The secrets of Stonehouse

John Stonehouse’s political career unravelled after a series of failed business ventures.

John Stonehouse’s political career unravelled after a series of failed business ventures.

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Sports Reporter

AS the son of Southampton’s sixth female mayor, John Stonehouse grew up with an interest in politics.

But there were no signs of the extraordinary life he would lead during those early days.

Stonehouse joined the Labour Party as a Taunton’s schoolboy, when he was also a member of a youth group called Citizens of Tomorrow.

It was run by Jack Candy, a future Southampton mayor.

“John was a pleasant, popular chap and we enjoyed his company,” recalls Jack, 88, who lives in Bassett.

“We met in Cranbury Terrace and would go on hikes and interview people like the Southampton MP William Craven-Ellis.”

Stonehouse went on to study at the London School of Economics before spending three years as a manager of African co-operative societies in Uganda during the 1950s.

But becoming Prime Minister was his ultimate ambition. By the age of 32, he was MP for Walsall, and he was Secretary to Minister of Aviation before he was 40.

It was during this time, the 1960s, that the Cambridge historian Professor Christopher Andrew claims Stonehouse worked as an agent for the Czech StB intelligence agency.

He would certainly have had access to sensitive information.

By 1967 he was Minister of Technology before being switched to the “poisoned chalice” position of Postmaster General.

The fact he was also made a Privy Councillor at this time suggests MI5 were not suspicious.

But in 1969, the first allegations that Stonehouse was a Czech agent emerged for the first time.

They were successfully defended, but when Harold Wilson’s Labour lost the 1970 general election, Stonehouse found there was no place for him in the Shadow Cabinet.

This could have been for any number of reasons.

Was it simply because he was unpopular with his former Cabinet colleagues? Did Wilson just believe he was not up to the job? Or did MI5 finally have evidence that he was a spy?

Stonehouse’s fellow Labour MP Will Owen is also named as an agent for the Czech StB, and Professor Andrew even reveals that MI5 held a file on Wilson himself.

Conspiracy theories abound as it was at this time that Stonehouse’s spectacular fall began.

“I never thought he [Stonehouse] was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said.

Sure enough, Stonehouse’s hitherto successful life began to unravel with a succession of failed business ventures during the early 1970s.

Investigations by the Department of Trade and Industry prompted his dramatic disappearance.

A literary man (he wrote three novels and an autobiography, Diary of an Idealist), Stonehouse’s next act was inspired by the film Day of the Jackal.

He obtained two fake passports, left his clothes on a Miami beach and fled to Australia via Hawaii, leaving his wife in shock and three children believing their dad was dead.

His mistress and former secretary Sheila Buckley was in on the secret, but rarely visited him for fear of giving him away.

Stonehouse did that himself. His financial transactions soon attracted the suspicions of the Melbourne police, who believed the distinguished Englishman was Lord Lucan.

He was arrested on Christmas Eve 1974 and after the longest fraud trial in British history he was sentenced to seven years and divorced by his wife of 26 years.

Three heart attacks later, he was released midway through his jail term before marrying Sheila Buckley.

They had a son and lived in relative anonymity in West Totton before he died of a fourth attack at Southampton General Hospital in 1988, aged 62.

For those who knew Stonehouse as a Southampton schoolboy, his life of espionage is hard to comprehend.

“We only knew him as a youngster, but he was not that sort of person,” says an incredulous Jack Candy.

Comments (16)

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11:28am Sun 11 Oct 09

AndyAndrews says...

Something for the next edition of the Old Tauntonians' news magazine?
Something for the next edition of the Old Tauntonians' news magazine? AndyAndrews
  • Score: 0

11:45am Sun 11 Oct 09

King Mush says...

He should have ended up by swimming through Traitors Gate at the Tower of London and resting his head on the chopping block.


Along with the likes of Burgess McClean, Blunt and rest of the serpents
He should have ended up by swimming through Traitors Gate at the Tower of London and resting his head on the chopping block. Along with the likes of Burgess McClean, Blunt and rest of the serpents King Mush
  • Score: 0

11:55am Sun 11 Oct 09

Condor Man says...

champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.
champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising. Condor Man
  • Score: 0

12:22pm Sun 11 Oct 09

southy says...

Condor Man wrote:
champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.
stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career.
quote""“I never thought he was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet.
the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.
[quote][p][bold]Condor Man[/bold] wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.[/p][/quote]stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he [Stonehouse] was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is. southy
  • Score: 0

1:20pm Sun 11 Oct 09

freemantlegirl2 says...

What!! no-one blaming a Muslim conspiracy here!! shock horror!
What!! no-one blaming a Muslim conspiracy here!! shock horror! freemantlegirl2
  • Score: 0

1:59pm Sun 11 Oct 09

Iw61 says...

King Mush wrote:
He should have ended up by swimming through Traitors Gate at the Tower of London and resting his head on the chopping block.


Along with the likes of Burgess McClean, Blunt and rest of the serpents
News alert!!
Its the 21st Century, or have you been watching the Tudors too much. Its just a TV programme!!!
[quote][p][bold]King Mush[/bold] wrote: He should have ended up by swimming through Traitors Gate at the Tower of London and resting his head on the chopping block. Along with the likes of Burgess McClean, Blunt and rest of the serpents[/p][/quote]News alert!! Its the 21st Century, or have you been watching the Tudors too much. Its just a TV programme!!! Iw61
  • Score: 0

2:01pm Sun 11 Oct 09

southy says...

freemantlegirl2 wrote:
What!! no-one blaming a Muslim conspiracy here!! shock horror!
shhh freemantle its still early days. :-)
[quote][p][bold]freemantlegirl2[/bold] wrote: What!! no-one blaming a Muslim conspiracy here!! shock horror! [/p][/quote]shhh freemantle its still early days. :-) southy
  • Score: 0

2:02pm Sun 11 Oct 09

Iw61 says...

freemantlegirl2 wrote:
What!! no-one blaming a Muslim conspiracy here!! shock horror!
fmgirl.

No silly, its the PC brigade fault!
no the chavs, sorry no! Its the immigrants fault, er no! Lets see , ah, champagne socialists fault!

Sh*t! I will have to read my Mail on Sunday to find out who else I can blame!!
[quote][p][bold]freemantlegirl2[/bold] wrote: What!! no-one blaming a Muslim conspiracy here!! shock horror! [/p][/quote]fmgirl. No silly, its the PC brigade fault! no the chavs, sorry no! Its the immigrants fault, er no! Lets see , ah, champagne socialists fault! Sh*t! I will have to read my Mail on Sunday to find out who else I can blame!! Iw61
  • Score: 0

4:31pm Sun 11 Oct 09

Duncan Disorderly says...

An interesting potted history, which certainly adds to the reports about his spying published in the national newspapers last week.
It's certainly a sad come-down for a Cabinet Minister and Privy Councillor to have to end your days in West Totton....
An interesting potted history, which certainly adds to the reports about his spying published in the national newspapers last week. It's certainly a sad come-down for a Cabinet Minister and Privy Councillor to have to end your days in West Totton.... Duncan Disorderly
  • Score: 0

4:41pm Sun 11 Oct 09

Condor Man says...

southy wrote:
Condor Man wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.
stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.
Harold Wilson calling someone else a crook? that's rich. The only PM of his generation who never properly served his country during WWII= unlike Ted Heath and Jim Callaghan.
[quote][p][bold]southy[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Condor Man[/bold] wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.[/p][/quote]stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he [Stonehouse] was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.[/p][/quote]Harold Wilson calling someone else a crook? that's rich. The only PM of his generation who never properly served his country during WWII= unlike Ted Heath and Jim Callaghan. Condor Man
  • Score: 0

6:47pm Sun 11 Oct 09

Iw61 says...

Condor Man wrote:
southy wrote:
Condor Man wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.
stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.
Harold Wilson calling someone else a crook? that's rich. The only PM of his generation who never properly served his country during WWII= unlike Ted Heath and Jim Callaghan.
Please explain what that has to do with being a crook??
[quote][p][bold]Condor Man[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]southy[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Condor Man[/bold] wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.[/p][/quote]stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he [Stonehouse] was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.[/p][/quote]Harold Wilson calling someone else a crook? that's rich. The only PM of his generation who never properly served his country during WWII= unlike Ted Heath and Jim Callaghan.[/p][/quote]Please explain what that has to do with being a crook?? Iw61
  • Score: 0

7:07pm Sun 11 Oct 09

Derek of Dibden Purlieu says...

southy wrote:
Condor Man wrote:
champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.
stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career.
quote""“I never thought he was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet.
the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.
Lots of dirty tricks going on and Jack Jones up to his neck in them!
[quote][p][bold]southy[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Condor Man[/bold] wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.[/p][/quote]stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he [Stonehouse] was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.[/p][/quote]Lots of dirty tricks going on and Jack Jones up to his neck in them! Derek of Dibden Purlieu
  • Score: 0

7:33pm Sun 11 Oct 09

Condor Man says...

and, of course the infamous Lavender List.
and, of course the infamous Lavender List. Condor Man
  • Score: 0

8:30pm Sun 11 Oct 09

southy says...

there was spys in all partys back then derek, all out to make money or futher there career, there was a number of torys that was selling guns to terrorists, even m thacter hands are not clean. there was alot going on. the thacthers are still supporting that terrorist government in burma, along with bush, all for the sake to stop the socialist taking power in government in a election that they won hands down. an election where the burma army was beating up and killing people who they knew was going to vote for the socialist party. and they still lost.
there was spys in all partys back then derek, all out to make money or futher there career, there was a number of torys that was selling guns to terrorists, even m thacter hands are not clean. there was alot going on. the thacthers are still supporting that terrorist government in burma, along with bush, all for the sake to stop the socialist taking power in government in a election that they won hands down. an election where the burma army was beating up and killing people who they knew was going to vote for the socialist party. and they still lost. southy
  • Score: 0

8:58pm Sun 11 Oct 09

hulla baloo says...

Derek of Dibden Purlieu wrote:
southy wrote:
Condor Man wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.
stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.
Lots of dirty tricks going on and Jack Jones up to his neck in them!
Maybe so, but apparently he had a good singing voice
[quote][p][bold]Derek of Dibden Purlieu[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]southy[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Condor Man[/bold] wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.[/p][/quote]stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he [Stonehouse] was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.[/p][/quote]Lots of dirty tricks going on and Jack Jones up to his neck in them![/p][/quote]Maybe so, but apparently he had a good singing voice hulla baloo
  • Score: 0

9:09pm Sun 11 Oct 09

Derek of Dibden Purlieu says...

hulla baloo wrote:
Derek of Dibden Purlieu wrote:
southy wrote:
Condor Man wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.
stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.
Lots of dirty tricks going on and Jack Jones up to his neck in them!
Maybe so, but apparently he had a good singing voice
You must be referring to the Northern Soul band known as Jack Jones and the Scouse Tw@ts.
[quote][p][bold]hulla baloo[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Derek of Dibden Purlieu[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]southy[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Condor Man[/bold] wrote: champagne socialist in communist spy shock? Not surprising.[/p][/quote]stonehouse was never a true socialist, he just saw it has away to further his career. quote""“I never thought he [Stonehouse] was a spy, but I always thought he was a crook,” Wilson once said. "" unquote --- wilson also said in a tv interview that stonehouse was extreme left wing a communist, and thats why he remove him from the shadow cabinet. the torys shadow cabinet in the 60's ask mi5 to spy on pm home. whitch they did do on behave of the torys, there was a lot of dirty tricks going on back in those days, and still is.[/p][/quote]Lots of dirty tricks going on and Jack Jones up to his neck in them![/p][/quote]Maybe so, but apparently he had a good singing voice[/p][/quote]You must be referring to the Northern Soul band known as Jack Jones and the Scouse Tw@ts. Derek of Dibden Purlieu
  • Score: 0

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