Enemies Within by Richard Davenport-Hines review – the Cambridge spies and distrust of the elite

Did Burgess, Philby and Maclean wreak more damage to the British establishment following their exposure than they had while they were actually spying?

Before Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean disappeared in 1951, both were disarmingly open in admitting to spying. “I work for Uncle Joe,” Maclean had announced drunkenly at the Gargoyle club to anyone who wanted to listen. Nonetheless, westerners found it almost inconceivable that they had actually defected to Russia, so they focused on their sexuality rather than their politics. “The frog papers are quite sure it is sex,” wrote Nancy Mitford from Paris, while half-aware that “if they were just bouncing about on some double bed they would have been found by now”. TS Eliot was sure that the mystery would soon be solved and the “denouement will be undramatic and quite unconnected with anything to do with communism or the Iron Curtain”.

Almost 70 years later, the ...