Protesters outside London Metropolitan University in Holloway Road last Friday call for Bob Lambert to be sacked
Published: 3 April, 2015
by KOOS COUVÉE
A LONDON Metropolitan University lecturer was managing a controversial spy unit during the time it carried out surveillance on Labour politician Jeremy Corbyn, it has been claimed.
Questions have been raised by campaigners, and by Mr Corbyn himself, over whether criminology lecturer Bob Lambert, who worked as a manager within the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) between 1993 and 1998, was involved in spying on Labour Party activists even after they had been elected to Parliament.
In revelations published in the Guardian, spy-cop turned whistleblower Peter Francis, who was once supervised by Mr Lambert, said that between 1993 and 1997 he personally collected information on three London MPs – Mr Corbyn, Diane Abbott and the late Bernie Grant.
He did this while infiltrating anti-racist groups such as Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE). Seven other MPs, including former Home Secretary Jack Straw, were also spied on.
During this time Mr Corbyn, who was first elected as MP for Islington North in 1983, supported a number of anti-racist organisations including YRE and often spoke at their meetings.
In a statement Mr Lambert said that “to the best of his recollection” he was never involved in surveillance against the left-wing politician.
A furious Mr Corbyn told the Tribune: “I am a democratically elected person and it turns out I was put under surveillance for a long time because I campaigned on human rights issues and was involved in justice campaigns.
“At the Metropolitan Police somebody authorised this and I want to know who. I want to know who ordered the spying higher up, and whether there was any co-operation between the SDS and MI5.”
He added: “I am also taking legal advice because this is simply unacceptable.”
A public inquiry into police spying and the operation of the SDS, led by Lord Justice Pitchford, will be held later this year.
The revelations have led Mr Corbyn – who spoke at the Westminster launch of Mr Lambert’s book on countering Islamic terrorism in London in 2011, one month before he was exposed by members of London Greenpeace – to reassess his previous relationship with the former police officer.
The pair first met in 2005 when Mr Lambert headed up the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, which was involved in turning Finsbury Park Mosque away from radical cleric Abu Hamza.
Mr Corbyn added: “I worked with Bob Lambert around Finsbury Park Mosque, he was good in that role. Later I was interested in his book at the time and I was involved in the launch. But for all I know he could have had me under surveillance. I am looking forward to what the inquiry gives me and I think I should be given the full report without any redactions.”
Officers within the SDS embedded themselves in left-wing groups or causes that were deemed to pose a potential threat to the capital’s security.
During the 1980s Mr Lambert infiltrated animal rights groups and even fathered a child with an animal rights activist he was secretly monitoring.
He started his role at London Met in September 2012 – almost a year after he was outed as a former spy – and the university has repeatedly said it has “absolute faith in him as a lecturer and member of our community”.
Merrick Badger, an activist with Islington Against Police Spies, said the revelations were a boost to their campaign. The pressure group, which includes animal rights and environmental activists, is calling on London Met to sack Mr Lambert. He said: “Bob Lambert was running the unit. He sent the spies out to do the work and was managing the unit. The spies in the 1990s were modelled into his image, using his methods developed in the 1980s.
“If spying on MPs was going on and he was the manager, then he is either complicit, or was at best incredibly negligent.”
Since leaving the Met in 2007 Mr Lambert has become a high-profile academic and since 2012 has worked part-time as a senior lecturer in London Met’s John Grieve Policing Centre. He is an expert in counter-terrorism and has published several progressive academic articles about hate crime. He gained a doctorate in terrorism studies at Exeter University and also holds a post at the University of St Andrews.
Mr Lambert refused to answer specific questions but in an email to the Tribune, he said: “I was employed by the Metropolitan Police from 1977 until 2007. To the best of my recollection, at no time during that employment was I involved in any kind of surveillance against Jeremy Corbyn.
“These are serious issues and I will await the forthcoming judicial inquiry at which the allegations you refer to, and several others, can be examined and adjudicated upon.”
A host of Labour MPs have demanded that the government releases files that the police kept on them during the 1990s. The MPs named, and the Labour Party, have called for the forthcoming public inquiry into undercover policing to be widened.