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The Death of Hugh Gaitskell and Ian Fleming

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Hugh Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour Party, died at the Middlesex Hospital, London, of the rare disease lupus erythematosus, on 18th January 1963. He was replaced as leader of the Labour Party by his long time enemy, Harold Wilson. Some members of MI5 believed that Wilson was a Soviet agent. Anatoli Golitsyn also told them that Gaitskell had been poisoned by the KGB.

A senior figure in MI5, Peter Wright, explained in his biography Spycatcher:

Much has been written about Harold Wilson and MI5, some of it wildly inaccurate. But as far as I am concerned, the story started with the premature death of Hugh Gaitskell in 1963. Gaitskell was Wilson's predecessor as Leader of the Labour Party. I knew him personally and admired him greatly. I had met him and his family at the Blackwater Sailing Club, and I recall about a month before he died he told me that he was going to Russia.

After he died his doctor got in touch with MI5 and asked to see somebody from the Service. Arthur Martin, as the head of Russian Counterespionage, went to see him. The doctor explained that he was disturbed by the manner of Gaitskell's death. He said that Gaitskell had died of a disease called lupus disseminata, which attacks the body's organs. He said that it was rare in temperate climates and that there was no evidence that Gaitskell had been anywhere recently where he could have contracted the disease.

Arthur Martin suggested that I should go to Porton Down, the chemical and microbiological laboratory for the Ministry of Defense. I went to see the chief doctor in the chemical warfare laboratory. Dr. Ladell, and asked his advice. He said that nobody knew how one contracted lupus. There was some suspicion that it might be a form of fungus and he did hot have the foggiest idea how one would infect somebody with the disease. I came back and made my report in these terms.

The next development was that Golitsin told us quite independently that during the last few years of his service he had had some contacts with Department 13, which was known as the Department of Wet Affairs in the KGB. This department was responsible for organizing assassinations. He said that just before he left he knew that the KGB were planning a high-level political assassination in Europe in order to get their man into the top place. He did not know which country it was planned in but he pointed out that the chief of Department 13 was a man called General Rodin, who had been in Britain for many years and had just returned on promotion to take up the job, so he would have had good knowledge of the political scene in England.

There is in fact another possibility. Gaitskell was having an affair with Anne Fleming, the wife of Ian Fleming. Had the novelist used his contacts in the SIS to kill Gaitskell? Was Peter Wright's story part of a cover-up.

Interestingly, in 1968 Wright became involved with Cecil King, the publisher of the Daily Mirror, in a plot to bring down Wilson's government and replace it with a coalition led by Lord Mountbatten.


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It doesn't matter what John Simkin thinks of these theories, what matters is that a Soviet cipher clerk defected, was put up at Camp X, and said that the Soviets killed Gaitskill.

We also have other dubious Soviet "defectors," as well as dubious American "defectors" like Oswald.

JJ Angleton, the head of CIA Counter-intelligence, who drank three martinis before lunch with Philby, a KBG/MI6 Doubleagent, thought Golitsin a real defector, while others who came after him bogus, yet Angleton, who replaced the first CIA officer assigned to the JFK assassination, never caught a real Soviet spy in 20 years on the job, and as others (Newman, Pease, et al) have pointed out, Angleton was one of the few persons with access to all of the Oswald files before the assassination and in a position to assist in setting him up as the patsy.

Ian Fleming was assigned to get French Admiral Darlin's feet to neutral or allied port but he went with the Nazis and was subsequently assassinated by British operative.

Then while Eden's military invaded Egypt with the French and Isralies, he was holed up at Fleming's Goldeneye.

When Wm Harvey, America's James Bond, asked the British about the capability to assassinate, they said they gave that up after the Suez crisis, but some retired agents/officers might be willing to take on a freelance assignment.

All of this is extremely relevant to the assassination of JFK and I thank John Simkin for bringing it up.



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One more question John, whay do YOU think of these theories? Do you think Wilson was a Soviet agent? Do you think the KGB killed Gaitskel to make him PM?

I do not think Wilson was a Soviet agent. KGB had a successful strategy of leaking information to cause maximum disruption in Britain's secret service. Right-wing members of the organization wanted to believe that communists had infiltrated the Labour Party. This justified their attempts to overthrow Wilson once he became prime minister. Nor do I believe Gaitskell was murdered. My main interest in this case, as with the JFK assassination, is the role of secret service agencies in politics.



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