Which Labour MP was a Soviet informant?

August 12th, 2014 at 5:18 am by David Farrar

Phil Kitchin at Stuff reports:

KGB files smuggled out of Russia reveal a former MP was an informant for the feared Soviet spy agency and was given the codename “Gerd”.

The files say the MP was in contact with Yuri Drozhzhin, the KGB agent who handled former top government official Bill Sutch for several years. …

The Mitrokhin files say an unnamed Labour MP, born in England in 1926, was in contact with Drozhzhin during the KGB agent’s Wellington posting.

He was given the codename “Gerd”, and information passed to the KGB said he was also a member of Labour’s executive committee.

There can’t be that many former Labour MPs born in 1926 in England. A chocolate fish to anyone who can name one or more.

The Dom Post editorial also looks at whether the evidence stacks up to conclude Sutch was a spy. They note:

What are we to make of this? Like all historical documents, this one must be interpreted carefully. The reports of spies to their superiors are like all other bureaucratic reports: they aim partly to impress the boss, to put the best spin on things, to prove the efficiency and value of the underling’s work.

Helen Sutch, the economist’s daughter, dismisses the KGB file for this reason. It was “well-known that KGB agents in general were desperate to talk up any contacts they had because they were under pressure from their superiors”.

Certainly this kind of thing could have happened. Do we know that it happened with Sutch? It needs to be said that the Mitrokhin Files, which are the source of the Sutch entry, have proved reliable in many other cases.

When these reports were written, the authors never imagined the mighty USSR would fall, and these reports would become public one day.

And then there is the circumstantial evidence that brought suspicion on Sutch’s head. His stated reason for meeting a Russian agent on a dark and rainy night in a Wellington suburb was farcical. He wanted to discuss Zionism, he said.

Put all of this together – the entry in the Russian archive, the general reliability of the Mitrokhin material, and Sutch’s extremely dodgy dealings with a KGB agent – and the conclusion seems reasonably clear. Sutch was indeed a Russian spy.

I think that is the most reasonable conclusion.

Some have pointed out the files do not include details of any actual spying activity, which is true. The argument is that he supported the Soviet Union (which is a horrific lapse of judgment in its own right) but never gave them actual classified material that was detrimental to NZ security. It’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure what sort of information he did give them, but regardless my view is that passing any information at all to what was then a totalitarian oppressive state showed he was a man whose ideology got ahead of everything else.

UPDATE: A reader suggests to me that the codename “Gerd” gives a clue to the former Labour MP, even though the exact details of DOB and place of birth do not fit.

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51 Responses to “Which Labour MP was a Soviet informant?”

  1. EAD (937 comments) says:

    The reason these Communist Spies went undetected for so long is simply that, as Politicians supposedly their to represent the best interest of their electorate, their being communist spies was simply inconceivable to those who should have known better.

    I wonder if there are other politically correct prejudices working today that make subversive Politicians equally hard to spot?

    Reminds me of Cicero’s quote:

    “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”

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  2. Dennis Horne (2,320 comments) says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  3. Pete George (23,425 comments) says:

    Ronald “Ron” Leslie Bailey, QSO (born 15 December 1926), is a former New Zealand politician of the Labour Party.

    Bailey was born in Napier in 1926.

    He was the Member of Parliament for Heretaunga from 1960 to 1981, when he retired.

    He was Chairman of Committees from 16 February 1973 until 10 September 1974. He was the Minister of Railways in the Third Labour Government and Minister of Electricity from 10 September 1974 to 12 December 1975, when National came to power.

    In the 1987 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Bailey was made a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order for public services.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Bailey_(politician)

    I don’t know anything about Bailey, his name is not familiar to me.

    But he was born in Napier, not England.

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  4. Liberal Minded Kiwi (1,570 comments) says:

    Dennis, I remember other types of men who were described as a “man of the people” who equally cared about the people of his nation. I believe some of these types delivered full employment, were animal lovers and were loved by all around them. One of them even invaded Poland I recall…..

    I say get off your high horse and accept that history has shown that the Soviet Union was a fucking awful place, held up by a regime more brutal than Hitler, more oppressive than any regime in our history, that not only enslaved its own population but stuffed Europe up for decades.

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  5. EAD (937 comments) says:

    Very thoughtful post Mr Horne, unfortunately the Kiwiblog audience will give it a lot of downticks.

    The ideals of socialism are very positive but as you become older and cynical, so comes the onset of disillusion and reality.

    George Orwell highlighted this brilliantly in Animal Farm and 1984 which are two of the greatest revealers of the reality of socialism, statism and the subjection of the individual to the will of an elite set of rulers, ever written.

    Unfortunately, the supposed opposite of Socialism, “Capitalism” has been so distorted and corrupted that it can only be described as “crony capitalism” that also has the same outcome of Socialism as it benefits a small connected elite (Bankers in particular who get to conjur money out of thin air ex-nihilo).

    In this crony capitalist system, Bankers and Politicians implement “solutions” that enrich the kleptocratic parasite class, while impoverishing savers, seniors, and the working middle class who played by the rules. The poor are thrown are few bones of a welfare cheque every week to keep them compliant while the middle class soldiers on, encouraged to focus their anger on the poor whilst ignoring the pillaging at the top in the false “capitalism vs. Socialism”, “red team vs. blue team” game

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-01-04/how-fiat-currency-leads-collective-corruption

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  6. EAD (937 comments) says:

    We should pay a little more time and attention to the word, “traitor”.

    The treachery of those who have, knowingly, brought the New Zealand economy to its knees with massive debt to foreign banks and sales of strategically important national assets have cost this country more dearly than anything Sutch and this Labour MP ever managed.

    The other group of traitors, much broader, less obvious, are the useful idiots who have done the KGB’s work in demoralizing the people and undermining our way of life. This, too, has been far more damaging than Sutch and this mysterious Labour MP.

    KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov explains the process here.

    You can recognise the strategy. You can see the result: our economy and society is struggling, most would agree.

    Sutch & this Labour MP? A red herring

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  7. David Farrar (1,883 comments) says:

    My problem is not communism per se. It is his support for the Soviet Union which was an evil empire.

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  8. Pete George (23,425 comments) says:

    Trevor Davey (born 1926) is a former Member of Parliament from Gisborne in the North Island of New Zealand who represented the Labour Party.

    Davey was the Managing Director of Queen’s Hall, Leeds between 1956 and 1966. He served on the Gisborne City Council from 1971 to 1974.

    Davey represented the Gisborne electorate in the New Zealand House of Representatives between 1972 and 1975, when he was defeated by National’s Bob Bell. He was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Medal for service to the community.

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  9. Pete George (23,425 comments) says:

    The only other Labour MP I can find who was born in 1926 was Joe Walding but he was born in Christchurch.

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_Zealand_Labour_Party_MPs

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  10. Harriet (4,761 comments) says:

    NZ Labour in the Soviet era were probably all unionists – more so the poms. He would then be in a union well connected to government to then be of most benefit to the USSR. Maybe the press in the private sector unions.

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  11. hj (6,807 comments) says:

    I think a lot of bright light bulbs have bad judgement. I recall Mai Chen talking about the foreshore and seabed hikoi and suggesting there was a danger of a Maori uprising (I forget the exact word).

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  12. Simon (727 comments) says:

    At least he wasn’t a Jew.

    Vote Positive! Party Vote Labour.

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  13. OneTrack (2,966 comments) says:

    Harriet – “NZ Labour in the Soviet era were probably all unionists”

    NZ Labour in the 2014 era are probably all unionists.

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  14. Mobile Michael (439 comments) says:

    Trevor Davey, MP for Gisborne 1972-1975 fits the described dates and birthplace.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevor_Davey

    Be very careful as Mr Davey appears to be alive.

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  15. nasska (11,095 comments) says:

    Perhaps we should be gladdened to realise that, imperfect as our government & our society is, we are as a nation strong enough to survive a little white anting.

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  16. Dennis Horne (2,320 comments) says:

    I suspect Bill Sutch got far more useful information from the Soviets in Wellington than they ever got from him.

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  17. hj (6,807 comments) says:

    In the present context does it matter? Back then we were nationalistic, whereas now we embrace globalisation and transactions are between individuals rather than nations. As the man from Harcourts Shanghai opined (Nine to Noon)

    “We’re all New Zealanders, we all love the country so I think it’s healthy for us to have the debate and make the right decisions for our country…. but hey!…. young people coming through see it as “our planet” rather than “our country”

    http://static.radionz.net.nz/assets/audio_item/0011/2385074/mnr-20100824-0842-More_than_800-million_dollars_worth_of_property_on_display-m048.asx

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  18. MrTips (150 comments) says:

    Be very careful as Mr Davey appears to be alive.

    I would hardly describe being associated with Labour as living…..

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  19. mjw (389 comments) says:

    “I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five (people) that were known … as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State …”

    I think we are beyond reliving history as tragedy. We are now completely overwhelmed by farce.

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  20. Odakyu-sen (568 comments) says:

    Cicero is on the money.

    If you can see your “enemy,” you’re halfway to beating him.

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  21. mjw (389 comments) says:

    Odakyu-sen: Another way to look at it would be to say that Cicero was self-serving and self-justifying. He had executed citizens without trial before they had done anything wrong (conspiracy was not then a legal concept) so he had to dress it up in coils of angry rhetoric. The people he killed had no right of reply, being dead. But I imagine they would have said that an even greater threat was the state that oppressed its citizens in the name of security.

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  22. hj (6,807 comments) says:

    @ EAD
    Reminds me of Cicero’s quote:

    “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.
    ………

    http://publicaddress.net/speaker/what-diversity-dividend/

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  23. Liam Hehir (123 comments) says:

    My problem is not communism per se.

    I have to say I have a problem with communism per se. I don’t mind being called a moral absolutist on that one because the theory proved a murderous system wherever it was put into practice. 100 million (or near enough) killed in the 20th century – most of them outside he USSR.

    Whatever flip tu quoqe somebody might level at capitalism, I’m pretty secure in the knowledge that it’s not the totalitarian killing machine communism was.

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  24. RRM (9,769 comments) says:

    What sort of information could Sutch have given the USSR that could have been detrimental to NZ security?

    Where the keys for the 12 jets were kept?

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  25. Ross Nixon (614 comments) says:

    “My problem is not communism” – Helen Clark

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  26. questions (192 comments) says:

    What about the other half of the article DPF?

    The KGB records also reveal that its agents trawled graveyards to steal the identities of dead people so as to procure prized New Zealand passports during the Cold War.

    Are any former MP’s in New Zealand experts in stealing the identities of dead people? (Children perhaps?)

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  27. adze (2,059 comments) says:

    Questions, why don’t you tell us you clever person you.

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  28. SGA (982 comments) says:

    I’d love it if there were any vaccuum cleaner salesman listed in the KBG files.

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  29. DonC (9 comments) says:

    Try Gerald O’Brien

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  30. G152 (267 comments) says:

    In the mid 70s there was a NZ Labor politician ‘buying’ tractors from the Eastern Bloc…

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  31. Ed Snack (1,833 comments) says:

    NZ negotiated quite a bit, on commercial matters, with the Soviets while Sutch was a senior civil servant. We can be fairly sure that thanks to people like Bill Sutch that NZ got the worst possible deal out of any such negotiations as the Soviets knew exactly what our absolute minimum price was.

    Sutch was no doubt a “clever” person, so amazingly clever that he was a traitor to his country and didn’t have the guts to admit it.

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  32. David Garrett (6,938 comments) says:

    I remember Trevor Davey…he appeared in Gisborne seemingly from nowhere and stood in the 1972 election…some family friends who were active in the Labour party knew nothing about him eiher…after he lost his seat in the 1975 landslide he seemed to disappear…some other former Gisbornite may know more

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  33. dubya (226 comments) says:

    My great aunt was Sutch’s secretary. She was a bit of an odd one, and a card carrying communist herself. Most of her ilk were raised in the 1930s and convinced socialism or communism was the answer to depression society. Very few of them ever travelled to communist Russia and had a sort of detached nostalgic view of it all (that is, looked blindly past the mass murders, gulags, breadlines etc). I have no idea whether Sutch himself was a KGB spy. If he was, I doubt he was a very effective one.

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  34. Liberty (256 comments) says:

    “hj (6,521 comments) says:
    August 12th, 2014 at 7:36 am
    In the present context does it matter?”

    Yes it does Matter. Because one reason why NZ has been a financial cripple
    Is because in the 1970s the Unions ran riot. The Boiler makers in Wellington.
    Ferry unions. The freezing works All trying to imitate a polish shipyard.
    Think big might not have been the brightest idea. But it wasn’t helped by union agitation.
    Strike until the government fell was the call by one leading unionist. Which was a bit pointless
    as Muldoon was as red as the unions.
    Unionist and lefties were off to Moscow, Havana and Central America on educational or coffee picking trips.
    The tentacles communism ran deep within the union movement and the Labour Party.
    They were and still are comrades.

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  35. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,874 comments) says:

    questions 8.55

    Are any current politicians holders of these passports?

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  36. Pete George (23,425 comments) says:

    “Try Gerald O’Brien”

    He doesn’t fit, he was born in Wellington in 1924.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_O%27Brien

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  37. m@tt (630 comments) says:

    “He doesn’t fit, he was born in Wellington in 1924.”

    Because there is no way the media have their facts even slightly wrong. Right?

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  38. PaulL (6,015 comments) says:

    It may be the case that capitalism is the opposite of communism. It is also the case that no country anywhere is implementing pure capitalism, we are all to one extent or another a socialist state.

    Of course, arguably the USSR wasn’t really a communist state, rather more of a totalitarian state. The real question is whether it’s even possible to create a communist society, as Animal Farm sheds light on. If you have a centrally planned state then someone is in control. For communism to work you have to assume this person or persons have the best interests of the rest of the country in their heart.

    One of the advantages of capitalism is that it explicitly assumes that people don’t have everyone else’s interests at heart. The problem is when you combine it with representative democracy and a large public service, creating lots of opportunities for crony capitalism. One of the many reasons I’m strongly in favour of a smaller govt – because a) it’s often ineffective anyway, and b) bigger govt means more opportunities for crony capitalism.

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  39. JeffW (325 comments) says:

    Well said PaulL. I believe we need to replace the description “crony capitalism”. This is a form of statism, facilitated as you say by big government. Allowing people to conflate “cronyism” and capitalism causes much of the grief for the latter, I consider.

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  40. Andrei (2,536 comments) says:

    Hell what’s the deal, as everyone knows back in those days half the British Establishment was spying for the Soviets

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  41. RupertB (5 comments) says:

    Gerald O’Brien was linked in the press to the secret think tank of the 70s that also supposedly had Sutch as a member. O’Brien had a messy end to his political career with an alleged cottaging episode that looked at the time like a setup. Then Bill Rowling refused to allow him to be selected as a Labour candidate. A Labour MP told me at the time that caucus suspected O’Brien of leaking.

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  42. Rob Hosking (77 comments) says:

    O’Brien doesn’t fit birthplace or dates, but he was on the party’s executive council (was vice president at one point, from memoryl, unlike Trevor Davey, and was also in Parliament for more than three years, unlike Davey.

    I’m picking this is an indicator that perhaps that file has some errors in it.

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  43. David Garrett (6,938 comments) says:

    DPF: Codenames are chosen so as to give absolutely no hint of the real name of the agent…You haven’t read enough John le Carre!!

    From my vague memory, I would have thought O’Brien was much more likely than Davey who, as has been noted, wasn’t around the halls of power long enough…but then again, he certainly did arrive entirely unheralded in Gisborne, and left just as quietly…The best spies of course are those who blend into the woodwork…some of the Allies’ best information in the war came from an office cleaner in the German embassy in Portugal..he emptied the rubbish tins with all the draft documents in them…

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  44. backster (2,140 comments) says:

    It wouldn’t have been Joe Walding who was a business man to the right of Labour, I met his brother Charlie a popular Manawatu Publican and rugby and racing enthusiast. One of their nephews was also a great mate of mine…My bet would also be O’Brien.

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  45. G152 (267 comments) says:

    It wouldn’t have been Joe Walding who was a business man to the right of Labour, I met his brother Charlie a popular Manawatu Publican and rugby and racing enthusiast. One of their nephews was also a great mate of mine…My bet would also be O’Brien.

    Funny you should mention Joe Walding in this context…

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  46. Viking2 (11,344 comments) says:

    DonC (7 comments) says:
    August 12th, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Try Gerald O’Brien

    I’ll go with him. Have a picture in my mind but couldn’t put the name to face. Odd fellow and if I remember he had curly hair, dark eyebrows that overhung his face and made him look sinister.

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  47. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    But O’Brien doesn’t fit the profile; Davey does.

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  48. Maggy Wassilieff (316 comments) says:

    In my 30+ years living in Island Bay I never heard a nasty word about Gerald O’Brien.
    I think he got hung out to dry by his Labour mates who used the savage beating he got in ChCh as a convenient excuse.

    Here’s a fairly recent article the Wellingtonian ran about him
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/local-papers/the-wellingtonian/4059970/The-Wellingtonian-Interview-Gerald-O-Brien

    Anyway DPF is an Island Bay old boy…. He’ll know lots about O’Brien, I’m sure.

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  49. Harriet (4,761 comments) says:

    One track#

    “…….NZ Labour in the Soviet era were probably all unionists – more so the poms…..”

    “…NZ Labour in the 2014 era are probably all unionists…”

    —————————

    No they’re mostly now gays, feminists, academics ect.

    In the past Labour was mostly a party of unionism and working class issues – which is what I was trying to point out.

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  50. nell (1 comment) says:

    According to Freebmd, there was a Trevor Davey born in England in 1926 in the vicinity of Manchester. His mother’s maiden name was Kendall. There is no guarrantee that this is the same as the MP but it does mean he can’t be ruled out.

    Here is the record

    Surname First name(s) Mother District Vol Page
    Births Sep quarter 1926
    Davey Trevor Kendall Manchester S. 8d 31

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  51. edward_l (13 comments) says:

    The talk at time was that Sutch gave away our negotiating position to the bulk meat purchaser State arm of the USSR, allegedly.
    In those days we did a fair bit of trade with the USSR.
    Having just been cut off from Europe, by the UK’s entry into the EEC, the timing couldn’t have been worse for NZ.

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