September 2014

Rob Evans & Paul Lewis: UNDERCOVER - The True Story of Britain's Secret Police
Published by Faber and Faber at £12.99

Undercover book coverUndercover is a revealing, explosive genuine insight into covert secret police operations in the UK, the emotional trauma, the psychological torture and havoc wreaked on well intentioned ordinary British people trying to make Britain a better place. It reveals an organisation within an organisation, which existed, unknown to many and paid for by the British taxpayer for around 40 years by means of deception and collusion within the British establishment and asks whether such methods can ever be justified in a democratic society.

But it is only lifting the lid on policing in the UK. There can be no doubt there will be more revelations to follow, this is a real life Pandora’s  box that reads like a Frederick Forsyth thriller and leaves the reader in no doubt that the British State and British democracy are two different entities.

The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was set up on 27 October 1968 (and was initially funded by the Treasury), and ran until 2008. It was intended to be radically different from anything previously and whilst there is no doubt a role for gathering  evidence and infiltrating groups or  organisations who are a real threat to security, there can be no justification, on any grounds, for doing so to campaigners who be-lieve in a cause such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, anti racism groups or the Animal Liberation Front.

Ditto for bona fida trade unions and political organisations or parties openly funded in the UK and  fully engaged in the democratic process. Colluding with others to blacklist workers and deprive them of providing for their families - where in any decent society can that ever be deemed a role for the police, undercover or otherwise?

There are accounts which have you thinking this could be a great script for a satirical political play at the Edinburgh fringe - where the British taxpayer is paying undercover cops to spy on and report on British taxpayers in order to protect companies who are evading taxes in the UK! This is a HM funded squad who stole the names of the dead and the lives of the living whilst robbing UK taxpayers!

It was a squad that blatantly lied under oath in court and - in collusion with the Crown Prosecution Service - legal cases were being suddenly dropped, it was anarchy by the establishment. It was in effect unaccountable spying on fully accountable people and organisations in British society. SDS operated well outside the boundaries of the Met and not only in a geographical sense.

Rob Evans and Paul Lewis are to be commended for a tremendous piece of investigative journalism in what must have been an exhaustive painstaking process with no help and I am sure plenty of barriers, threats, legal and otherwise placed in front of them. They should be used as the benchmark for all budding journalists and indeed I would suggest this book be used as a training manual for the Murdoch Empire into what real exclusive investigative journalism in the interest of British society is or should be.

As well as the many revelations in the book it also raises many other unanswered questions.  The idea that anyone who disagrees with the government is a threat to democracy is both absurd and insulting to many political activists and academics in this country, and we the British public deserve to know who made the decisions to infiltrate and gather information on these people and what valid reasons there were for doing so. Was it MI5, SDS special branch, civil servants or politicians?

In relation to the views of the Met police being a racist organisation at the time of the Stephen Lawrence murder, this is captured in the book by the undercover operator confessing “the problem for the police was that the murdered teenager did not con-form to stereotype. Stephen Lawrence wanted to be an architect and was totally clean….he was almost like white, middle class. He was not your usual black kid; he had never been in trouble.”

If that statement sums up the mindset at that time of the Met then as a civilised society we need to take stock of where we really are in the 21st century. As mentioned earlier this book is a Pandora’s box and opens up a whole set of unanswered questions on so many fronts. It is a great read, well written and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in British political or social life.  

This review is written by Pat Egan & the book can be purchased from

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