Operation Enoch: How Czech spies tried to use Powell to infiltrate the Scout movement in the late 1950s
- Communist spies targeted Tory MP Enoch Powell to infiltrate Scout movement
- The Czechs were keen to infiltrate the youth movement in the late 1950s
- Agents claimed the Right-wing Tory MP had ‘sympathy’ for the Socialist Republic
In hindsight it was perhaps a little ambitious for Communist spies to imagine Enoch Powell was ripe for recruitment.
But, according to intelligence files unearthed by The Mail on Sunday, that didn’t stop Czech agents targeting – and cultivating – the Right-wing Tory MP whose infamous 1968 Rivers of Blood speech remains one of the most divisive ever made by a British politician.
The Czechs were keen to infiltrate the Scout movement in the late 1950s and identified Powell as a useful contact, noting that ‘he does appear to have certain sympathy for the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic’.
Enoch Powell is pictured above with wife Pamela. His infamous antiimmigration address to a Conservative Party meeting in Birmingham led to him being kicked out of Edward Heath’s Shadow Cabinet
At the time, Powell had been a Minister in Harold Macmillan’s government as well as a backbench MP and the Cold War documents describe a number of meetings in London during which he promised to introduce his Czech friends to senior Scout officials.
An agent codenamed Ptacek was tasked by intelligence chiefs with obtaining information on the Scouts – the idea being that it might help forge links between the movement and the Union of Czech Youth, a feeder organisation for the Communist Party.
Ptacek reports that he met Powell in Parliament and at embassy receptions in 1956 and 1958 before arranging a lunch.
‘Upon learning that he knew certain scouting functionaries, I took advantage of the opportunity and asked him for help being introduced to these people and [to] find out more about international scouting events,’ wrote Ptacek.
The Czechs were keen to infiltrate the Scout movement in the late 1950s and identified Powell as a useful contact, noting that ‘he does appear to have certain sympathy for the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic’. Jiri Hajek, the Czech Ambassador to the United Kingdom, is pictured above
‘I began being interested in Scouts after being instructed to focus on them by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the Union for Czech Youth had asked for… information about options for establishing contact with British Scouts. Powell agreed to help handle this and has already spoken with some scouting leaders.’
The pair exchanged gifts, with Powell handing over a copy of his latest poetry verses and the agent offering a ‘souvenir from Prague’.
In the handover note intended for spies taking over his brief, Ptacek continued: ‘I recommend assigning Powell based on the continued effort to resolve the question of cooperation with scouting representatives. The comrade who takes over this agenda from me will call Mrs Powell’s [his wife’s] parliamentary office on my behalf. This is a solution that Powell himself has described as a good opportunity.’
The agent, who knew the MP had become friendly with Czech ambassador Jiri Hajek, also left tips for his successor: ‘The comrade who will engage in the contact will give Mr Powell an item of appreciation from me (preferably crystal) and will relay greetings from me and Comrade Hajek. He will also ask Mr Powell whether he could get a copy of the book that he wrote with the title “Change is Our Ally” which of course he would pay for… Powell is very pleased overall whenever anyone is interested in his works.’
One report in the files says: ‘At lunch with him on July 14, I reinforced the contact overall and arranged another meeting. ‘Powell informs me about certain matters pertaining to the Scouts for the Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs.’ The final comments noted that the desire was to ‘deepen’ the contact as Mr Powell’s ‘willingness to discuss scouting is very beneficial’.
Powell later served as Minister for Health. His infamous antiimmigration address to a Conservative Party meeting in Birmingham led to him being kicked out of Edward Heath’s Shadow Cabinet.
He died in 1998, aged 85. After reading the files, Daniela Richterova, a lecturer at Brunel University and expert on the Czech secret service, said: ‘Prague’s rezidentura [spy base] in London considered Powell a very capable, energetic person, and an independent thinker ready to criticise policies of his own party. This, coupled with what the Czechoslovaks described as “mild sympathies” towards the Soviet Bloc, made Powell a target worthy of developing.’
Last year, The MoS revealed how ex-Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson allegedly passed intelligence to Czech agents in the 1960s and how Jeremy Corbyn’s adviser Andrew Murray held meetings with a Czech agent in the 1980s.
Mr Robinson described the story as a ‘complete fabrication’ and Mr Murray has denied having met or known a Czech agent.
A group of Cub Scouts are pictured above in London in 1949. An agent codenamed Ptacek was tasked by intelligence chiefs with obtaining information on the Scouts – the idea being that it might help forge links between the movement and the Union of Czech Youth, a feeder organisation for the Communist Party
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