WORLD EXCLUSIVE: 1983 Labour mystery man revealed
As Denis Healey’s chief of staff during Labour’s suicide-note election campaign of 1983, I attended many meetings of the party’s unwieldy campaign committee first thing in the morning. Chaired by Michael Foot, the committee spent much time debating such urgent topics as the size of lettering on stage sets, and exactly who should appear on platforms and press conferences.
As many others have narrated, a mysterious silent stranger regularly attended the committee. No one could identify him or whom he represented. Some suggested that he was a trade union delegate, others said that he was a stray pollster, and still others identified him as one of Michael Foot’s Special Branch officers. One cynic suggested that he was a debt-collector.
I can now reveal the truth. The mysterious stranger was a 30-year-old Vladimir Putin, then a mid-ranking officer of the KGB as it was still called in that Soviet era. Putin had persuaded his service that if placed within the Labour party machine he could influence the result of Britain’s General Election. Unfortunately, his account of Labour’s campaign committee was too far-fetched for his KGB bosses to believe, and Putin had a temporary setback to his career when they accused him of cheating on his expenses. It was not until years later that he discovered how to manipulate overseas elections from a distance.
At one point, the mysterious stranger broke his silence to murmur: “poddovki”. I discovered later that this is a Russian form of draughts in which the object is to lose all your men as quickly as possible.