Daniel W. B. Lomas
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Defending the realm
Labour ministers, vetting and subversion
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Chapter Six focuses on the Government response to Communism at home. Shaped by their wartime experiences of intelligence and security, it argues that the popular perception that Ministers were suspicious of the intelligence services, particularly the Security Service, is unfounded, based largely upon Labour folklore. In fact, rather than viewing MI5 with distain, even alarm, Ministers in the new government were aware of the need for an internal security body; any changes in the security apparatus were the result of the recommendations made by Sir Findlater Stewart, whose report of November 1945 is examined here for the first time. The chapter also looks at the development of Whitehall security procedures using the minutes and memoranda of the Committee on Subversive Activities (GEN 183). It argues that, as in the field of British policy towards Russia, domestic countermeasures measures against Communists in the civil service were hidden until the spring of 1948 after attempts at Anglo-Soviet rapprochement finally broke down. Despite the introduction and later expansion of vetting, Ministers sought to balance anti-Communist measures alongside the need for freedom of speech and liberty. Nowhere is this clearer than in discussions for domestic anti-Communist propaganda. While the Labour Party and other organisations had participated in the distribution of such material, IRD had no specific mandate to conduct its activities at home. However, after the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, Ministers authorised a domestic campaign aimed at influential sections of the British public, with the study looking at the early development of this campaign, revealing IRD’s domestic activities in education, industry and the armed forces.

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