Edward Heath, Clockwork Orange and the Frolik Affair

Edward Heath - image by By Open Media Ltd.  CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wiltshire Police yesterday reported on a series of sexual abuse allegations against former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, covering a period between 1956 and 1992. Their report concludes the evidence would have warranted interviewing him under caution if he were still alive.

This finding raises significant questions about the stories about Heath's private life that were circulating during his lifetime and indeed during his premiership.

Some of these stories appeared to circulate from official sources. For example, Heath's name came up in the notes compiled in the mid-1970s by Army information officer Colin Wallace, on the basis of briefings by an MI5 officer using the pseudonym John Shaw. [1] 

This material was part of Operation Clockwork Orange, which according to MI5 officer Ian Cameron"was the title of a project involving the ‘planting’ of an account of the organisation and activities of the PIRA purporting to have been written by a PIRA deserter". [2]

Wallace's notes, authenticated to the mid-1970s by forensic expert Dr Julius Grant, allude to material that would only have been known to MI5 at that time.[3] They are key evidence that Clockwork Orange became the vehicle for right-wingers in the security services to target British politicians.

Wallace's evidence to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry includes an extract from these notes which mentions Heath, under the heading 'Control Over MPs: Homosexual and other blackmail.'[4] A note below adds: 'Link to homosexual story via Belfast McKeague, McGrath,  etc.' This sounds more like the creation of a political smear than anything else.

Paul Foot's book on Heath comments on this: "The notion that Ted Heath was a homosexual, and therefore at some risk of being blackmailed was fairly common in journalistic circles in the early 1970s. There was no evidence of any kind to support it" [5]. Foot himself had received anonymous tip-offs at Private Eye and Socialist Worker, and reflected "If this was happening to me, who had never had any contacts in the intelligence services, what was circulating among journalists 'in the know?'" [6].

Heath did not have a good relationship with MI5, whose own official history recounts a passage from his memoirs stating that he found the service's Director-General Martin Furnival-Jones, 'not so convincing' as intelligence co-ordinator Dick White [7].

Heath recounted:

His people had heard that a church organist was being sent from Poland to London to give a recital, to which I would be invited, in the hope that he could have an interview in order to obtain the latest political information from me. As I had never heard of the organist, nobody else was able to identify him and there was no evidence whatsoever of any such organ recital in London, this kind of nonsense hardly seemed to represent a fruitful way of occupying either my time or that of MI5 [8].

MI5 historian Christopher Andrew states that the service has no record of any approach about a Polish organist, and that Heath's recollection 'may well have been garbled' [9].

This may be strictly correct in that Heath's story is an exact match for a story told by the defector Josef Frolik, who was, however, not Polish but Czech. Andrew does not tell us what the MI5 files say about Czech organists.

In Frolik's account, published in 1975, the operation was intended a gay honeytrap. If Heath was aware of this detail in earlier years, it may have increased his animosity to MI5 over the credence they gave to the story.

A BBC report on Frolik's 'Heath Caper' in 2012 stated: 

The archives of the British Security Service are closed to outsiders but an authorised history has been written.
There is no record of any warning being given to Heath about a plot - another piece of evidence pointing to Frolik's story being fabricated. [10]

As we have seen, Heath's account, even if garbled, suggests there was an MI5 warning. However, the BBC's Gordon Corera may be onto something with the suggestion that former MI6 officer George Kennedy-Young was involved.

Mrazek [-a former Czech intelligence officer-] met Young in the 1960s and believes this is why he was singled out to have been behind the Heath Caper. Young certainly disliked Heath intensely - as did others on the right who believed he had sold out and needed to be replaced [11].

In a series of tweets last night, Lobster magazine suggests that Young's role is reason to be sceptical about the paedophile allegations against Heath. wouldn't a former top intelligence officer running a smear campaign against the Prime Minister find and use evidence of paedophilia if it was there rather than simply making implications of homosexuality?

One counter-argument to this is that paedophile allegations against Liberal MP Cyril Smith did not fully surface in the mid-1970s, even though he was mentioned as a potential target in Wallace's notes. Had they done so, it might have done huge damage to the Liberals, who were regarded by Harold Wilson as a key ally. 

On the other hand, it is worth noting the belief of the late Paul Foot that former Home Secretary Leon Brittan was the target of a smear campaign by the security services in the 1980s, something which may have made him a target for later allegations [12].

Heath's family have called for an inquiry to clear his name. Any such investigation should examine the provenance of the Clockwork Orange and Frolik material and their influence on later allegations.


[1] Paul Foot, Who Framed Colin Wallace, Pan Books, 1989, p.46.

[2] Cited in the report of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, Chapter 28, paragraph 427. <https://www.hiainquiry.org/sites/hiainquiry/files/media-files/Chapter%2028%20-%20Module%2015%20-%20Kincora%20Boys%E2%80%99%20Home%20%28Part%202%29.pdf>.

[3] Paul Foot, Who Framed Colin Wallace, Pan Books, 1989, p.42.

[4] Colin Wallace material, KIN-124707. Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry <https://www.hiainquiry.org/sites/hiainquiry/files/media-files/Colin%20Wallace%20%20Material_0.pdf>.

[5] Paul Foot, Who Framed Colin Wallace, Pan Books, 1989, p.66.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Edward Heath, The Course of My Life: My Autobiography, Hodder & Stoughton, 1998, pp.473-4. Cited in Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.587.

[8] Ibid.

[9]  Christopher Andrew, Defence of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009, p.587. 

[10] Gordon Corera, 'Heath Caper: A Czech blackmail plot against Ted Heath?', BBC News, 25 June 2012. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18556213>.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Paul Foot, Who Framed Colin Wallace, Pan Books, 1989, p.xx.

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