Searchlight & the State

"Leave it to the experts…"

"I have now given the names I have acquired to be checked out by British/ French security services, especially the French and German connections and the South American stuff is being checked by Geoffrey Stewart-Smith's institute. He has strong CIA links. (1), I may try somebody in the Israeli Foreign Office that I know for some checks on Kelly. It is now a time for waiting for a feed-back and also further checks here."

"I have attached a number of documents including the transcript of Kelly's interview with World in Action. It goes without saying that I would like this kept strictly secret."

('Strictly secret': one of a series of reports on other journalists which London Weekend Television researcher and Searchlight Publishing Chairman Gerry Gable prepared… with a little help from "the experts").


In January 1964, three young men (2) were convicted at Highbury Magistrates Court for breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony, after attempting to steal private papers from the self-proclaimed "mild fascist" historian David Irving. Despite the fact that one of them was unemployed and the other two gave their professions as "electrician", they were represented in Court by a Queens Council and £1,000 bail was put up by a businessman, company director Leslie Jacobs of Clapton. One of the three was additionally charged with stealing a GPO identity card which he used in the burglary: his name was Gerry Gable. Council for the defence told the court, "they hoped to find material they could take to Special Branch". (3)

Twenty years later the same Gerry Gable, reviewing Stuart Christie's Investigative Researcher's Handbook (which had included profiles of two leading right-wingers as examples of how to go about an investigation), dismissed the book with the scathing admonishment to "leave it to the experts".(4) We think our readers should be made aware of just which "experts" Mr. Gable has in mind, and why it is that Searchlight reacts so curiously whenever anyone outside their select circle dares step onto their jealously guarded territory of investigating the extreme Right.

Born in January 1937, Gerry Gable is a former member of the Young Communist League (YCL), and stood as Communist Party candidate in the Northfield ward of Stamford Hill, north London, in 1962. He was also linked to the Zionist 'antifascist' 62 Group nominally led by Harry Bidney (manager of the Limbo Club in Soho) - formed by veterans of the anti-Mosley 43 Group (basically a CP set-up) who thought the group had grown 'too liberal' - to counter the antics of Colin Jordan, John Tyndall, and the revived neo-Nazi movement of the early '60's. The 62 Group (mostly supporters of the Beginite Herut organisation, a political successor to the Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorist group) specialised in direct action, infiltration, dirty-tricks, and 'black-bag' jobs (burglary). Gable has retained an endearing affection for 'black-bag' jobs, as a means of gathering information on target individuals, ever since.


Parallel to the activities of the '62 Group, a small anti-fascist journal was founded in London to monitor the activities of Jordan, Tyndall & Co. The journal was called Searchlight. Amongst its early editors were Labour MP's Reg Freeson and Joan Lestor (both subsequently Government Ministers for Housing and Foreign Affairs respectively). Searchlight's "research director" was Gerry Gable. The journal ceased publication in 1967, but Gable, Maurice Ludmer (a veteran Communist and anti-fascist), and others stayed together as Searchlight Associates, in order to go on providing 'research material' on the extreme Right to journalists and broadcasters. In 1974 Gable and Ludmer collaborated in the production of a pamphlet detailing the background and nature of the National Front: A Well Oiled Nazi Machine. The instant success of the pamphlet (it sold out in a few weeks), helped by the wave of concern awakened on the Left by the seeming advance being made by the NF (and incidentally, the re-emergence of 'anti-fascism' as a bandwagon for groups like the SWP to use for their recruitment drives), prompted Searchlight Associates to resume publication as a regular journal. The pilot issue of the new Searchlight appeared in February 1975, with Maurice Ludmer as its editor. Ludmer and Gable were also amongst the first sponsors of the Anti-Nazi League.

Since then Searchlight has built up an impressive reputation for investigative reporting, and has done pioneering work of genuine value in exposing the activities and international links of fascist organisations. But the political expediency of a perceived identity of interest in the short-term, in the cause of 'anti-fascism' just as in 'anti-communism', is apt to lead one to work with some strange allies. In Searchlight's case, opposition to the 'extremists' of the Right has opened up the door to the extremists of the centre, for whom Right and Left are equally perceived as a threat to 'democracy'.

"Strictly secret"

Not only has Gable admitted, as part of his defence in the 1963/4 burglary trial, that he hoped to supply information to Special Branch on David Irving, but a confidential memorandum written by him to his producers in London Weekend Television (where he worked until recently as a researcher/presenter on the London Programme: he is now trying to work his ticket with an alleged 'heart condition') on 2 May 1977 gave clear, hard, evidence that he has also engaged in a two-way traffic of information with the security services of several countries, and acted as a conduit of misinformation for MI5 against fellow journalists, and socialists. The memo was the subject of an article by Duncan Campbell and Bruce Page in the New Statesman in February 1980. Gable has never successfully refuted the information contained in the article. When Campbell and Page went down to LWT's offices to confront Gable with the evidence and demand some answers, Gable simply cleared his desk and fled, refusing to talk to them. This is in marked contrast to his previous meeting with Campbell, whom he took out to an expense account lunch during the 'ABC' Official Secrets case to pump him for information he could pass on to his friends in Special Branch.

The memo, written by Gable followed, he says, a lunch with a Security Service employee in May 1977. The nature of the official material received and recorded by him - mixed with large amounts of random gossip - indicates that much of it was coloured by phone-tap information and informer's reports. It consists almost entirely of libellous untruths about a group of 'target' individuals  the 'ABC' Official Secrets defendants, American deportees Philip Agee and Mark Hosenball, and several of their acquaintances. In certain respects, material from Special Branch had been deliberately falsified to mislead Gable and his employers. The timing of the memo showed clearly an intense interest on behalf of MI5 in manipulating events surrounding the Agee/ Hosenball case and the beginnings of the 'ABC' prosecution.

"Kelly is the KGB man…"

The person most frequently, and libellously, mentioned in its pages was not directly involved in either case: Phil Kelly, a journalist acquainted with both sets of accused men. Kelly was around this time one of the victims of a number of burglaries and thefts in London which were clearly designed to gather information and documents rather than valuables (Gable's proven speciality, as witnessed by the Irving trial…)

Admitted to be one of a series, the memo was headed "Agencies" presumably a reference to Gable's information sources (named, apart from MI5, as the CIA, French and German security, Stewart-Smith's FARI institute, and the 'Israeli Foreign Office'). It mixes up a few accurate facts with half-truths, and constructs upon them a series of fantasies, linking the Young Liberals with Cubans, Palestinian and German terrorists, various contributors to Time Out, members of the London Co-Op, and the KGB, into a deadly, all-encompassing conspiracy. Gable also asserts that an "eye-witness" who "had infiltrated the Palestinians and some left groups" (and is apparently well known to him) has backed up his claims. There is a remarkable similarity between information received by Special Branch when they stopped Kelly at Heathrow Airport in 1970, and the "eye-witness" story re-told by Gable in 1977. The implication must be that Gable was at least aware of a Special Branch or MI5 informer amongst left-wing groups and remained quiet about it.

Gable wrote: "The arrest of Campbell / Berry and Aubrey has caused a civil rights row, but according to my top level security sources, they inform me in strictest confidence that for about four years Campbell/ Berry/ Kelly and others have been systematically gathering top-level security material. Campbell, who claims to have only an interest in technological matters as far as the state is involved, had done four years detailed research into the whole structure of the other side of not only our Intelligence services but those of other NATO countries. He has also gone to people who work on top security contracts and started off by asking them about open commercial work their companies do and then gradually asked them for information on top secret work, including that on underwater detection hardware, which he clearly knows is beyond the pale.

"Politically it appears the group have no guiding light or line, but Kelly is the KGB man who reaps the goodies gathered by other people…"

"The security service accepts that once the real nature of this case begins to emerge they expect people like Jonathan Aitkin (the Tory MP, who has expressed support for the ABC) will fade away fast. The security service accepts that a number of decent people have signed up to support these people on civil rights grounds and also they unofficially accept all the shortcomings of the act they have been held under, but they say they are sure this has gone beyond the bounds of Press Investigation."

In the last few words of the memo Gable wrote: "I have now given the names I have acquired to be checked out by British/ French security servicesit is now a time for waiting for a feed-back and also for further checks here." The feed-back never came of course, because the whole story was really just black propaganda.

The Infiltration Game

Searchlight obtains much of its information from imaginative use of the telephone, 'black-bag' jobs (of the sort Gable has been convicted for), snippets of gossip and information blackmailed out of vulnerable fascists eager to protect some guilty secret or other (usually of a sexual nature), and selected tit-bits fed to Gable from his "top-level security sources". The value of a great deal of the material they print is arguable. Often it is slanted to achieve other ends than simply 'antifascism'. Gable has recently lent himself to a series of manoeuvres, allying himself with former members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) who had joined the Libertarian Alliance, aimed at seizing control of the Alternative Bookshop in Covent Garden (a pivotal influence within the LA) and ousting Chris Tame (who has recently also come under fire in the pages of Searchlight) in what they hoped would be the resulting split.

On the rare occasion when they do print information from genuine anti-fascist infiltrators (two people, independently, during our researches expressed bewilderment at Searchlight's lack of interest in information gathered on fascists - in one case through a successful infiltration of the NF - which was offered to them), it is subject to a curious process of 'editing' before being published. Birmingham Communist Dave Roberts, who provided Searchlight with much of their information during the mid '70's, is a case in point.

Amongst the information passed to Searchlight in 1976 by Roberts (who was subsequently disowned by Gable after Maurice Ludmer's death), was the revelation that David King (a Birmingham Nazi known to have close links with the so-called "Column 88") had told Roberts in prison that he suspected fellow fascist Peter Marriner of being in touch with Special Branch. Marriner, a long-time Nazi activist in Birmingham, then local organiser for the British Movement and said to be involved with "Column 88", achieved notoriety when he was exposed as a fascist infiltrator of the Labour Party, International Socialists, and other left-wing groups during the Ladywood bye-election. Searchlight subsequently printed a long expose of Marriner's activities, but only after the local press had already picked up the beginnings of the story and blown Marriner's cover as election agent to Labour MP Brian Waldon and his successor, John Severs. Nowhere in Searchlight's coverage of the Marriner case was there any mention of a Special Branch connection. Marriner told the Left he was infiltrating the Right. He told the Right he was infiltrating the Left. If he was also in contact with Special Branch, just who was infiltrating who? And why, after they published so much else of the information gathered by Roberts, did Searchlight balk at exposing a leading Birmingham Nazi as an agent of the Special Branch? Interestingly enough, another of the defendants in the Irving burglary case with Gable in 1963, Manny Carpel, was jailed for 2½ years in April 1981 after setting fire to a printing works in Sussex which printed fascist literature. Carpel described himself during the trial as a freelance journalist working for Searchlight. His defence lawyer, Leonard Krickler, claimed on Carpel's behalf that his client had helped the Special Branch in the past in the Midlands and Birmingham.

Plausible Denial?

Gable's role in all this is open to speculation. He may be the naive tool (and fool) of the Special Branch. More probably, he appears in the classic role of "plausibly deniable" agent, used by "the experts" to do the dirty work which his "top level security sources" would rather not grubby their hands on. It is documented fact that Gable has been passing information to Special Branch, MI5, and foreign security services for 20 years; acted as a conduit for misinformation and 'black' propaganda between MI5 and the media (aimed in at least one case in affecting the course of criminal proceedings against fellow journalists); and concealed the existence and activities of at least one Special Branch or MI5 infiltrator inside left-wing groups.

We can not really shed any tears about Gable employing unscrupulous methods against fascists; but his activities in other directions give us cause for concern. We are entitled to ask Mr. Gable, when he scolds those who ruffle his feathers, to just which "experts" we should leave the task of investigating those who threaten our well-being: MI5, Special Branch, CIA, Mossad? It is also necessary to ask those genuine anti-fascists amongst the Searchlight staff and contributors, whether they are in fact aware of Gerry Gable's activities on behalf of his "top level security" chums? If they are and continue to have any dealings with the man, then we would have cause to question their motivations also. With "experts" like Gerry Gable, who needs fascists?



(1) Besides having served as advisor to the British Military Voluntary Force which unsuccessfully tried to send mercenaries to the Congo, Biafra, and Southern Africa, former Tory MP. Geoffrey Stewart-Smith is the editor of East West Digest (an anti-communist rag sent free to all MP's), and director of the Foreign Affairs Research Institute (FARI). From a small beginning in 1966, by 1981 it was able to host an international conference which received a message of goodwill from President Reagan. FARI acts as an umbrella group for the Coalition for Peace through Security (CPS), located in the office above FARI at 27-31 Whitehall, which has also housed Freedom Communications International (yet another rabid anti-communist set-up) of whom Stewart-Smith is the director. Foreign Affairs Publishing Co. is a major publisher of right-wing books in England. The East West Institute/ FARI maintains close links with British, Dutch and American Intelligence.

(2) Gerry Gable, Manny Carpel and David Freedman.

(3) Evening Standard, 28 November 1963.

(4) Searchlight, No.96, June 1983.


This article, despite being regularly referred to as the first occasion when the connection between Searchlight and the state's political police was blown, has not been reprinted until now.

From: Anarchy 36, 1983.