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In October 1924 MI5 intercepted a letter written by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union. In the letter Zinoviev urged British communists to promote revolution through acts of sedition. They thought it was genuine, and Vernon Kell, head of MI5, showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister. It was agreed that the letter should be kept secret but someone leaked news of the letter to the Daily Mail, which published the letter four days before the election. The ensuing red scare cost Labour its victory. It was later claimed that the letter was forged by two MI5 agents, and that Major Joseph Ball, also of MI5, leaked it. Ball later went on to be one of the earliest spin doctors — for the conservatives.
After extensive research by Gill Bennett, it is currently believed that the letter was forged in Latvia by anti-communist exiles, in order to wreck a trade agreement between Britain and the new Communist state. The Conservatives, once elected, declined to ratify the treaty.
- Zinoviev Letter. Archived from the original at spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk, June 2013.
- Civil War Plot by Socialists' Masters : Moscow Orders to our Reds (press cutting). Daily Mail, 25 October 1924.
- Richard Norton-Taylor, Zinoviev letter was dirty trick by MI6. The Guardian, 3 February 1999.