Dave Roberts: Special Branch Pimp?

Was Searchlight's promotion of the C88/George Kennedy-Young 'distractor' stories due to naivety or a more sinister motivation? An answer can be found by looking in more detail at some of their active personnel. Dave Roberts made no secret of the fact that after his arrest he passed a great deal of information to Special Branch. [18] There are only two logical reasons for him doing this: either he wanted a shorter sentence in his trial, or he wanted to enter into a working relationship with the state. These are not mutually exclusive options: once a 'relationship' with Special Branch (or MI5) is established, they have a hold over the individual concerned and it is difficult, if not impossible, to shake them off, especially as the public exposure of a past [Page 6] relationship is very harmful for any political activist to whom it applies. It seems probable that Roberts was already a state asset when the attempted arson occurred, most likely Special Branch. Indeed, Terry Liddle (ex-husband of key 'team' member Daphne Liddle) referred to Roberts as someone "reputed to trade information with Special Branch." [19] Even if Roberts wasn't a state asset up till that point, after the trial he clearly felt himself bound to the state. How else to make sense of the assertion in Unity magazine (issue 1) by editor Daphne Liddle in 1977 that "hours of tape recordings and hundreds of documents have gone to the authorities... But since, we presume, a great deal of this material records fascist activity in, or with some organs of the state, Dave's lips are sealed" (p. 7). Why, logically, should that have been the case: hardly the stance of a non state-compromised anti-fascist and self-declared Communist, is it? Roberts' release from prison in March 1978 hardly produced a lessening of his pleadings to a supposedly 'infiltrated' state to increase its own powers. Forewarned (issue 2 April 1978) also edited by Daphne Liddle quoted Roberts as calling "on the authorities to arrest leaders of Column 88... under the Public Order Act and to ban all marches, meetings and literature. 'Only then', he added, 'could violence on a large and escalating scale be avoided'" (p. 11). Calling upon the state (and therefore the political police of all persuasions) to enhance its capacity to monitor and suppress political dissent, was something Forewarned never desisted from. [20]