Who is Barry Gardiner? Labour MP links to ‘Chinese spy’ Christine Lee, China and £500k donation - explained

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the British are ‘too obsessed with James Bond 007 movies’ and rejected claims Christine Lee is a spy

Barry Gardiner accepted half a million pounds from Christine Lee (image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A review is to be held into how a suspected Chinese agent was able to get so close to senior British politicians, security minister Damian Hinds has said.

It has emerged that senior Labour MP Barry Gardiner has received more than £500,000 in donations from a woman believed by MI5 to be a Chinese agent.

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So, who is the Labour MP - and why was he receiving donations from an agent?

Why did Barry Gardiner take donations from Christine Lee?

Senior Labour MP Barry Gardiner has been receiving financial disclosures from a suspected Chinese agent called Christine Lee for six years.

MI5 has now taken the rare step of circulating a warning to MPs that Lee - a prominent London-based solicitor – has been engaged in “political interference activities” on behalf of China’s ruling communist regime.

Security bosses claim Ms Lee has allegedly been cultivating British politicians to secure a “UK political landscape” that was “favourable” to China.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who received more than £500,000 over six years from Ms Lee to cover staffing costs in his office, also employed her son as his diary manager.

Media reports published on 14 January suggest Lee’s son has since resigned from Mr Gardiner’s office.

Following the disclosure, Mr Gardiner said he had liaised with the security services for many years regarding his contacts with Lee but had only learned on 13 January that she had been engaged in “illegal activity”.

Critics remain unsure about the pair’s relationship - though Mr Gardiner has said Ms Lee received “a very poor investment” for her financial donations.

Ms Lee also received an award from Theresa May when she was prime minister, for her work on a project promoting good relations between the Chinese and British communities in the UK, and was a VIP guest when David Cameron hosted President Xi Jinping in London.

Who is the Brent North Labour MP Barry Gardiner?

Mr Gardiner has been elected seven times, since 1997, as a Labour MP for Brent North.

During his career, Mr Gardiner has had a number of ministerial and shadow cabinet roles - but now keeps a relatively low profile as a backbencher.

He served as a junior minister in Tony Blair’s government, before taking on the role of shadow energy minister under Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

Pictured left to right: Peter Dowd, Valerie Vaz, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Barry Gardiner attend a shadow cabinet meeting in 2019 (image: Danny Lawson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Mr Gardiner was promoted to replace Lisa Nandy as shadow energy secretary after a string of shadow cabinet resignations in June 2015.

Eventually, he took on the role of shadow trade secretary, which he stayed in until 2020 when Sir Keir Starmer became leader of the party.

Now, he is a backbench MP.

In the summer of 2020, Mr Gardiner broke Covid social distancing guidelines to join thousands of Black Lives Matter protests outside parliament.

Speaking at the time, Mr Gardiner said he felt conflicted between his desire to “set an example” over Covid measures and also “call out racial injustice”.

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