The news that a little known Conservative MP of the 1960s, Raymond Mawby, was so anxious to get money that he sold information to some Czechoslovak agent made me laugh out loud. The whole tale is so preposterous. Don't get me wrong. I am aware of the damage Communist agents did to this country and the West in general throughout those and previous decades; I am also aware of the fact that there is still much to come out about people who were considerably higher up or in better position to pass on information than Mr Mawbey and that is not to mention agents of influence.
However, a glance at what Mr Mawby had to trade is enough to make one laugh:
In time Mawby would be paid directly for political information - normally £100 per time. One file in the archives has a receipt signed by Mawby himself for that sum.
Mawby later handed over lists of parliamentary committees, details of fellow Tories and a supposedly confidential parliamentary investigation into a Conservative peer. "Mawby has also promised to carry out tasks such as asking questions in Parliament according to our needs," the Czech handler wrote in a plan on how to use him in 1962.
That plan involved asking him to supply more confidential material from Parliament "gradually deepening the compromising of his position".He also drew a floor plan of the Prime Minister's office. As the Czechs were not going to bomb the place, the only reason they might have wanted a plan would be to decide where to put bugs. Did they do so, one wonders. Did they use the information he passed on about some of his colleagues or officials in the party for blackmail?
Mr Mawby did not lose his seat till 1983 but it is unclear whether he went on passing information about his colleagues and officials in the Conservative Party to the end or not.
Meanwhile, let us not forget that brilliant episode of Yes, Prime Minister in which it transpires (among the world-shaking events concerning Benjy the dog) that a previous Director General of MI5, who had been cleared by an investigation conducted by Sir Humphrey Appleby, was, in fact, a Soviet spy.
From memory, a conversation went something like this:
Hacker: But if two of us are ... two of them then ... errm ... all of us are ....
Appleby: All of them?