Wartime apprenticeship
Labour and intelligence during the Second World War
in Intelligence, security and the Attlee governments, 1945–51
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Chapter One examines Labour involvement in the wartime Coalition government and Ministerial access to and use of intelligence. It argues that the Second World War provided an important opportunity for future Ministers in the post-war government to gain knowledge and experience of handling and using intelligence. Within months of the coalition’s formation, Labour Ministers had access to the fruits of British codebreaking. Further, the chapter also suggests that this experience ended any lingering animosity that resulted from the Zinoviev Letter Affair. The chapter places particular emphasis on Attlee’s wartime experiences and provides examples of his use of intelligence and early views on it. It also looks at Labour involvement with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Party attempts to add an ideological facet to British special operations in Europe under Hugh Dalton, Minister of Economic Warfare until 1942. Beyond intelligence and special operations, Labour involvement with intelligence and security extended to the domestic front with Herbert Morrison, appointed Home Secretary in November 1940. Already a fierce opponent of British Communists, he received the product of MI5’s surveillance of the Communist Party of Great Britain and provided the Cabinet with information warning of Communist espionage.

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