George Brown


Brown was variously, deputy leader of the Labour Party (1960-70), Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister in Harold Wilson’s governments in the 1960s. Remembered via Private Eye’s euphemism for his regular condition of being “tired and emotional.” Other exaggerated tales of Brown’s altered states include an official visit to South America:

Brown, spotting a vision in scarlet at a reception asked for the next dance. The vision resisted: “Mr Brown, I will not dance with you for three reasons. The first is that you are drunk. The second is that the band is not playing a waltz, but the Peruvian national anthem. The final reason is that I am the Cardinal Archbishop of Montevideo.”

According to an Encyclopedia entry, from 1932 he worked as a fur salesman for the John Lewis Partnership, “dropping his cockney accent to appeal to society customers. Brown earned a great deal on commission.” This also adds that in 1953 he was appointed as a consultant to the Daily Mirror Group of newspapers, enabling him to stay in politics.

After he resigned in protest from the Labour Government in 1976, he found employment with Courtaulds, Commercial Credit (Holdings) and British Northrop. With Stephen Haseler and Douglas Eden he was part of the Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) as president he chaired their 1981 conference (Brown was a founder-member (1981) of the Social Democratic Party). Robin Ramsay’s (1996) The influence of intelligence services on the British left, states that Brown was one of the CIA’s sources in the Labour Party, in 1963 he was chair of the Organisation Subcommittee, whose role Ramsay contextualises:

So, if we freeze things at 1963, just before the death of Hugh Gaitskell, the situation in the Labour Party and union movement was this: it was being surveilled by Special Branches, the US state department, the Foreign Office’s IRD and various private organisations like the Economic League. Information and disinformation on the left was being distributed by Common Cause and IRIS both funded in my opinion, by the CIA and by the secret Foreign Office propaganda organisation, IRD, through its network of journalists, union leaders and politicians. Where pertinent, the information was being fed into the Labour Party’s organisation via the National Agent’s Department and the Organisation Subcommittee.

Ramsay also notes that the Gaitskellite faction which dominated the party were being “boosted, legitimized and discretely subsidized by the CIA” through the Congress for Cultural Freedom; and that their trade union allies in the major unions had “seen off the left’s challenge over unilateralism”. Ramsay has also stated in the (1996) Clandestine Caucus, Part 2: Atlantic Crossings, that the attempts by the Labour right to police the entire Labour Party and trade union membership, culminated in 1961-62 with five MPs, including Michael Foot, expelled from the Parliamentary party for voting against the Tory government’s defence estimates:

The Gaitskellites repulsed the unilateralists at the annual conference that year; and in the Labour Party its ‘personnel committee’, the organisational subcommittee, was dominated by Ray Gunter MP and George Brown, a ‘CIA source’, and serviced by the Party’s National Agent’s Department, which received its information from IRD and others. Then things went wrong. Determined upon a final purge of the Parliamentary party, George Brown approached MI5, via the journalist Chapman Pincher, for evidence of Soviet links to Labour MP’s believed to be ‘fellow travellers’. But MI5 declined, apparently because afraid that to do so would reveal their sources within the PLP; and then, with the Macmillan government in what appeared to be terminal decline, Gaitskell died suddenly and the right in the Parliamentary Party — and the Anglo-American intelligence and security services — saw the party leadership slip from the Gaitskellites’ hands as Harold Wilson won the leadership election — and then the general election of 1964.

This period is also said to be notable for Encounter becoming a major outlet for the ‘revisionist’, anti-socialist, anti-nationalist intellectuals around Gaitskell. That The assertion that Brown was a ‘CIA source’, is sourced to Tom Bower’s biography of Sir Dick White (p. 356). There are also allegations in Stephen Dorril & Robin Ramsay’s, (1991) Smear: Wilson and the Secret State (p. 14-18) that in the 1950s Gaitskellite MPs: Brown, Patrick Gordon Walker, Anthony Crosland, Douglas Jay, Denis Healey, John Strachey and Michael Stewart were taken on trips to the US paid for by a variety of foundations and trusts and that Gaitskell was friendly with Joe Godson, and George Brown with two CIA London station chiefs, Chester Cooper and Archie Roosevelt.

Brown’s last statements in the House of Lords in 1984, were to attack Arthur Scargill, which shifted the emphasis in a debate on the £1.5 million paid to Ian MacGregor when he moved from Lazard Frères to become involved in the 1984 Miner’s strike, Brown stated:

Finally, is the Minister aware that, whether the MacGregor appointment was right or wrong at the time, whether the terms were right or wrong at the time, our business now is to do as Bevin did in 1926-we have to face Scargill down as Bevin faced Cook down?

On a more general point, an examination of the discussion of the IEDSS in parliamentary debates and the House of Lords reveals several possibly unintended uses of its material. The IEDSS was one of a group of organisations (from differing viewpoints) which had made representations or correspondence on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty since September 1984. Earlier in a debate on Educational Institutions: Information and Propaganda, on April 1983, Baroness Cox argued that there was a one-sidedness in material promoting nuclear weapons that could not “be excused by the claim that there is a shortage of material putting an alternative viewpoint,” and offers the example of the IEDSS’, Protest and Perish, which, she argues “provides a well-documented and readable critique of unilateralism.” Cox states that she was concerned about “political propaganda of any kind being sent to schools and other educational institutions” because she was “deeply averse to schools and colleges being used as bases for political indoctrination.” Unnamed informants had passed on information that CND had been giving talks in schools, in one a “week was devoted to what were called “Peace studies”” and she offered the paradoxical observation that:

I am worried because although we do not know the details of what is happening we do know that many teachers are not impartial on these issues […] I suggest that the combination of anecdotal evidence, known facts about the commitment of many teachers to CND, and proposals such as this planned CSE examination, all add up to a possibly very disturbing picture which suggests that, in some-and we have no idea how many-of our schools and other educational institutions, pupils and students may be receiving political propaganda rather than the balanced information which is the prerequisite of “education” as we are privileged to understand that word in free democratic societies.

She also noted that the borough of Brent, a target in later propaganda operations, allowed a CND library exhibition but refused one from the British Atlantic Committee — this she suggests “smacks of totalitarianism.”

In 1984 Sir John Biggs-Davison asked the Prime Minister if she has studied the IEDSS’ “Britain’s Undefended Frontier,” which she had. On the subject of Northern Ireland we see a parliamentary cross-over in a 1985 debate, Sir John Biggs-Davison (arguing that “Northern Ireland must be governed as truly part of the United Kingdom”) quotes the Irish Times which stated that Gerry Adams MP “compared reports about an Anglo-Irish settlement with a report published by the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies, entitled ‘Britain’s Undefended Frontier-A Policy for Ulster’.” As a contributor Biggs-Davison thanks Adams “for the commercial” and stated “That is the title I gave it.”

In 1987 Labour’s Lord Hatch of Lusby, after referring to the ‘menacing dimension’ of the Heritage Foundation’s persuasion of “leading politicians and the media” in the UK to withdraw from UNESCO which he likens to the work of John Le Carré:

Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that the Heritage Foundation in the United States, which urged President Reagan to speed up the arms race, to end disarmament talks with the Soviet Union, to increase paramilitary action against foreign governments and to defy SALT II is an organisation that has its own associated organisation in this country; namely, the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies. Those stories of wining and dining and the pressures brought to bear on leading politicians and media personnel in this country over UNESCO is something that I believe the Government should look at very closely because that infant organisation in this country is accepted by the Charity Commissioners as a charity.

The response to this is somewhat muted, which is perhaps understandable given the complexity of the debate, but one observation by the Bishop of Derby drew attention to the damage being done by the Heritage Foundation “to the United Nations Organisation and its specialised agencies.” Lord Hatch noted that The Minister of State, Baroness Young:

…did not take up the issue of Heritage, which has been mentioned several times tonight. That is an organisation which I believe received a congratulatory telegram from the Prime Minister in October 1983 on its tenth anniversary.

In a debate on Relations with United States and Soviet Union on March 1987, around the time Thatcher was to meet Gorbachev, which was also marked by tensions which Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos outlined as concerning “the aggressive and at times unpredictable nature of US foreign policy in a number of countries”, Nicaragua is also offered as an example of foreign policy that had weakened the US’ position as the “leader of the free world and as the champion of democracy”, together with “Irangate”, questions were also raised as to whether whether the CIA’s William Casey and Colonel Oliver North had met Thatcher or other government ministers. This type of intrigue was deepened by Lord Jenkins of Putney’s observations that:

…whether or not the Government had been deceiving Parliament in the matter of NATO’s front line first-use nuclear capability. We should not have known anything about this matter but for the American Freedom of Information Act. As a result of that Act and the researches of a young man called Dan Plesch, who has been very active in this area, we know that as long ago as 1977 the NATO nuclear planning group set up a subcommittee called the “High Level Group” on which Britain is represented, (and still is) by a leading defence civil servant. We know that in 1978 this group recommended new American nuclear missiles in Europe. We also know that in 1979 the final deployment programme was worked out. That was approved by NATO in Brussels and was endorsed by Ministers. The same group put forward specific proposals for new battlefield weapons which were approved at Montebello in 1983. We know all that because of the American Freedom of Information Act. Yet, simultaneously the Government have been consistently denying time and time again that they have embarked upon that path. They have denied it asbsolutely.

Baroness Cox, who had just returned from the US, brushed such concerns aside to outline her concerns about “educational material which is biased with a grossly anti-American slant in subjects such as so-called peace studies or world studies,” and “the apparent anti-Americanism in many television programmes and in speeches made by some of our leading politicians,” and complains of the Soviet jamming of US propaganda in the form of Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, offers her thoughts that:

In a well-argued and sober report entitled The Helsinki Agreement: Dialogue or Delusion?. Mr. Jonathan Luxmoore of the Institute of European Defence and Strategic Studies argues that the failures of the Soviet Union to comply with the provisions of the Helsinki Agreement may have such harmful effects for the West that perhaps we should reconsider our commitment to it.

This is countered by Lord Bonham-Carter who proceeds to “distinguish between anti-Americanism and disagreement with President Reagan’s policies,” and remark that he finds it extraordinary “that there is some kind of pro-Soviet conspiracy in this country.”

On 6 February 1991, Baroness Cox without any mention of the fact that she was on the advisory board of the IEDSS, or indeed that no one in the House of Lords was elected, argued that with Gorbachev the Soviet Union was going back to, “a hardline repressive communism”:

I can do no better than to finish with a quotation from Mark Almond’s booklet entitled Retreat to Moscow which is published by the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies. It reappraises Mr. Gorbachev and admonishes us: “it would be wise to remember Montaigne’s dictum that the worst form of servility is to be grateful to rulers who return some part of their subjects’ liberty to which they had no right in the first place”.”

This was brilliantly opposed again by Lord Bonham-Carter. IEDSS material tends to be deployed with a somewhat alarmist usage, as in this unspecific citation from Baroness Park of Monmouth in a 1991 debate on the Queen’s speech:

I find it disturbing that as recently as August this year-according to the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies — the NATO supreme allied commander was arguing strongly for the alliance to deploy a sizeable military presence in the central region to confront what he considered the most immediate threat: the fact that the Kremlin still has the capacity to put together 45 divisions with 13,000 tanks west of the Urals in about 45 days “from a standing start”.

Other MPs who drew attention to the work of the IEDSS include Sir Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton) who, in a 1994 debate on Defence, declared an interest as a non-executive director of GEC Marconi, and drew attention toan IEDSS report, “Arms for Oblivion” by Christopher Coker and James Sherr. This was cleverly turned around by John Reid, who had also read the report but noted that the conclusion of that report stated:

“Far from being able to claim that ‘defence is safe in our hands’ the Conservatives must hope that defence will not be an issue at the next election.” They can hope, but it will, and we shall win that debate and the next election.

Ried was to perform the same trick in February 1995 debate on the Royal Navy. Indeed the IEDSS’ attempts to push the agenda of the Conservative government further to the right seemed to play into the hands of the Labour opposition. Sean Hughes MP in a 1989 debate on Defence Estimates quotes from Christopher Coker’s IEDSS (1988) pamphlet, “Less Important than Opulence” noting that it is by a “Right-wing think tank”, but stated:

“The Conservatives may well have concluded that the present defence debate, which still largely revolves around multilateralist-unilateralist distinction, is so congenial in electoral terms that the customary process of analysis must not be allowed to disturb it […] on defence, as on other matters, the Conservative Party has never been noted for its systematic thinking.”

These entries are all the mentions of the IEDSS in a search of Hansard.

*Back to the The Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies


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