Last week, British media reported the sensational revelation that a former Member of Parliament named Raymond Mawby delivered sensitive information to spies of then-Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960s in exchange for cash.
Documents released from the archives of the Czech security services in Prague made it crystal clear (through signed receipts) that Mawby received installments of £100 in exchange for intelligence.
This arrangement went on for a decade.
While other British officials worked secretly as agents for foreign Communist states (usually, the Soviet Union), what makes Mawby's story somewhat unusual was his affiliation with the right-wing Conservative party. British Tories were not then, nor are they now, overly fond of Marxism.
However, Mawby came from an odd background for a Conservative – he was a blue-collar trade unionist from the Labour stronghold of Wales.
Since Mawby lacked the prominence or high security clearance of his more well-connected colleagues in Parliament, it's not certain what quality of information he could have provided his Czech handlers.
Perhaps the most damaging information he gave his Communist paymasters was a diagram of the prime minister's office.
Why did Mawby betray his country and sell some of its secrets to a foreign country?
Apparently, for the most prosaic and mundane reason of all – Mawby had a gambling problem and desperately needed the money; this was likely the principal reason for his recruitment by the Czechs.
Even when his salary paid by Westminster was raised in 1963, Mawby continued feeding the Czechs bits of information in exchange for korunas.
Mawby's illicit relationship with Prague seems to have ended in late 1971, shortly after the British government expelled more than 100 Soviet diplomats from London and three years after Soviet tanks crushed Czechoslovakia's reform movement.
Mawby died in 1990 -- ironically, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He is believed to be the only known Tory MP to have spied for the Communists. Amazingly, Britain's august intelligence service, MI5, appears not to have been aware of Mawby's duplicity.
Many other British politicians were suspected, or proven, to have had Communist sympathies and cooperated with Marxist nations to destabilize Britain and the West.
None other than Harold Wilson – Britain's Labour prime minister for most of the 1960s and for a period in the mid-1970s – was suspected of having served as a Soviet spy.
He strenuously denied such allegations and even claimed that MI5 conspired to discredit him.
During the deep economic crises of the mid-1970s (a period of high unemployment, inflation, power cuts and strikes by militant trade unions), such fears on Wilson's part escalated to hysterical lengths. Wilson's paranoia led him to believe he would be deposed in a coup engineered by the intelligence services in league with the army, some far-right Conservatives and even Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Wilson spoke darkly of two military coups which he said had been planned to overthrow his government in the late 1960s and in the mid-1970s, wrote journalist Barry Penrose. Both were said to involve high-ranking elements in the British army, eager to see the back of Labour governments.
Indeed, in March 1976, Wilson suddenly resigned under circumstances never fully explained.
So, was Wilson – the longtime leader of one of the most powerful nations in the western world -- really a Soviet spy who was about to be uncovered by MI5? Or was he merely a victim of a smear campaign by those who opposed his leftist policies?
Anatoliy Golitsyn, a Soviet defector, reportedly claimed that Wilson was a KGB informer and agent, and that the Briton made contacts with Communist intelligence during a trade visit to Russia in the late 1940s.
Even more inflammatory, Golitsyn charged that the KGB poisoned Hugh Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour Party, allowing Wilson to take over the party. (The pro-U.S. Gaitskell died suddenly in early 1963 of lupus erythematosus, an auto-immune disorder, enabling Wilson to become Labour boss, then winning the prime ministry the following year).
Golitsyn's charges were never proved, but Peter Wright, a former MI5 agent, also reportedly believed rumors of Wilson's ties to Soviet intelligence.
Wilson died in 1995, with no one ever proving that he was a spy for Moscow.
One British lawmaker who clearly received cash from Communist spymasters was former Labour minister John Stonehouse, whose bizarre story plays like an incredible spy thriller.
Stonehouse, who was an agent for the Czech StB intelligence agency during the 1960s, faked his own death in 1974 by pretending to commit suicide on the beach in Miami.
MI5 kept extensive files on Stonehouse (an underling of Wilson) and threatened to expose his activities. He was also under suspicion of financial fraud through some shady shell companies he established.
After “dying” in Florida, Stonehouse fled to Australia with his mistress. But he was caught Down Under and returned to Britain in 1975, subsequently serving seven years in prison for fraud.
Stonehouse passed away (for real) in 1988.
At least two other Labour MPs were revealed to be Communist spies – Bob Edwards and Will Owen.
It is for certain that more will be revealed in the years to come.