It looks like the hiatus here will continue this week as I have to go to Ireland for a few days.
In the meantime I would like to offer my thoughts on last week’s BBC documentary, The Plot Against Harold Wilson.
The meetings with Wilson the programme is based on were secretly recorded in 1976 by journalists Barrie Penrose and Roger Courtiour, weeks after his shock departure from Number 10.
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," Penrose writes.
Both were said to involve high-ranking elements in the British army, eager to see the back of Labour governments. (BBC News)
Wilson asked the two journalists to investigate what he thought were smears against Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe. In fact, their investigations of the Norman Scott Affair helped to bring Thorpe down.
Preoccupied by investigating Thorpe, the journalists didn’t follow up another lead that Wilson had given them.
It’s perhaps inevitable that this angle concerned the perennial blind spot of British politics, Ireland.
Army press officer Colin Wallace was forced to resign in 1975, ostensibly for leaking documents to Robert Fisk.
He claimed the real reasons were his uncovering of the Kincora Boys Home scandal and his withdrawal from Clockwork Orange, a disinformation campaign against the IRA, which was extended to include British MPs among its targets.
If Penrose and Courtiour had followed up the Colin Wallace angle, they might have been able to uncover far more far earlier about the Wilson Plot.
By the same token, the Wilson tapes and other testimony in the documentary strengthen Wallace’s credibility, something which has immense significance for Ireland.
The reason for this is perhaps best illustrated by some extracts from the Barron report on the Dublin Monaghan bombings:
When speaking of matters directly within his own experience, the Inquiry believes
him to be a highly knowledgeable witness. His analyses and opinions, though derived
partly from personal knowledge and partly from information gleaned since his time in
Northern Ireland, should also be treated with seriousness and respect. (p169)
According to Wallace, MI5 was dominated by right-wing officers who deeply distrusted the Labour government of Harold Wilson. They were also opposed to the Sunningdale Agreement, and to the role being given to the Irish Government in Northern affairs. He maintains that the Ulster Workers Council Strike which commenced on 15th May 1974 was encouraged and to some extent directed by MI5 officers with the express intent of destabilizing the peace process in the North, and undermining the Wilson government. (p171)
If this is true, then it’s not simply a case of ‘all’s well that ends well’ because there was no military coup in Britain, and the calls for publication of the Hunt Report should be all the more urgent.