, who was responsible for assessing agents’ reports.
Labour lost the 1924 election and the Tories were returned to power. But it would not last long. In 5 year’s time, they would lose again to Labour, which found itself fronting another minority government.
Ten years after it published the Zinoviev Letter, the Daily Mail published its most infamous headline of all: “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”.
Yesterday, the Telegraph’s deputy editor, Benedict Brogan, couldn’t help himself and like some incontinent schoolboy wrote this blog titled “Whether he hated Britain or not, Ralph Miliband was one of the Cold War’s bad guys”.
Brogan was the Daily Mail’s political editor until 2009.