I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Homosexuals, Drunks and Weirdos

Homosexuals, Drunks and Weirdos

Brian Boyd
Enemies Within: Communists, Cambridge Spies and The Making of Modern Britain, by Richard Davenport-Hines, William Collins, 672 pp, £25, ISBN: 978-0007516674 Reading today’s headlines it is perhaps worth remembering that Sergei Skripal, the MI6 spy, was regarded by the Kremlin as a “traitor” in much the same way the British regarded Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess as “traitors” some decades previously. Skripal betrayed the identities of Russian undercover agents in the West (the fate of these agents is still unknown); the Cambridge spies betrayed the identities of Western spies in the Eastern bloc. There is indeed no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one its periodical fits of morality; consider that many in Britain called for Philby, Maclean and Burgess to face the death penalty for their actions ‑ the same death penalty allegedly handed down by the Kremlin on Sergei Skripal. The recent publication of Richard Davenport-Hines’s Enemies Within: Communists, Cambridge Spies and The Making of Modern Britain is a timely and necessary reminder of the doublethink and hypocrisy that are disguised as “this country’s moral values” in the murky world of espionage. Davenport-Hines is a writer of some skill: he specialises in treating well-worn stories but offering bracing new socio-cultural perspectives. His 2013 book on the Profumo affair ‑ Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo ‑ was a mini-masterpiece, offering up such delightful nuggets as this evidence by a dominatrix involved in the “sex parties” of the time: when asked why her rich clients had the desire to be whipped, she replied: “It goes back to their nannies. Bus drivers and people like that who don’t have nannies don’t ask you to whip them.” Similarly here with the almost ossified story of the Cambridge Five (Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt and Cairncross), Davenport-Hines, aided by recently declassified papers, peels away the layers of received wisdom and self-serving revisionism surrounding the story. But the real revelation is the author’s idea that the socio-political fallout from the affair is still very much reverberating today. “The undermining of authority, the rejection of expertise, the suspicion of educational advantages, and the use of the words ‘elite’ and ‘Establishment’ as derogatory epithets transformed the social and political temper of Britain,” he writes. From this he comes to a startling conclusion: “The long-term results of the Burgess and Maclean defection reached their apotheosis when joined with other voices in the referendum vote…

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