Richard Willoughby Gott (born 28 October 1938, Aston Tirrold, England) is a British journalist and historian. A former Latin America correspondent and features editor for the British newspaper The Guardian, he is known for his radical politics and a connection to Che Guevara. He resigned from The Guardian in 1994 after claims that he had been a Soviet 'agent of influence', a tag Gott denied. Gott admitted taking money from the KGB.
He studied history at Oxford University and worked at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. In the 1960s he worked at the University of Chile, where he wrote Guerrilla Movements in Latin America. In January 1966, Gott was a candidate in a by-election in Kingston upon Hull North for the 'Radical Alliance', running on a platform which stressed opposition to the Vietnam War; he polled only 253 votes.
In November 1963, working as a freelance journalist for The Guardian in Cuba, Gott was invited to a celebration of the revolution party at the Soviet Union embassy in Havana. During the evening, a group of invited journalists who were chatting in the garden were joined by Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara for a few hours, who answered their questions.
After following Guevara to Bolivia in 1967, Gott played a role in confirming that the 4–5-hour-old body in question was actually Guevara's. He was the only witness in Bolivia who had actually met Guevara.
In 1981 the BBC sought to appoint Gott to the position of editor at its cultural magazine The Listener, but his radical politics led to him failing to obtain security clearance and Russell Twisk was appointed instead.
After a period as features editor, Gott became literary editor of The Guardian, but resigned from the latter post in 1994 after it was alleged in The Spectator that he had been an "agent of influence" for the KGB, claims which he rejected, arguing that "Like many other journalists, diplomats and politicians, I lunched with Russians during the cold war". He asserted that his resignation was "a debt of honour to my paper, not an admission of guilt", because his failure to inform his editor of three trips abroad to meet with KGB officials at their expense had caused embarrassment to the paper during its investigation of Jonathan Aitken.
The source of the allegation that he had been an agent was KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky. In his resignation letter Gott admitted "I took red gold, even if it was only in the form of expenses for myself and my partner. That, in the circumstances, was culpable stupidity, though at the time it seemed more like an enjoyable joke". One issue was whether during the 1980s, the KGB, would have thought Gott's information worth £10,000. Kim Philby's biographer Phillip Knightley highlighted the limited value of outsider Gott as compared to insider Aldrich Ames concluding that Gott would have been lucky to get his bus fare back. Rupert Allason pointed out valuable activities such as talent-spotting and finding people who did have highly classified access.
- (with Martin Gilbert) The Appeasers, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1963; Phoenix Press, 2000. ISBN 1-84212-050-6
- A Future for the United Nations?, CND Pamphlet, nd. [c.1968]
- Guerrilla movements in Latin America, Thomas Nelson, 1970
- In the Shadow of the Liberator: The Impact of Hugo Chávez on Venezuela and Latin America, Verso, 2001. ISBN 1-85984-365-4
- Cuba: A New History, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-300-10411-1
- Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution, Verso, 2005. ISBN 1-84467-533-5
- Britain's Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt, Verso, 2011. ISBN 978-1-84467-738-2
- Donegan, Lawrence. Spy-watchers split on KGB's pounds 10,000, The Guardian 12 December 1994
- New Yorker
- David McKie "By-elections of the Wilson Government" in Chris Cook and John Ramsden (eds.), "By-elections in British Politics", Macmillan, 1973, p.228
- Richard Gott "US Agent in at the Death of Che Guevara", The Guardian, 11 October 1967
- Mark Hollingsworth and Richard Norton-Taylor Blacklist: The Inside Story of Political Vetting, London, Hogarth Press, 1988, p.109
- Richard Gott, letter to The Sunday Times, 24 September 2000
- Donegan, Lawrence (12 December 1994). "Spy-watchers split on KGB's £10,000". The Guardian. p. 17.
He would have been of use 'as an agent of influence, as someone who knew people who did have access to classified information. He could also have talent-spotted other journalists and correspondents going out to the Eastern block countries'.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Richard Gott.|
- New Statesman, 4 October 1999, Book Reviews – A looking-glass world – In 1994 it was claimed that Richard Gott was a KGB "agent of influence". In this article he responds that the claim was anti-spy hysteria which amounted to McCarthyism
- The Guardian, 1 February 2006, – A Comment piece about his standing in the 1966 North Hull By election
- The Guardian, 2 April 2007, – Argentina's claim on the Falklands is still a good one
- Richard Gott Relishes this Sweet Moment in US-Cuban Relations by Richard Gott, The Guardian, 14 April 2009
- What If Latin America Ruled the World? – a review by Richard Gott, 3 July 2010
- Who Comments? – Richard Gott – Chronology of articles and biographical information