A few good politicians – Becky Milligan at the office of Simon Danczuk, with Matt Baker, and the personal impact of abuse campaigning

The link above details a visit made by BBC Radio 4 reporter Becky Milligan to the office of Labour MP Simon Danczuk, together with his parliamentary aide Matt Baker. Here she encounters much correspondence concerning allegations of abuse by politicians, several about that at Elm Guest House. A solicitor got in touch, to mention a visit in the early 1980s to Barnes Police Station, representing a young boy who had been at EGH; had been interviewed, police got aggressive and pushy, she stepped in to say this was unpleasant for her client. The police took the solicitor to one side and showed her a statement from another boy, saying he had been raped at the house by politicians and judges, which left the solicitor utterly shocked. Danczuk and Baker are hoping to encourage the solicitor to go to the police about this now. Baker is sure there are police officers themselves in possession of dynamite information on this (one reason why an amnesty is needed to ensure they can come forward with details). If true, the alleged activities at Elm Guest House, and the cover-up entailed, beggar belief – I would recommend those not yet aware of this to read this account by an alleged survivor of the house, this terrible article from the Daily Star in 1982 alleging that ten-year old boys were made to act as sex slaves for 13 hours per day for adult men and women, and this series of articles reproduced on the Spotlight blog.

Baker speaks of an occasion recounted by a former police officer, in which a floor of a hotel was raided where a range of paedophiles were found, all with boys in their beds. Amongst those pulled in by the police was a very prominent individual; the officers were told not to say anything about this – if they did they would lose their pension and would never be promoted. Baker said that this former police officer was cynical about possibility of an amnesty, saying no Home Secretary would allow that. It is incumbent upon Theresa May to make provisions for this as soon as possible, and for Yvette Cooper, shadow Home Secretary, to make a pledge to make such an arrangement if Labour are returned to power next year.

Clearly since Danczuk’s Select Com appearance, his office has been inundated by phone calls with terrible stories of abuse, many involving very prominent figures. Milligan sits in on an interview with a former pupil of Knowl View Residential School, subject of a major investigation into sustained abuse and its cover-up. Upsetting interview in which the man intimates how he is seen as someone no-one wants to go near, because he was abused. And conveys the terror of the place, and how every detail stays with him on a daily basis, saying that ‘Knowl View School will stick in my mind like it’s happening now in this room’.

Danczuk and Baker talk about how personally upsetting all of this is, and their coping strategies. Whilst nothing like on the scale of that they have known, I have some experience of how this feels, from a time at the beginning of 2013 when in the space of a couple of weeks I received hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and messages on social media from survivors of widespread abuse in music schools and conservatoires, often with horrific detail, combined with information about callous or malicious cover-up and bullying on the part of others in a position to do something about it, but not prepared to do so, preferring to protect the reputation of their places. The effect of all of this is depressing and disspiriting beyond belief. It can fill you with a mixture of feelings of hopelessness, paranoia, massive anger, and a sense that most else in the world seems pretty trivial in comparison – also it can be very hard for your partner if they see you so preoccupied by all of this. Naturally I can only speak with any certainty about my own experience, though communicating with others has suggested this is far from atypical. Happily I see an excellent therapist on a weekly basis, who has helped a lot with dealing with everything that this involvement brings. Doing so has changed my life and I am quite sure it has changed that of Danczuk and Baker – and those other politicians and campaigners who are exposed to this sort of material on a daily basis.

Some of the blasé members of the Labour Party have been very aloof and stand-offish towards Danczuk (and Tom Watson, and I would guess others who have been very active campaigners such as John Mann), not least because he serialised his book on Cyril Smith in the Daily Mail (the North London Labourite paper of choice, The Guardian, probably wouldn’t have touched it, and has a somewhat murky history of its own in terms of giving a platform to paedophile Tom O’Carroll, and also presenting lesbian child abuse in a positive light, in an article I will post after this), and his investigations might implicate some senior Labour politicians as well. This is unfortunately a typical attitude of those who would put the reputations of their parties (or leading figures in their parties) before the interests of children, and exactly how cover-ups work. Danczuk and Watson and Mann (and equally Tories such as Zac Goldsmith and Tim Loughton, Liberal Democrats John Hemming and Tessa Munt, who has bravely spoken out about her own experiences of sexual abuse, Green politician Caroline Lucas, and various others, not least the over 140 MPs who signed the call for a full national inquiry well before the Home Secretary agreed to one) have on the contrary worked relentlessly on bringing these issues to public attention, for sure at no small personal cost to themselves, and my admiration for them could not be greater. All of them are a model for politicians of the future, in order to restore some confidence in the possibility of meaningful political action at Westminster.

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One Comment on “A few good politicians – Becky Milligan at the office of Simon Danczuk, with Matt Baker, and the personal impact of abuse campaigning”

  1. Peter Cox says:

    Ian, I listened to this radio broadcast and was very moved by it. As a result I wrote the letter below to Simon Danczuk and his team as an expression of moral support for them and what they are doing. The same, of course, applies to you and your fellow campaigners who are doing an extraordinary public service on an acutely difficult matter.

    Hi to you Simon, Matt and the rest of your team

    I just listened to a radio article online – (when Becky Milligan spent a day in your constituency office) and I found it very moving and very important.

    As it’s a Friday – your worst day of the week, I just wanted to send you a message of moral support saying how profoundly important your work is – pushing for a full public inquiry into child abuse.

    By profession I am a playwright and screenwriter. (Including eighteen years writing on the Channel 4 drama Brookside.)

    Over the past eight months I’ve been conducting research into child abuse in the UK from the 1960’s until the present day – for inclusion as an element in a fictional drama film that I am writing, set in the 1960’s.

    You won’t be surprised to learn that the scale of the abuse that I have discovered from existing public sources is absolutely staggering. On previous projects I have researched in war zones and across the world in communities in extreme crisis (including Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles and on the front line of the 84 / 85 Miners Strike) and I am not easily shocked. I am, however, deeply troubled and very shocked indeed by the scale of this matter.

    And even more disturbing from a personal point of view. During the time I’ve been researching, and over recent years, as this national scandal has become more publicly discussed, I have had no less than seventeen colleagues / friends / family members disclose to me the abuse that they suffered as children!

    To my knowledge none of them, as yet, have contacted the authorities about their abuse.

    The need for the inquiry is crucial. May I commend you, your parliamentary colleagues and your team for your commitment to this aim.

    I would also like to send you all the moral support I can, to sustain you through the extremely disturbing evidence gathering period you are in. Some of the professional research I undertook thirty years ago still haunts me to this day so I know what you are going through.

    Kind regards
    Peter Cox MBE

    I just received the following reply…

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your email and kind sentiments. We really appreciate your support.

    All the best,

    Matt

    Matt Baker

    Office of Simon Danczuk

    Rochdale’s Member of Parliament


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