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Illtyd: a man of honour

How former New Journal writer became a victim of spy mania

11 January, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Illtyd Harrington with Harold Wilson

A POIGNANT sharp memory flew back uninvited as newspaper columns filled up over the weekend with stories of the age-old row as to who made out Harold Wilson’s (dis)honours list 50 years ago.

The memory was of my old colleague and friend Illtyd Harrington, who died two years ago.

As a local government grandee, Illtyd, then chairman of the Greater London Council in the mid-70s, was close to Harold Wilson who told him at No 10 Downing Street that he needed him in the House of Lords because of his weight of local government experience.

He duly put down Illtyd’s name, and all should have gone as planned.

But it never happened. When Wilson’s list was published his name was mysteriously not on it.

In those years MI5 was reckoned by most thinking politicians to be out of control. Thatcher tried but failed to ban Peter Wright’s book Spycatcher on the period.

Illtyd had become a victim of the spy mania.

An old Welsh valley boy from a left-wing family, Illtyd never quite fitted in London political circles with some Labourites. The fact that he was gay didn’t help.

But he remained true to his socialist principles all his life. That is his beautiful epitaph.

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