'Prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home was kept in the dark about one of Britain’s biggest Cold War spy scandals over fears it would “burden” him, newly released papers show.
The Conservative politician was not told how Anthony Blunt, the British art historian, had confessed in 1964 to being the “fourth man” in a Cambridge spy ring.
Professor Blunt, an adviser to the Queen on art who was knighted, admitted to being a Soviet spy, connected to his Cambridge University friend Guy Burgess, and Donald Maclean and Harold ‘Kim’ Philby
His double life was kept secret in return for his confession until Margaret Thatcher revealed his treason in 1979 during her first year as prime minister.
Downing Street then received a series of letters, now declassified, which explain how the espionage scandal had been hushed up.
Henry Brooke - who was home secretary between 1962 and 1964 and who later became Lord Brooke of Cumnoor - wrote to Mrs Thatcher to thank her for her “kind words” about him when she made Blunt’s confession to treason public.
But his 1979 letter, released by the National Archives at Kew, also explained how he regretted not informing his then prime minister.
He wrote: “I have written to Alec [Douglas-Home] to explain why in April 1964 I did not bring him in on what was happening about Blunt, and to say how sorry I am if in my well-meant effort not to add to his burdens I may, with hindsight, have exercised my discretion wrongly.”
In return for Blunt’s confession, as well as naming others involved, the wartime MI5 'operative' was granted immunity from prosecution and allowed to continue his academic work, including as an art adviser to the Queen. He admitted being an agent of Russian intelligence and talent-spotted for them at Cambridge in the 1930s. He also helped with Burgess and Maclean’s defection.'
Read more: Treachery of Cold War spy Anthony Blunt was kept from Tory prime minister
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14 July 2019
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