Undercover: the true story of Britain’s secret police by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis (Faber)

UndercoverIt’s not often I read a book with a raised cover – you know the sort, the title being a bit bumpy. Clearly Faber thought this book would reach the mass market – the sub-heads “They steal identities. They break the law. They sleep with the enemy.” are also a bit bumpy in another way. And then the cover image of that stupid Guy Fawkes mask, beloved of (some) protesters and (most)  press photographers everywhere. But this book is sensational, and “they” did all of these things, in some cases not just sleeping with their enemy but fathering a child with that enemy.  And a lot of  the action was in Nottingham. If you were on another planet you might have missed the fuss about Nottingham’s Mr Mark Stone/Mark Kennedy, the copper who infiltrated and made himself central to local protest groups over many years. He also made himself central to the lives of the core individuals involved, and had several sexual relationships while undercover. He and the Special Demonstration Squad were eventually exposed. Almost all the policemen and one of the policewomen who were deep undercover, also mostly for many years, had sexual relations with members of the groups they infiltrated. In some case they became instigators of illegal action. It now appears that the famous McDonald’s/McLibel leaflet was written mainly by a policeman and that the tiny London Greenpeace Group who produced it had almost as many infiltrators as activists. Perhaps McDonald should sue the police. The story of the SDS is fascinating reading, though the question remains as to how, psychologically, these long-terms undercover police spies could live with, act with and sleep with people yet have “normal” lives too. What kind of person could do this?

Ross Bradshaw

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