Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Smiley's People: Spy Who Inspired George Smiley Accused John Le Carre Of 'Giving Comfort' To Britain's Enemies

Jasper Copping at the British newspaper the Telelgraph offers another piece on the late MI5 officer John Bingham and his views of spy thriller writer John le Carre.

The man who inspired George Smiley, one of Britain’s most celebrated fictional spies, accused his creator John le Carré of giving “comfort, pleasure and glee” to the country’s Cold War foes in his depiction of the secret service. 
John Bingham, who was le Carré’s former mentor in MI5 and model for Smiley, wrote to the author to express himself “puzzled” at what he saw as his disloyalty to the intelligence agencies, in his cynical portrayal of their activities and agents. 
Bingham wrote: “You are far from being pro-Soviet or pro-Communist, but I would think the attacks gave comfort and even pleasure and glee in some places.”
He added that he had “often been puzzled as to why you have so frequently attacked” the security services, adding “troops don’t normally improve by, in effect, being called a lousy lot of bums, and inefficient or ineffective to boot”. 
The letter was written in October 1979, the same month that a television adaptation of le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was broadcast on the BBC, with Alec Guinness starring as Smiley.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on Bingham/le Carre via the below link:

Note: John Bingahm is the subject of Michael Jago's book, The Man Who Was George Smiley: The Life of John Bingham.   


  1. Bingham's complaints aside, I rather doubt Britain's adversaries did not already know all about British spy-craft. Le Carre's novels could not have been helpful. Entertaining, yes, but revelations, no.

  2. R.T.,

    I don't think John Bingham was concerned about tradecraft.

    I believe he was concerned with the malaise and moral ambiguity that le Carre offers in his portrayal of the British Security Services in his novels.