MI5 cold-shoulders Hobsbawm request to see his file

Historians in the News

The former Labour leader Neil Kinnock once described Eric Hobsbawm as "my favourite Marxist". But now the Labour government is being challenged to explain to parliament why one of Britain's most eminent leftwing historians has been barred from seeing a file kept on him by the Security Service, MI5.

Hobsbawm is 91 and a Companion of Honour, an award given to only 45 Britons for outstanding achievements and whose motto is "In Action Faithful and in Honour Clear". He has been told by MI5 he is not entitled to see the file, for which he applied under the Data Protection Act.

Ministers face the potentially embarrassing task of having to explain to parliament why Hobsbawm, who joined the now defunct British Communist party in 1936 and is widely regarded as one of the world's leading Marxist historians, is worthy of receiving such an exclusive distinction from the Queen but is not trusted to see his own security file.

"To the best of my knowledge I have never been involved in anything of security interest," Hobsbawm said yesterday. "I think the only reason can be that the security people don't want to give away who snitched on me to the authorities."...

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