Gerry Gable: Errand Boy for the State

There is no doubt about the allegiances of current editor Gerry Gable, who has always played a crucial role in the organisation, and boasts privately that he has owned Searchlight since 1968. His first public media appearance was when he was prosecuted for breaking into the flat of right-wing historian David Irving in 1963. His defence counsel Ivan Lawrence (now chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee) said in mitigation "they intended to hand over any documents or books they found to the Special Branch." Rather damning don't you think? [21] In May 1977, when employed by London Weekend Television, he wrote a notorious (and he hoped confidential) document that has passed into infamy as the 'Gable Memorandum.' [22] In it, he outlined his spying on radical journalists in a celebrated press freedom case, which involved among others Philip Agee. He concluded with the memorable phrase "I have given the names I have acquired to be checked out by British/French security services... It is now [Page 7] a time of waiting for feed-back and also further checks here." [23] Gable has never adequately explained away this Memo, unsurprisingly as it can only lend itself to the interpretation he is a true flunkey of the state, and a nasty one at that. In an exchange with me in the New Statesman letters column he admitted writing it and absurdly attempted to justify such by saying that "if one is engaged in an area of journalism covering the exposure of the wrongdoings of Britain's security services, as I have been... one will inevitably find oneself in situations where one has to speak to people from the areas one is investigating." [24] Certainly; but as the document makes crystal clear, he was not 'investigating' the secret state, but spying on the Left on behalf of the secret state, and has been doing the same (and worse) in the twenty years since, with considerable but not total success. On subsequent occasions, Gable has been almost as explicit in public about his cosy relationship with the state: a fawning profile in 1987 referred to the "magazine's stories, gleaned from a wide range of contacts (including people in the secret services)." [25]

An extraordinary episode in 1986 shows just how much Gable is genuinely valued by his state contacts. In April 1986, under pressure because of an ongoing libel action by some Tory MPs against the BBC for a Searchlight-sourced story on 'fascist infiltration' into the Tory party, Gable panicked. He printed a fictitious tale in that month's issue (pp. 2-3) implying that a Tory MP involved in the libel action and others were planning to kidnap and murder him. In fact, they were only investigating him, and the 'harassment' described is far less than has been undertaken by Searchlight against anti-fascists such as myself (see below). Knowing the story was a fabrication to gain sympathy, Searchlight were careful not to name the MP supposedly concerned. They passed the story to Private Eye, who were rash enough to print the name (2/5/86). The MP concerned and a business associate successfully sued Private Eye winning substantial "undisclosed damages." [26] What is germane here isn't so much the lies, but how the 'plot news' was received. In the original Private Eye piece, Gable admitted discussing the matter with Special Branch. A more recent account by Gable associate Gary Murray with "Mr Gable's kind permission" outlined that after hearing others were investigating him, "Gable's next step was to speak with a friend in Special Branch who decided to arrange armed bodyguards to watch over him." [27] Murray goes on to say that "from there the matter was referred upwards, and when the police enquiries were concluded a report was given to Mrs Thatcher at a meeting in Downing Street and to Lord Bridge then Chairman of the Security Commission." [28] Just how could a [Page 8] supposedly anti-establishment journalist of Left-leanings, running a magazine with 7,000 circulation (maximum) have the political clout to get threats against him (real or invented) investigated by the Security Commission Chairman (an oversight body) and even the Prime Minister? The simple answer is that this kind of protection is not available to genuine radicals, but is forthcoming to prized state assets. [29]