Hakluyt Watch

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Private Eye

No. 1031 29 June - 12 July, 2001

In The Back:

Hakluyt Watch

Who exactly is Michael Maclay, director of Hakluyt, the mysterious "intelligence agency" exposed by the Sunday Times (17 June) as an employer of spies in the green and peace movements?

Mr Maclay is an informative chap. He told the Sunday Times: "We don't ever talk about anything we do. We never go into details about what we may or may not be doing."

An ignorant observer might imagine that Maclay has an aversion to journalists. But not so. When he left the foreign office in the mid-1980s he teamed up with the celebrated team of "mission to explain" journalists at London Weekend Television under John Birt, later director-general of the BBC, and Peter Mandelson, later Labour's media specialist and twice-sacked cabinet minister.

While at London Weekend Maclay helped Mandelson's friend David (now Lord) Lipsey set up the Sunday Correspondent to rival the Observer. Together with Mandelson and Lipsey, Maclay was an early member of the British American Project to encourage members of "the successor generation" -- the best and the brightest in both countries (see Eyes 929, 954, 960, 963, 1011). Another former BAP member was Liz (now Baroness) Symons, a star in the Blair government, and wife of Phil Bassett, Blair's key aide at Number 10.

The fact that Maclay's Hakluyt (bizarrely named after a geographer) sought and paid for information from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth which would be useful to its clients in the boardroom of BP will not have come as a surprise to top BP executive and founding treasurer of the British American Project, Nick Butler. Butler is well known to Eye readers as one of "new" Labour's favourite big businessmen. For several years his wife ran the press office at the Blairite think tank IPPR, whose talkative director Matthew Taylor is another close friend of Michael Maclay.