|“||I had to pick a side, George. And the West has become so very ugly...||„|
|~ Haydon explaining himself to George|
Bill Haydon (a.k.a Tailor) is the main antagonist of John le Carré's 1974 novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In other media, such as TV and film, he has been portrayed in the 1979 seven-part BBC drama series by Ian Richardson; and in the 2011 movie by Colin Firth (who also portrayed Geoffery Thwaites in St. Trinians, Lord Henry Wotton in the film adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and William Weatherall Wilkins in Mary Poppins Returns).
Haydon was modelled on Kim Philby, a senior figure in the British intelligence service MI6 who betrayed secrets to Soviet Russia during and after World War Two.
Le Carré's novel revolves around the intelligence service known as the "Circus" which is originally led by the mysterious "Control". Haydon is considered one of the ablest figures in the "Circus" but it is George Smiley who becomes Control's right-hand (Senior civil servant Olivier Lacon's remark to Smiley: "[Control] prefered you to Haydon"). When Percy Alleline takes over the Circus, Lacon is impressed by his achievements, but Smiley puts it down to Haydon's assistance.
In the early 1970s, "Control", head of British intelligence (referred to as "The Circus"), sends secret agent Jim Prideaux to Czechoslovakia to meet an army General who has information for them. The operation is codenamed "Testify". In the course of the mission, Prideaux is shot and captured by the Czechs. Amidst the international incident that follows, Control and his right-hand man George Smiley are forced into retirement; Control dies of illness shortly after.
Percy Alleline becomes the new Chief, Bill Haydon his deputy and Roy Bland and Toby Esterhase as lieutenants. Despite Control and Smiley's misgivings, their successors have already begun a secret operation called "Witchcraft" to obtain highly sensitive information from the Soviet Union, which is in turn being traded with the CIA for American intelligence.
Smiley is brought out of retirement by Cabinet Office civil servant Oliver Lacon to investigate a claim by Ricki Tarr, a British spy, that for years there has been a mole in a senior role in the Circus — something Control himself had suspected. Tarr tells Smiley that on a mission abroad, he had an affair with Irina, a Soviet agent. She wanted to defect and in return would reveal the name of a mole in the top ranks of the Circus. Tarr reported this to London but was ignored. Irina was then kidnapped by the Soviets who, Tarr believed, were alerted by the mole who had intercepted his message. Tarr subsequently went on the run, but secretly returned to England when he feared that the Soviets were getting close to catching him as well. Irina told Tarr that Alexei Polyakov, a Soviet diplomat in London, was the mole's handler.
Haydon and Prideaux where close friends and when Prideaux was detained by the Czechs, Haydon was the first to react, taking care of the situation when Control couldn't. By detaining some Czech spies based in Britain, Haydon arranged for Prideaux to be returned to England. It is also discovered that Haydon was having an affair with Smiley's estranged wife at the time.
Smiley interviews Prideaux who tells him that the purpose of Operation Testify was to get the name of the mole. Control had codenamed the suspects: "Tinker" (Alleline), "Tailor" (Haydon), "Soldier" (Bland), "Poorman" (Esterhase) and "Beggarman" (Smiley). It is then revealed that Alleline, Haydon, Bland and Esterhase have been meeting Polyakov at a safe house somewhere in London, where Polyakov gives them supposedly high-grade Soviet intelligence (the "Witchcraft" material), in exchange for low-grade British material to help him maintain his cover with the Soviets. However, the mole is passing substantive material, including US intelligence, to Polyakov, whilst Polyakov's material has just enough substance to persuade the CIA to share information with the British.
Smiley kidnaps Esterhase and blackmails the location of the safehouse from him. Tarr then sends a message to the "Circus" saying that he has vital information for them. Fearing that he is about to be exposed, the mole meets Polyakov at the safe house where they are arrested by Smiley. The mole is Haydon.
In custody, Haydon reveals his motives. After World War Two and the subsequent break-up of its empire, Britain seased to be a great power and now depended on the Special Relationship with the United States. Haydon found this intollerable and thus betrayed secrets of the Soviets. He also reveals his Soviet handlers believed that is anyone found him out it would be George Smiley. Thus Haydon started an affair with Smiley's wife so that if George did accuse him of treason then it would be put down to personal bitterness.
Alleline, Bland and Esterhase are fired and The Circus plans to exchange Haydon with the Soviets but he is killed by Prideaux, who felt betrayed by him in the Testify incident. Smiley returns to the Circus as its new chief.