UK Politics 3/9/17: voting and parliamentary arithmetic

A lot has been made of the fact that Labour under Corbyn gained many votes in the June 2017 election, enough that some think the party has full victory (in the sense of an overall majority) in its grasp. I wanted to look at some comparative figures, so compiled the following chart of votes (not seats) and percentages in each UK election since 1979:

Year    Conservatives          Labour            Lib Dems        SNP                UKIP

1979    13.7m/43.9%               11.5m/36.9%   4.3m/13.8%     0.5m/1.6%                                                                                                                          (Liberals)

1983    13.0m/42.4%               8.5m/27.6%     7.8m/25.4%     0.3m/1.1%                                                                                                                         (SDP/Lib Alliance)

1987    13.7m/42.2%               10.0m/30.8%   7.3m/22.6%     0.4m/1.3%                                                                                                                         (SDP/Lib Alliance)

1992    14.1m/41.9%               11.6m/34.4%   6.0m/17.8%     0.6m/1.9%

1997    9.6m/30.7%                 13.5m/43.2%   5.2m/16.8%     0.6m/2.0%       0.1m/0.3%

2001    8.4m/31.7%                 10.7m/40.7%   4.8m/18.3%     0.5m/1.8%       0.4m/1.5%

2005    8.8m/32.4%                 9.5m/35.2%     6.0m/22.0%     0.4m/1.5%       0.6m/2.2%

2010    10.7m/36.1%               8.6m/29.0%     6.8m/23.0%     0.5m/1.7%       0.9m/3.1%

2015    11.3m/36.8%               9.3m/30.4%     2.4m/7.9%       1.5m/4.7%       3.8m/12.6%

2017    13.6m/42.3%               12.9m/40.0%   2.3m/7.4%       1.0m/3.0%       0.6m/1.8%

So Labour under Corbyn did well, gaining 3.6m votes, but the Tories under May did even better. Two factors are of primary importance: (a) the collapse of the Lib Dem vote in 2015, following the Tory/Lib Dem coalition (see my earlier blog putting this in context); (b) the collapse of the UKIP vote in 2017, following the EU referendum, after having done exceptionally well in 2015, quadrupling their vote from that in 2010.

Labour certainly did manage to benefit from getting more young people to vote, but they also gained from the UKIP losses, which were threatening them in various traditional constituencies. But the Tories gained more, though the first-past-the-post electoral system through up the bizarre result by which May gained 2.3m more votes than Cameron did in 2015, but won 13 less seats than the latter. The Conservative vote has not fallen, far from it (May won more votes than any Tory leader since John Major in 1992, and more than Thatcher in 1983), it is really just a question of how it is distributed.

The widespread tactical voting generally believed to have occurred from 1997 onwards, which helped the Lib Dems more than double their seats in 1997 (from 20 to 46) and go onto peak in 2005 (with 62), must be assumed to have disappeared, unsurprisingly as Labour voters are disinclined to vote for a party which spent five years in coalition with the Tories, even where they are the primary alternative in some constituencies to the latter. But the current voting system still works against Labour, and it should not be forgotten that they only won 262 seats in 2017; to win an overall majority by one seat they need another 65, whereas for a workable majority (not too vulnerable to backbench rebellions over contentious legislation) they need at least 85.

I cannot see this happening, certainly not with Corbyn as leader. The electoral landscape has changed fundamentally since the pattern between 1997 and 2010. The Lib Dems and UKIP have collapsed, the Tories have swung to the right (though could move further right still) while Labour has swung to the left. Brexit has changed a lot; the good result for Labour and Corbyn this year came about in part through triangulation on this issue, managing to convince both Leavers and Remainers that they supported them. I cannot see this holding up further, and without a major and clear shift of policy, I believe Remainers will move away – though many, like me, feel politically homeless at the moment (a reason why a new centre party would be no bad thing).

On Tuesday Parliament will reconvene, and will start to debate the EU Repeal Bill. There has been talk of the government being defeated on this, which I would hope for greatly, but am not too hopeful, again for reason of numbers. There are four Tory MPs identified by John Rentoul as possible rebels –  Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan, Kenneth Clarke and Dominic Grieve – and possibly a few more, but nine Labour MPs who supported Leave in the referendum – Ronnie Campbell, John Cryer, Frank Field, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer – while Caroline Flint indicated this morning that she is not prepared to help obstruct the bill. The Tories and DUP together have 327 MPs, whereas the opposition (not including the seven Sinn Féin MPs who will not take up their seats, nor the Speaker) have just 315. Even if all the four Tories listed above voted against the government, and the DUP abstained, they would still have 313 votes and could comfortably beat the opposition if just the nine Labour MPs vote with them. If things got tighter, May could take the same course of action as John Major did twice when facing defeat, and turn a vote on legislation into a vote of confidence. With no parliamentary majority, it is hard to imagine many Tories (most of who, when in the last parliament, voted for Article 50, including Soubry) voting against the government then.

Labour have proved themselves utterly incapable of proper opposition on Brexit. The Michel Barnier/David Davis press conference on Thursday was quite farcical, and it is clear the talks have hardly progressed, yet there was hardly a squeak from Corbyn and Keir Starmer until Starmer’s ineffectual interview this morning, which only served to muddy the party’s Brexit policy further. Never has there been a time during which proper scrutiny of the government and their approach to negotiations was more important; never has Labour proved so inept at providing this.

Where I have some hope, paradoxically, is in the possibility of a large-scale grassroots Tory revolt following acknowledgement that the government is preparing to pay a large Brexit divorce bill (with some leaks in the press today suggesting a figure of €50 billion). A recent Guardian/ICM poll suggested that two-thirds of voters would find a figure of €10 billion or more unacceptable, and the government has done nothing to try and explain the reason (not even clamping down on Boris Johnson over his ‘Go whistle’ remark). While the legal obligation to pay such a bill has been questioned, Barnier has made it clear that without the government coming clean on their position on this issue, they cannot proceed with trade talks. With time ticking down until Article 50 expires in March 2019, the UK government cannot really afford to keep delaying this, when the chances of even coming up with a workable transition arrangement – which all the other EU nations will accept – are slim in the time available.

So I think we will hear the sum confirmed soon, despite the denials. May will try to wait until after her party conference in Manchester, 1-4 October, but this may be difficult. The Tory membership have already indicated their wish for May to stand down; if she is conceding a major Brexit bill, then the pressure may become unbearable. May appears to be trying to keep Davis and Johnson close, so that they cannot dissociate themselves from what results, and so would go down with her; in that situation, I still do not think it impossible that the membership might make a crazy choice like electing a figure like Jacob Rees-Mogg or Andrea Leadsom, beloved of Conservative Home and the like.

Then, if a new leader was feeling optimistic or simply deluded, they just might call another election. I do think (or hope?) that a lot of decent Tory voters could not vote for a party led by someone so right-wing. But in order for a different government, Labour will have to make a proper case for an alternative in terms of Brexit, and make more overtures to the Lib Dems and others. I cannot imagine the Lib Dems or SNP supporting a Labour government which is going ahead with Brexit. At present I still cannot support Labour because of Brexit, and am sure they are a very long way from being an electorally viable party.

 

 

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Peter Morrison – the child abuser protected by MI5, the Cabinet Secretary, and Margaret Thatcher – updated July 2015

[With great thanks to @Snowfaked and @MySweetLandlord on Twitter for finding some extra pieces of information, especially relating to Morrison and Islay, and the picture of Thatcher, Morrison and Brittan]

Peter Morrison 1

In Edwina Currie’s diary entry for July 24th, 1990, she wrote the following:

One appointment in the recent reshuffle has attracted a lot of gossip and could be very dangerous: Peter Morrison has become the PM’s PPS. Now he’s what they call ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys; he admitted as much to Norman Tebbit when he became deputy chairman of the party, but added, ‘However, I’m very discreet’ – and he must be! She either knows and is taking a chance, or doesn’t; either way it is a really dumb move. Teresa Gorman told me this evening (in a taxi coming back from a drinks party at the BBC) that she inherited Morrison’s (woman) agent, who claimed to have been offered money to keep quiet about his activities. It scares me, as all the press know, and as we get closer to the election someone is going to make trouble, very close to her indeed. (Edwina Currie, Diaries 1987-1992 (London: Little, Brown, 2002), p. 195)

Currie Diaries

The agent in question was Frances Mowatt. A 192 search reveals that there is now a Frances Mowatt, aged 65+, living in Billericay in Essex, Teresa Gorman’s old constituency. She may be the same person who is a Local Authority Governor for St Peter’s Catholic Primary School in Billericay.

In 1982, a boy who would then have been around 14 (the same age as I was at the time) has given a vivid account of his experiences at the hands of Morrison (Bill Gardner, ‘Westminster paedophile ring: ‘I allowed my son to go with him. You trusted people more in those days”, Daily Telegraph, January 3rd, 2015). This boy encountered Morrison, dressed in a pin-striped suit in the village of Harting, West Sussex; Morrison told him his car had broken down, offered him money to help him start it, then invited the boy to his ‘nice big house in London for the weekend’. The boy said he couldn’t come, but gave Morrison his phone number when he asked, and then received repeated phone calls imploring him to come, eventually saying yes after refusing repeatedly. Morrison came down to Sussex with a driver, told the boy and his father he had homes in Chester and London, but not that he was an MP (he said he was a barrister). To the boy’s father’s great regret, he let him go; almost immediately on the journey, Morrison began to sexually assault the boy, who said:

He’d leave me alone for a little bit, and then he’d come at me again. . . . Before long, he had my trousers off. At one point we stopped for petrol, and I thought about running out of the car, but I realised the doors had some sort of child lock and I couldn’t get out. I was so frightened.

Matters got worse: Morrison gave beer and wine to the boy and then took him to a house, which the boy (now a man in his mid-40s) thinks was Elm Guest House. There were seven or eight men around the house, and Morrison took him upstairs, stripped him, and raped him for at least an hour; the man says ‘It was the most horrendous experience of my life.’ Morrison then told him they would be going to the sauna together, visiting a ‘party’, and he would be sleeping in Morrison’s bed later. The boy managed to sneak out of the house unseen, get back on a train to Harting, and tell his father what had happened. A local policeman was called, and the boy was taken to a police doctor, with medics telling the father afterwards that his son had ‘certainly been sexually abused’. Two detectives from Scotland Yard took a full statement from the boy, who soon afterwards received calls at home from various men in London asking where he was, which he attributed to Morrison panicking after he had disappeared. Nothing more happened until two Scotland Yard officers arrived on the family’s doorstep a year later, with the boy’s clothes in a bag, saying that the man in question had been convicted in a Chelsea court, had been imprisoned for two years, and nothing else was to worry about. Only years later did the victim recognise Morrison as a prominent MP in the Thatcher government. Operation Fairbank continue to investigate this story (Bill Gardner, ‘Thatcher confidant raped boy and police covered crime up’, Daily Telegraph, January 5th, 2015). The man now says that:

I believe that Morrison was a high-profile guy so he got away with it. Either the police were paid off or they hushed it up because he was an MP.

“I was never the same after what happened – he ruined my life really. I left school soon afterwards because I lost all my confidence. I couldn’t handle what had happened to me.

Scotland Yard, in January 2015, were unable to confirm whether Morrison had been investigated at the time (Rebecca Camber, ‘Tory MP who was Thatcher’s confidant ‘raped my 14-year-old son at paedophile guest house’, Daily Mail, January 4th, 2015). More ominously, it was revealed that the body of the murdered Vishal Mehortra was found in woodland in Rogate, less than two miles from Harting (‘Thatcher aide could be linked to body found in Rogate’, Midhurst and Petworth Observer, January 10th, 2015).

However, since then reports have alleged that Morrison was arrested twice for picking up men at the toilets at Piccadilly tube, taken to West End Central police station in Savile Row and let off with a caution each time (a second caution is very unusual); the Met are trying to track down officers who were involved with the arrests. There are also rumours of Morrison’s having been caught making similar approaches at toilets in Crew railway station in Cheshire. These have all led to a probe into police corruption and high-level cover-up (Nick Dorman, ‘Probe over claims Margaret Thatcher aide escaped prosecution because of Establishment links’, Sunday People, July 18th, 2015; Martin Beckford, ‘Met launch probe into Maggie aide and its own cover up’, Mail on Sunday, July 19th, 2015). A later report made clear that one of the offences for which Morrison was arrested involved a 15-year old boy (Matt Chorley, ‘Senior Westminster figures from 1970s and 1980s including former Home Secretary Leon Brittan named in government child abuse files’, Daily Mail, July 22nd, 2015).

Peter Morrison 3

The following are the recollections of Grahame Nicholls, who ran the Chester Trades Council (Morrison was the MP for Chester from 1974 to 1992), who wrote:

After the 1987 general election, around 1990, I attended a meeting of Chester Labour party where we were informed by the agent, Christine Russell, that Peter Morrison would not be standing in 1992. He had been caught in the toilets at Crewe station with a 15-year-old boy. A deal was struck between Labour, the local Tories, the local press and the police that if he stood down at the next election the matter would go no further. Chester finished up with Gyles Brandreth and Morrison walked away scot-free. I thought you might be interested. (cited in ‘Simon Hoggart’s week’, The Guardian, November 16th, 2012).

Christine Russell

Former MP for Chester (1997-2010), Christine Russell

This week, it has emerged that previously undiscovered files exist on Morrison (and Leon Brittan, former Wokingham MP Sir William van Straubenzee, and others including a figure named only as ‘Vanessa the Undresser’) which are thought to relate to abuse, and were not seen by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC when preparing their earlier report (a supplement has been published here) (Tom Parmenter, ‘Key Westminster Figures in Child Abuse Papers’, Sky News, July 23rd, 2015). A report in The Times has named Morrison as an MP about whom communications took place in November 1986 between the late Sir Antony Duff (1920-2000), then head of MI5, and Sir Robert Armstrong, then cabinet secretary. Two sources had approached senior officials with reports that Morrison had ‘a penchant for small boys’. He was questioned about these but the security services accepted his claims that the allegations were false (Daniel Martin, ‘Secret files ‘show MI5 let abuse claim MP off hook’: Security chief said the case would ’embarrass the Government”, Daily Mail, July 22nd, 2015). Duff concluded ‘The risks of political embarrassment to the Government is rather greater than the security danger’ (clearly the interests of the victims did not even filter into Duff and Armstrong’s calculations, as has been commented upon by many, including Wanless and a spokesperson for NSPCC) (Sean O’Neill and Gabriella Swerling, ‘Child abuse suspect was Thatcher aide’, The Times, July 24th, 2015 [see below]; Daniel Martin, ‘Secret files ‘show MI5 let abuse claim MP off the hook’: Security chief said the case would ’embarrass the Government’, Daily Mail, July 22nd, 2015; ‘Child abuse: PM Tells Police – No Limits’, Sky News, July 23rd, 2015; Joseph Watts, ”Child abuse’ files must give justice to victims, says NSPCC chief’, Evening Standard, July 23rd, 2015). Approached a few days ago by The Times, Armstrong had the following to say:

My official business was the protection of national security. I have to stress that there was nothing like evidence in this case. There was just a shadow of a rumour. It’s impossible to take investigative action on shadows of rumours. . . If there is some reason to think a crime has been committed, then people like the cabinet secretary are not to start poking their noses into it. It’s for the police to do that.

To the Mail, Armstrong (who would not name Morrison to them), said:

I thought MI5’s actions were correct at the time. I think they were right to report the rumour, they were right to make what inquiries they could and they were right to come to the conclusion they did. I think if there was evidence it would have been properly examined at the time. I don’t think this is a matter of important people being protected. You can’t pursue inquiries unless you have evidence on which you can base the enquiry. A shadow of a rumour is not enough.

He went on to say ‘I think he [Morrison] was interview but he denied it. It is not my position to name him’, and did not know if Thatcher was made aware of the MI5 decision, which drew a furious response from Rochdale MP and long-term campaigner against child abuse Simon Danczuk (Vanessa Allen, Claire Ellicott and Daniel Martin, ‘I won’t name child abuse MP; Fury as Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet chief defends failure to act over senior Tory’, Daily Mail, July 24th, 2015). See also Armstrong’s non-committal response to questions sent to him by investigative journalist Tim Tate, and Tate’s own blog on this.

Armstrong, who once became notorious for using the phrase ‘economical with the truth’ when involved in trying to prevent the publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher (Sue Reid, ‘Mandarin who can’t help being economical with truth: Lord Armstrong at centre of accusations of child abuse cover-up’, Daily Mail, July 24th, 2015), also has past form in terms of his dismissive responses to the entreaties by pianist and whistleblower Martin Roscoe for the Royal Northern College of Music, of which Armstrong was the chair of the board of governors in 2002, not to employ violinist Malcolm Layfield as their Head of Strings, after his record of sexually exploiting girls at Chetham’s School (see Charlotte Higgins, ‘After Michael Brewer: the RNCM teacher’s story’, The Guardian, February 13th, 2013; ‘Correspondence over appointment of Malcolm Layfield at Royal Northern College of Music’, The Guardian, February 8th, 2013).

On top of everything else, the Labour MP John Mann published a series of important tweets: ‘In 1984 Geoffrey Dickens gave Leon Brittan as Home Secretary a further list of alleged paedophiles linked directly to Peter Morrison’; ‘What happened to the list of Peter Morrison linked paedophiles given to Home Secretary in 1984? And why was no action taken?’‘I have just met person who gave list of Peter Morrison linked paedophiles to Geoffrey Dickens. Astonishing developments and cover ups’; ‘The new list of Dickens names was entirely different to first. It was given to him precisely because of publicity about his initial action’ all of which suggests new dimensions to the files supplied by Dickens to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan.

Sir Peter Morrison (1944-1995) was known, according to an obituary by Patrick Cosgrove, as a right winger who disliked immigration, supported the return of capital punishment, and wished to introduce vouchers for education. He was from a privileged political family; his father, born John Morrison, became Lord Margadale, the squire of Fonthill, led the campaign to ensure Alec Douglas-Home became Prime Minister in 1963, and predicted Thatcher’s ultimate accession to the leadership (Sue Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’, Daily Mail, July 12th, 2014, updated July 16th). The young Peter attended Eton College, then Keble College, Oxford. Entering the House of Commons in 1974 at the age of 29, during the first Thatcher government he occupied a series of non-cabinet ministerial positions, then became Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1986, replacing Jeffrey Archer after his resignation, and working under Chairman Norman Tebbit. His sister, Dame Mary Morrison, became a lady-in-waiting to the Queen (Gyles Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’: In a brave and haunting account, TV star and ex MP Gyles Brandreth reveals the years of abuse he endured at prep school’, Daily Mail, September 12th, 2014).

Morrison was close to Thatcher from when he entered Parliament (see Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 837), working for her 1975 leadership campaign and, after she became Prime Minister, putting her and Denis up for holiday in the 73 000 acre estate owned by his father in Islay, where games of charades were played (Jonathan Aitken, Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 158-160, 279-281); Thatcher stayed there after her 1979 election victory, together with Morrison and also Leon Brittan (see the image below of the three of them, from Tom Shields, ‘Mrs T weathers rainy day blues’; Glasgow Herald, August 17th, 1979; see also Michael White’s his obituary of Brittan on how he helped to ‘keep her entertained during her reluctantly taken holidays’; Michael White, ‘Leon Brittan: Thatcher’s protege turned scapegoat’, The Guardian, January 22nd, 2015) Lord Margadale had previously entertained Princess Alexandra, Harold Macmillan and Ted Heath there. Morrison himself said in 1979 that Thatcher likely knew the people of Islay better than any others, except for in her constituency of Finchley (Tom Shields, ‘Not even on Islay can Mrs Thatcher get away from it all’, Glasgow Herald, August 16th, 1979; Tom Shields, ‘Islay estate sacks half its workers’, Glasgow Herald, August 2nd, 1982).

Thatcher Morrison Brittan

After being appointed as Thatcher’s Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1990, Morrison ran what is generally believed to have been a complacent and lacklustre leadership campaign for her when she was challenged by Michael Heseltine; as is well-known, she did not gain enough votes to prevent a second ballot, and then resigned soon afterwards. Morrison was known to some others as ‘a toff’s toff’, who ‘made it very clear from the outset that he did not intend spending time talking to the plebs’ on the backbenches (Stephen Norris, Changing Trains: An Autobiography (London: Hutchinson, 1996), p. 149).

Jonathan Aitken, a close friend of Morrison’s, would later write the following about him:

I knew Peter Morrison as well as anyone in the House. We had been school friends. He was the best man at my wedding in St Margaret’s, Westminster. We shared many private and political confidences. So I knew the immense pressures he was facing at the time when he was suddenly overwhelmed with the greatest new burden imaginable – running the Prime Minister’s election campaign.

Sixteen years in the House of Commons had treated Peter badly. His health had deteriorated. He had an alcohol problem that made him ill, overweight and prone to take long afternoon naps. In the autumn of 1990 he became embroiled in a police investigation into aspects of his personal life. The allegations against him were never substantiated, and the inquiry was subsequently dropped. But at the time of the leadership election, Peter was worried, distracted and unable to concentrate. (Aitken, Margaret Thatcher, pp. 625-626).

An important article by Nick Davies published in The Guardian in April 1998, also made the following claim:

Fleet Street routinely nurtures a crop of untold stories about powerful abusers who have evaded justice. One such is Peter Morrison, formerly the MP for Chester and the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Ten years ago, Chris House, the veteran crime reporter for the Sunday Mirror, twice received tip-offs from police officers who said that Morrison had been caught cottaging in public toilets with underaged boys and had been released with a caution. A less powerful man, the officers complained, would have been charged with gross indecency or an offence against children.

At the time, Chris House confronted Morrison, who used libel laws to block publication of the story. Now, Morrison is dead and cannot sue. Police last week confirmed that he had been picked up twice and never brought to trial. They added that there appeared to be no trace of either incident in any of the official records. (Nick Davies, ‘The sheer scale of child sexual abuse in Britain’, The Guardian, April 1998).

Recently, the former editor of the Sunday Mirror, Paul Connew, has revealed how he was told in 1994 by House of the stories concerning Morrison. Connew has revealed that it was a police officer who was the source, dismayed by the lack of action after Morrison had been arrested for sexually molesting under-age boys; the officer revealed how Morrison had attempted to ‘pull rank’ by demanding to see the most senior officer, and announcing proudly who he was. All the paperwork relating to the arrest simply ‘disappeared’. Connew sent a reporter to confront Morrison at his Chester home, but Morrison dismissed the story and made legal threats, which the paper was not able to counter without naming their police source, which was impossible. The story ultimately died, though Connew was able to establish that in the senior echelons of Scotland Yard, Morrison’s arrest and proclivities were no secret; he had been arrested on multiple occasions in both Chester and London, always hushed up (Paul Connew, ‘Commentary: how paedophile Peter Morrison escaped exposure’, Exaro News, September 26th, 2014).

In an article in the Daily Mail published in October 2012, former Conservative MP and leader of the Welsh Tories Rod Richards claimed that Morrison (and another Tory grandee who has not been named) was connected to the terrible abuse scandals in Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn children’s homes, in the Wrexham area of North Wales, having seen documents which identified both politicians as frequent, unexplained visitors. Richards also claimed that William Hague, who was Secretary of State for Wales from 1995 to 1997, and who set up the North Wales Child Abuse inquiry, would have seen the files on Morrison, but sources close to Hague denied that he had seen any such material. A former resident of the Bryn Estyn care home testified to Channel 4 News, testified to seeing Morrison arrive there on five occasions, and may have driven off with a boy in his car (‘Exclusive: Eyewitness ‘saw Thatcher aide take boys to abuse”, Channel 4 News, November 6th, 2012; see also Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’).

Rod Richards

Rod Richards

The owner of Bryn Alyn and other homes, John Allen, was sentenced to life in December 2014 for sexual abuse of 18 boys and one girl there (‘Children’s home boss John Allen jailed for life for campaign of sex abuse’, Daily Telegraph, December 1st, 2014), and was revealed to be a friend of Michael John Carroll, who was abusing children in homes in the London borough of Lambeth (Tom Pettifor and Elwyn Roberts, ‘Two notorious paedophiles at centre of nationwide network of abusers including Tory and Labour politicians, Daily Mirror, December 1st, 2014). The implications – that Morrison was connected not just to abuse in North Wales but also to a wider ring of abusers – are almost too horrifying to contemplate, but must be considered (see also my collection of reports on abuse in Lambeth, which I will update soon).

John Allen

John Allen

More stories and allegations have emerged about a Wrexham paedophile ring operative in the 1970s and 1980s, and trials are ongoing, so I will just link to a few articles about these (James Tozer, ‘Police probe into historic paedophile ring reveals 140 victims allege abuse by 84 people at 18 care homes across North Wales’, Daily Mail, April 29th, 2013; David Holmes, ‘Chester man alleges his child abuse claims were ignored for more than a decade’, The Chester Chronicle, December 3rd, 2014; Steven Morris, ‘Wrexham paedophile ring preyed on boys in north Wales, court told’, The Guardian, April 21st, 2015; ”Predatory’ paedophiles abused boys in Wrexham in the 1980s’, BBC News, April 21st, 2015; ‘Historic Predatory Paedophile Ring In Wrexham Convicted’, Wrexham.com, July 2nd, 2015; Steven Morris, ‘Five men found guilty of being members of ‘predatory paedophile ring”, The Guardian, July 3rd, 2015). As far as those who have been convicted is concerned, it is a matter of paramount importance to establish whether Morrison was acquainted with any of them. The 2000 Waterhouse Inquiry Report concluded that there was a paedophile ring operative in Chester and Wrexham (‘Waterhouse Inquiry: recommendations and conclusions’, The Telegraph, November 6th, 2012), thus linking North Wales abuse to Morrison’s own constituency.

Morrison’s successor as MP for Chester, Gyles Brandreth, told the press that he and his wife Michelle had been told on the doorstep repeatedly and emphatically that the MP was ‘a disgusting pervert’ (David Holmes, ‘Former Chester MP Peter Morrison implicated in child abuse inquiry’, Chester Chronicle, November 8th, 2012). This appeared in Brandreth’s book, Breaking the Code: Westminster Diaries (London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), p. 54, in the entry for September 12th, 1991 (taken from the entry ‘Brandreth on the child abuser Peter Morrison MP’, cathyfox blog, July 26th, 2015):

morrisonbrandreth

In a build-up to the launch of a new edition of Brandreth’s book (London: Biteback Publishing, 2014), which suggested major new revelations but delivered little, Brandreth merely added that when canvassing in 1991 ‘we were told that Morrison was a monster who interfered with children’, and added:

At the time, I don’t think I believed it. People do say terrible things without justification. Beyond the fact that his drinking made Morrison appear unprepossessing — central casting’s idea of what a toff paedophile might look like — no one was offering anything to substantiate their slurs.

At the time, I never heard anything untoward about Morrison from the police or from the local journalists — and I gossiped a good deal with them. Four years after stepping down, Peter Morrison was dead of a heart attack.

Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth.


What did Mrs Thatcher know of his alleged dark side? When I talked to her about him, I felt she had the measure of the man. She knew he was homosexual, and she knew he was a drinker. She was fond of him, clearly, but told me that he had ruined himself through ‘self-indulgence’ — much as Reginald Maudling had done a generation earlier. (Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’)

Brandreth did however crucially mention that William Hague had told him in 1996 that Morrison’s name might feature in connection with the inquiry into child abuse in North Wales, specifically in connection to Bryn Estyn, thus corroborating Rod Richard’s account, though Brandreth also pointed out that the Waterhouse report made no mention of Morrison (Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’).

At present, William Hague (who retired from the Cabinet and Parliament quite suddenly, stepping down at the 2015 election, in circumstances which have never been fully explained) is expected to be heavily criticised in a forthcoming report on the North Wales abuse scandal, from the Macur inquiry, to which Rod Richards gave evidence (Glen Owen and Brendan Carlin, ‘Hague faces cover-up row over Thatcher ally’s link to care home abuse scandal: Former foreign secretary said to have been made aware of Sir Peter Morrison’s connections while working as Welsh secretary, Mail on Sunday, May 31st, 2015).

On top of all of this, Morrison’s name has surfaced in connection with another murder inquiry (as well as that of Vishal Mehortra), of Martin Allen, who disappeared on Bonfire Night 1979, and has never been found. Morrison was amongst those (together with Peter Hayman and Leon Brittan) who visited the cottage in Kensington of Allen’s father, who was chief chauffeur at the Australian High Commission (Don Hale, ‘Witness comes forward in Martin Allen case linked to Westminster paedophile ring’, Daily Star, April 12th, 2015).

The journalist Simon Heffer has also said that rumours about Morrison were circulating in Tory top ranks as early as 1988, whilst Tebbit has admitted hearing rumours ‘through unusual channels’, then confronting Morrison about them, which he denied (Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’); Tebbit, who has suggested that a cover-up of high-level abuse by politicians is likely, now concedes that he had been ‘naive’ in believing Morrison, and rejected Currie’s account of Morrison having admitted his offences to him (James Lyons, ‘Norman Tebbit admits he heard rumours top Tory was paedophile a decade before truth revealed’, Daily Mirror, July 8th, 2014). In a recent interview, Tebbit has given a slightly different rendition of things, claiming that he had ‘heard stories that Peter had an unhealthy interest in young men but not that it was with underage children. I confronted him about this, he denied it flat’ (Marie Woolf, ‘Tebbit quizzed MP on sex claims’, The Sunday Times, July 26th, 2015). He also refused to say who had told him about Morrison, saying somewhat cryptically:

There was no official contact. I choose my words carefully. I will just say that I was made aware. I was not sent a file.

Furthermore, Tebbit claimed he had had ‘no reason to believe Downing Street was aware of the allegation’, and had not contacted Thatcher about it, nor pursued the matter with the police, as he assumed they had no evidence and would not press charges (which raises the question of whether it was the police who told him).

Other Tory politicians recall John Wakeham, Chief Whip from June 1983 to January 1987 (see Wakeham’s profile at parliament.uk) telling them, after coming to him with reports of Morrison’s cottaging skirmishes, ‘If someone brings me some evidence I can do something about it, if required’. Another Tory said ‘It never got out, but people said ‘they’ll never be able to do that for Peter again’ (Michael White, ‘Politicians regret complacency over alleged establishment child abuse’, The Guardian, March 17th, 2015).

The novelist Frederick Forsyth, on the other hand, described Morrison as someone ‘who should have been exposed many years ago’, as well as being a politically incompetent alcoholic; however, as far as his sexual offences were concerned, Forsyth claimed Thatcher ‘suspected nothing’ (Frederick Forsyth, ‘Debauched and dissolute fool’, The Express, July 18th, 2014).  Later he called Morrison an ‘awful slut’ who was ‘now exposed at last as a ruthless boy-molester’ (Frederic Forsyth, ‘Mrs Thatcher should have chosen better’, Sunday Express, January 9th, 2015).

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with her private secretary Peter Morrison arriving for the Ian Gow memorial service at St. Margaret's, Westminister, London.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with her private secretary Peter Morrison arriving for the Ian Gow memorial service at St. Margaret’s, Westminister, London.

Recently, Thatcher’s bodyguard Barry Strevens has come forward to claim that he told Thatcher directly about allegations of Morrison holding sex parties at his house with underage boys (one aged 15), when told about this by a senior Cheshire Police Officer. (see Lynn Davidson, ‘Exclusive: Thatcher’s Bodyguard on Abuse Claims’, The Sun on Sunday, July 27th, 2014 (article reproduced in comments below); and Matt Chorley, ‘Barry Strevens says he told Iron Lady about rumours about Peter Morrison’, Mail on Sunday, July 27th, 2014; see also Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, ‘Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’’, The Independent, July 27th, 2014). Strevens claimed to have had a meeting with the PM and her PPS Archie Hamilton (now Baron Hamilton of Epsom), which he had requested immediately. Strevens had claimed this was right after the Jeffrey Archer scandal; Archer resigned in October 1986, whilst Hamilton was Thatcher’s PPS from 1987 to 1988. Strevens recalls Thatcher simply thanking him and that was the last he heard of it. He said:

I wouldn’t say she (Lady Thatcher) was naive but I would say she would not have thought people around her would be like that.

I am sure he would have given her assurances about the rumours as otherwise she wouldn’t have given him the job.

Strevens spoke again to the press in May 2015, to clarify further his account given in July 2014: he said that he had been told by a senior officer in Chester of rumours of under-aged boys attending sex parties at a home owned by Morrison. According to Strevens, Archie Hamilton ‘took notes and they thanked me’ (Hamilton recalls the officer being at Downing Street, but no mention of under-age boys), listened to him, and left it at that. Four years later, Thatcher recommended Morrison for a knighthood, which he received (Jonathan Corke, ‘Margaret Thatcher knew paedophile Tory’s sick secret but STILL secured him a knighthood; The former PM also recommended alleged abuser Leon Brittan and is claimed to have been aware of allegations about fellow knights Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith’, Sunday People, May 9th, 2015)

Barry Strevens

Barry Strevens

Barry Strevens with Thatcher

Strevens with Thatcher


Danczuk, who says that he met someone who alleges that Morrison raped him, made clear that in his view ‘There is little doubt in my mind that Margaret Thatcher turned a blind eye to known paedophiles from Peter Morrison to Cyril Smith and the rest.’ (James Lyons and James Gillespie, ‘Thatcher ignored Smith Abuse’, The Sunday Times, March 8th, 2015).

The accounts by Nicholls and Strevens make clear that the allegations – concerning in one case a 15-year old boy – are more serious than said in a later rendition by Currie, which said merely that Morrison ‘had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21’ (cited in Andrew Sparrow, ‘Politics Live’, The Guardian, October 24th, 2012). A further allegation was made by Peter McKelvie, who led the investigation in 1992 into Peter Righton in an open letter to Peter Mandelson. A British Aerospace Trade Union Convenor had said one member had alleged that Morrison raped him, and he took this to the union’s National HQ, who put it to the Labour front bench. A Labour minister reported back to say that the Tory Front Bench had been approached. This was confirmed, according to McKelvie, by second and third sources, and also alleged that the conversations first took place at a 1993-94 Xmas Party hosted by the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party. Mandelson has not yet replied.

In the 1997 election, Christine Russell herself displaced Brandreth and she served as Labour MP until 2010, when she was unseated by Conservative MP Stephen Mosely (see entry for ‘Christine Russell’ at politics.co.uk).

In 2013, following the publication of Hoggart’s article citing Nicholls, an online petition was put together calling for an inquiry, and submittted to then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State Christopher Grayling. Russell denounced the ‘shoddy journalism’ of the Guardian piece, recalled rumours of Morrison’s preferences, but said there was no hint of illegal acts; she did not however rule out an agreement that Morrison should stand down (‘Campaigners ask for inquiry over ex-Chester MP’, Chester Chronicle, January 3rd, 2013).

Morrison is now widely believed to have been a central character in a network of high-level VIP abusers (see Keir Mudie, ‘VIP paedophile files: The sick web of high-powered and well-connected child abusers’, Sunday People, March 21st, 2015).

Further questions now need to be asked of Lord Tebbit, Teresa Gorman, Edwina Currie, William Hague and other senior Tories, and crucially of Frances Mowatt, not to mention Christine Russell and others in Chester Labour Party, of what was known and apparently covered-up about Morrison. Frances Maude (now Baron Maude of Horsham), the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was PPS to Morrison from 1984-85 (see Maude’s biography at politics.co.uk), a crucial period, and also needs to be questioned on what he knew about his former boss’s activities. In March of this year, Maude, then Cabinet Minister, refused to make details of newly-found files public (Tom Parmenter, ‘Family Demands Names Of New Child Abuse Files’, Sky News, March 7th, 2015); it appears now that one of these files referred to his old boss Morrison. If money was involved in at least offers to Mowatt, as Currie alleges was told to her by Gorman, then the seriousness of the allegations is grave. In October 2014, Currie arrogantly and haughtily declared on Twitter:


@MaraudingWinger @DrTeckKhong @MailOnline I’ve been nicer than many deserve! But I take the consequences, & I do not hide behind anonymity.

@jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel @woodmouse1 I heard only tiny bits of gossip. The guy is dead, go pursue living perps. You’ll do more good

@woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel The present has its own demands. We learn from the past, we don’t get obsessive about it. Get real.

@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel And there are abusers in action right now, while you chase famous dead men.

@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel I’d rather police time be spent now on today’s criminals – detect, stop and jail them

@jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel @woodmouse1 Flattered that you think I know so much. Sorry but that’s not so. If you do, go to police

@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel They want current crimes to be dealt with by police, too. And they may need other help.

@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel Of course. But right now, youngsters are being hurt and abused. That matters.

Considering Currie also rubber-stamped the appointment of Jimmy Savile at Broadmoor (Rowena Mason, ‘Edwina Currie voices regrets over Jimmy Savile after inquiry criticism’, The Guardian, Thursday June 26th, 2014) and clearly knew information about Morrison, including claims of bribery of a political agent, known to at least one other MP (Gorman) as well as herself, it should not be surprising that she would want claims of abuse involving dead figures to be sidelined.

Edwina Currie

Edwina Currie

This story relates to political corruption at the highest level, with a senior politician near the top of his party involved in the abuse of children, and clear evidence that various others knew about this, but did nothing, and strong suggestions that politicians and police officers conspired to keep this covered up, even using hush money, in such a way which ensured that Morrison was free to keep abusing others until his death. This story must not be allowed to die this time round. The actions of Duff and Armstrong (and Thatcher) may have sealed the fate of further boys who Morrison went onto abuse. That is the highest dereliction of duty imaginable.



The Times, July 24th, 2015
Sean O’Neill and Gabriella Swerling, ‘Child abuse suspect was Thatcher aide’

The Westminster politician protected by MI5 when suspected of child abuse was the Conservative MP Peter Morrison, who became one of Margaret Thatcher’s aides, The Times has learnt.

A Whitehall investigation was carried out in the mid-1980s after two sources approached senior officials with reports that Morrison had “a penchant for small boys”.

MI5 officers questioned Morrison, the MP for Chester and deputy chairman of the party, and accepted his denials. It is understood that the allegations were not reported to police. Four years later, in July 1990, he was appointed Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS).

Files recently uncovered at the Cabinet Office revealed a note about the incident sent in November 1986 by Sir Antony Duff, head of the Security Service, to Sir Robert Armstrong, the cabinet secretary. It said there was no threat to national security but the claims did carry “the risk of political embarrassment to the government”.

Sir Robert, 88 – now Lord Armstrong of Ilminster – said last night: “My official business was the protection of national security. I have to stress that there was nothing like evidence in this case. There was just a shadow of a rumour. It’s impossible to take investigative action on shadows of rumours.”

He added: “If there is some reason to think a crime has been committed, then people like the cabinet secretary are not to start poking their noses into it. It’s for the police to do that.”

Morrison, who died in 1995, had been a whip and a junior minister before he was made Thatcher’s PPS. His Times obituary said that he “had clearly reached his ministerial ceiling [in 1990] and it was an act of kindness on the prime minister’s part to appoint him as her new PPS”.

He held the job for four months until November 1990, when he mismanaged the party leadership contest that led to Thatcher’s resignation.

The documents referring to Morrison are in four miscellaneous files discovered by a Cabinet Office team this year.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, who led a review into lost Whitehall documents on abuse scandals, said that the Duff memo revealed that “child safety came a poor second to preserving reputations of individuals or government departments”.

Writing in The Times today, he says: “It is plainly obvious . . . those at the highest level who once strode the corridors of power were putting their fear of political embarrassment above the risks to children.”

The documents have been sent to the Goddard inquiry into child sexual abuse which formally opened this month.


Peter Morrison and the cover-up in the Tory Party – fully updated

[This post has now been superseded by an updated version – please click onto that to see the most recent information on Morrison as well]

In Edwina Currie’s diary entry for July 24th, 1990, she wrote the following:

One appointment in the recent reshuffle has attracted a lot of gossip and could be very dangerous: Peter Morrison has become the PM’s PPS. Now he’s what they call ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys; he admitted as much to Norman Tebbit when he became deputy chairman of the party, but added, ‘However, I’m very discreet’ – and he must be! She either knows and is taking a chance, or doesn’t; either way it is a really dumb move. Teresa Gorman told me this evening (in a taxi coming back from a drinks party at the BBC) that she inherited Morrison’s (woman) agent, who claimed to have been offered money to keep quiet about his activities. It scares me, as all the press know, and as we get closer to the election someone is going to make trouble, very close to her indeed. (Edwina Currie, Diaries 1987-1992 (London: Little, Brown, 2002), p. 195)

Currie Diaries

The agent in question was Frances Mowatt. A 192 search reveals that there is now a Frances Mowatt, aged 65+, living in Billericay in Essex, Teresa Gorman’s old constituency.

The following are the recollections of Grahame Nicholls, who ran the Chester Trades Council (Morrison was the MP for Chester from 1974 to 1992), who wrote:

After the 1987 general election, around 1990, I attended a meeting of Chester Labour party where we were informed by the agent, Christine Russell, that Peter Morrison would not be standing in 1992. He had been caught in the toilets at Crewe station with a 15-year-old boy. A deal was struck between Labour, the local Tories, the local press and the police that if he stood down at the next election the matter would go no further. Chester finished up with Gyles Brandreth and Morrison walked away scot-free. I thought you might be interested. (cited in ‘Simon Hoggart’s week’, The Guardian, November 16th, 2012)

Sir Peter Morrison (1944-1995) was known, according to an obituary by Patrick Cosgrove, as a right winger who disliked immigration, supported the return of capital punishment, and wished to introduce vouchers for education. He was from a privileged political family; his father, born John Morrison, became Lord Margadale, the squire of Fonthill, led the campaign to ensure Alec Douglas-Home became Prime Minister in 1963, and predicted Thatcher’s ultimate accession to the leadership (Sue Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’, Daily Mail, July 12th, 2014, updated July 16th). The young Peter attended Eton College, then Keble College, Oxford. Entering the House of Commons in 1974 at the age of 29, during the first Thatcher government he occupied a series of non-cabinet ministerial positions, then became Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1986, replacing Jeffrey Archer after his resignation, and working under Chairman Norman Tebbitt. His sister, Dame Mary Morrison, became a lady-in-waiting to the Queen (Gyles Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’: In a brave and haunting account, TV star and ex MP Gyles Brandreth reveals the years of abuse he endured at prep school’, Daily Mail, September 12th, 2014).

Morrison was close to Thatcher from when he entered Parliament (see Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 837), working for her 1975 leadership campaign and, after she became Prime Minister, putting her and Denis up for holiday in the 73 000 acre estate owned by his father in Islay, where games of charades were played (Jonathan Aitken, Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 158-160, 279-281). After being appointed as Thatcher’s Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1990, he ran what is generally believed to have been a complacent and lacklustre leadership campaign for her when she was challenged by Michael Heseltine; as is well-known, she did not gain enough votes to prevent a second ballot, and then resigned soon afterwards. Morrison was known to some others as ‘a toff’s toff’, who ‘made it very clear from the outset that he did not intend spending time talking to the plebs’ on the backbenches (Stephen Norris, Changing Trains: An Autobiography (London: Hutchinson, 1996), p. 149).

Jonathan Aitken, a close friend of Morrison’s, would later write the following about him:

I knew Peter Morrison as well as anyone in the House. We had been school friends. He was the best man at my wedding in St Margaret’s, Westminster. We shared many private and political confidences. So I knew the immense pressures he was facing at the time when he was suddenly overwhelmed with the greatest new burden imaginable – running the Prime Minister’s election campaign.

Sixteen years in the House of Commons had treated Peter badly. His health had deteriorated. He had an alcohol problem that made him ill, overweight and prone to take long afternoon naps. In the autumn of 1990 he became embroiled in a police investigation into aspects of his personal life. The allegations against him were never substantiated, and the inquiry was subsequently dropped. But at the time of the leadership election, Peter was worried, distracted and unable to concentrate. (Aitken, Margaret Thatcher, pp. 625-626).

An important article by Nick Davies published in The Guardian in April 1998, also made the following claim:

Fleet Street routinely nurtures a crop of untold stories about powerful abusers who have evaded justice. One such is Peter Morrison, formerly the MP for Chester and the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Ten years ago, Chris House, the veteran crime reporter for the Sunday Mirror, twice received tip-offs from police officers who said that Morrison had been caught cottaging in public toilets with underaged boys and had been released with a caution. A less powerful man, the officers complained, would have been charged with gross indecency or an offence against children.

At the time, Chris House confronted Morrison, who used libel laws to block publication of the story. Now, Morrison is dead and cannot sue. Police last week confirmed that he had been picked up twice and never brought to trial. They added that there appeared to be no trace of either incident in any of the official records. (Nick Davies, ‘The sheer scale of child sexual abuse in Britain’, The Guardian, April 1998).

Recently, the former editor of the Sunday Mirror, Paul Connew, has revealed how he was told in 1994 by House of the stories concerning Morrison. Connew has revealed that it was a police officer who was the source, dismayed by the lack of action after Morrison had been arrested for sexually molesting under-age boys; the officer revealed how Morrison had attempted to ‘pull rank’ by demanding to see the most senior officer, and announcing proudly who he was. All the paperwork relating to the arrest simply ‘disappeared’. Connew sent a reporter to confront Morrison at his Chester home, but Morrison dismissed the story and made legal threats, which the paper was not able to counter without naming their police source, which was impossible. The story ultimately died, though Connew was able to establish that in the senior echelons of Scotland Yard, Morrison’s arrest and proclivities were no secret; he had been arrested on multiple occasions in both Chester and London, always hushed up (Paul Connew, ‘Commentary: how paedophile Peter Morrison escaped exposure’, Exaro News, September 26th, 2014).

In an article in the Daily Mail published in October 2012, former Conservative MP and leader of the Welsh Tories Rod Richards claimed that Morrison (and another Tory grandee who has not been named) was connected to the terrible abuse scandals in Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn children’s homes, in North Wales, having seen documents which identified both politicians as frequent, unexplained visitors. Richards also claimed that William Hague, who was Secretary of State for Wales from 1995 to 1997, and who set up the North Wales Child Abuse inquiry, would have seen the files on Morrison, but sources close to Hague denied that he had seen any such material. A former resident of the Bryn Estyn care home testified to Channel 4 News, testified to seeing Morrison arrive there on five occasions, and may have driven off with a boy in his car (‘Exclusive: Eyewitness ‘saw Thatcher aide take boys to abuse”, Channel 4 News, November 6th, 2012; see also Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’).

Morrison’s successor as MP for Chester, Gyles Brandreth, wrote that he and his wife Michelle had been told on the doorstep repeatedly and emphatically that the MP was ‘a disgusting pervert’ (David Holmes, ‘Former Chester MP Peter Morrison implicated in child abuse inquiry’, Chester Chronicle, November 8th, 2012). More recently, in a build-up to the launch of a new version of Brandreth’s diaries, which suggested major new revelations but delivered little, Brandreth merely added that when canvassing in 1991 ‘we were told that Morrison was a monster who interfered with children’, and added:

At the time, I don’t think I believed it. People do say terrible things without justification. Beyond the fact that his drinking made Morrison appear unprepossessing — central casting’s idea of what a toff paedophile might look like — no one was offering anything to substantiate their slurs.

At the time, I never heard anything untoward about Morrison from the police or from the local journalists — and I gossiped a good deal with them. Four years after stepping down, Peter Morrison was dead of a heart attack.

What did Mrs Thatcher know of his alleged dark side? When I talked to her about him, I felt she had the measure of the man. She knew he was homosexual, and she knew he was a drinker. She was fond of him, clearly, but told me that he had ruined himself through ‘self-indulgence’ — much as Reginald Maudling had done a generation earlier. (Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’)

Brandreth did however crucially mention that William Hague had told him in 1996 that Morrison’s name might feature in connection with the inquiry into child abuse in North Wales, specifically in connection to Bryn Estyn, thus corroborating Rod Richard’s account, though Brandreth also pointed out that the Waterhouse report made no mention of Morrison (Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’).

The journalist Simon Heffer has also said that rumours about Morrison were circulating in Tory top ranks as early as 1988, whilst Tebbit has admitted hearing rumours ‘through unusual channels’, then confronting Morrison about them, which he denied (Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’); Tebbit, who has suggested that a cover-up of high-level abuse by politicians is likely, now concedes that he had been ‘naive’ in believing Morrison, and rejected Currie’s account of Morrison having admitted his offences to him (James Lyons, ‘Norman Tebbit admits he heard rumours top Tory was paedophile a decade before truth revealed’, Daily Mirror, July 8th, 2014). The novelist Frederick Forsyth, on the other hand, described Morrison as someone ‘who should have been exposed many years ago’, as well as being a politically incompetent alcoholic; however, as far as his sexual offences were concerned, Forsyth claimed Thatcher ‘suspected nothing’ (Frederick Forsyth, ‘Debauched and dissolute fool’, The Express, July 18th, 2014)

Recently, Thatcher’s bodyguard Barry Strevens has come forward to claim that he told Thatcher directly about allegations of Morrison holding sex parties at his house with underage boys (one aged 15), when told about this by a senior Cheshire Police Officer. (see Lynn Davidson, ‘Exclusive: Thatcher’s Bodyguard on Abuse Claims’, The Sun on Sunday, July 27th, 2014 (article reproduced in comments below); and Matt Chorley, ‘Barry Strevens says he told Iron Lady about rumours about Peter Morrison’, Mail on Sunday, July 27th, 2014; see also Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, ‘Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’’, The Independent, July 27th, 2014). Strevens claimed to have had a meeting with the PM and her PPS Archie Hamilton (now Baron Hamilton of Epsom), which he had requested immediately. Strevens had claimed this was right after the Jeffrey Archer scandal; Archer resigned in October 1986, whilst Hamilton was Thatcher’s PPS from 1987 to 1988. Strevens recalls Thatcher simply thanking him and that was the last he heard of it. He said:

I wouldn’t say she (Lady Thatcher) was naive but I would say she would not have thought people around her would be like that.

I am sure he would have given her assurances about the rumours as otherwise she wouldn’t have given him the job.

The accounts by Nicholls and Strevens make clear that the allegations – concerning in one case a 15-year old boy – are more serious than said in a later rendition by Currie, which said merely that Morrison ‘had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21’ (cited in Andrew Sparrow, ‘Politics Live’, The Guardian, October 24th, 2012). A further allegation was made by Peter McKelvie, who led the investigation in 1992 into Peter Righton in an open letter to Peter Mandelson. A British Aerospace Trade Union Convenor had said one member had alleged that Morrison raped him, and he took this to the union’s National HQ, who put it to the Labour front bench. A Labour minister reported back to say that the Tory Front Bench had been approached. This was confirmed, according to McKelvie, by second and third sources, and also alleged that the conversations first took place at a 1993-94 Xmas Party hosted by the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party. Mandelson has not yet replied.

In the 1997 election, Christine Russell herself displaced Brandreth and she served as Labour MP until 2010, when she was unseated by Conservative MP Stephen Mosely (see entry for ‘Christine Russell’ at politics.co.uk).

In 2013, following the publication of Hoggart’s article citing Nicholls, an online petition was put together calling for an inquiry, and submittted to then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State Christopher Grayling. Russell denounced the ‘shoddy journalism’ of the Guardian piece, recalled rumours of Morrison’s preferences, but said there was no hint of illegal acts; she did not however rule out an agreement that Morrison should stand down (‘Campaigners ask for inquiry over ex-Chester MP’, Chester Chronicle, January 3rd, 2013).

Further questions now need to be asked of Lord Tebbit, Teresa Gorman, Edwina Currie, William Hague and other senior Tories, not to mention Christine Russell and others in Chester Labour Party, of what was known and apparently covered-up about Morrison. The identity of Morrison and Gorman’s agent (I could find no mention of a name in Gorman’s autobiography No, Prime Minister! (London: John Blake, 2001)) must be established [Edit: this has now been established as Frances Mowatt – see above] and she should be questioned if still around [Which she is, and living in Billericay, according to 192 directory – see above]. If money was involved, as Currie alleges was told to her by Gorman, then the seriousness of the allegations is grave. Just yesterday (October 5th), Currie arrogantly and haughtily declared on Twitter:


@MaraudingWinger @DrTeckKhong @MailOnline I’ve been nicer than many deserve! But I take the consequences, & I do not hide behind anonymity.

@jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel @woodmouse1 I heard only tiny bits of gossip. The guy is dead, go pursue living perps. You’ll do more good

@woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel The present has its own demands. We learn from the past, we don’t get obsessive about it. Get real.

@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel And there are abusers in action right now, while you chase famous dead men.

@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel I’d rather police time be spent now on today’s criminals – detect, stop and jail them

@jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel @woodmouse1 Flattered that you think I know so much. Sorry but that’s not so. If you do, go to police

@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel They want current crimes to be dealt with by police, too. And they may need other help.

@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel Of course. But right now, youngsters are being hurt and abused. That matters.

Considering Currie also rubber-stamped the appointment of Jimmy Savile at Broadmoor (Rowena Mason, ‘Edwina Currie voices regrets over Jimmy Savile after inquiry criticism’, The Guardian, Thursday June 26th, 2014) and clearly knew information about Morrison, including claims of bribery of a political agent, known to at least one other MP (Gorman) as well as herself, it should not be surprising that she would want claims of abuse involving dead figures to be sidelined.

This story relates to political corruption at the highest level, with a senior politician near the top of his party involved in the abuse of children, and clear evidence that various others knew about this, but did nothing, and strong suggestions that politicians and police officers conspired to keep this covered up, even using hush money, in such a way which ensured that Morrison was free to keep abusing others until his death. This story must not be allowed to die this time round.


UPDATED – Yes, Labour politicians need to answer questions about PIE and NCCL, but so do the Tories about Morrison, and the Lib Dems about Smith

In Edwina Currie’s diary entry for July 24th, 1990, she wrote the following:

One appointment in the recent reshuffle has attracted a lot of gossip and could be very dangerous: Peter Morrison has become the PM’s PPS. Now he’s what they call ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys; he admitted as much to Norman Tebbit when he became deputy chairman of the party, but added, ‘However, I’m very discreet’ – and he must be! She either knows and is taking a chance, or doesn’t; either way it is a really dumb move. Teresa Gorman told me this evening (in a taxi coming back from a drinks party at the BBC) that she inherited Morrison’s (woman) agent, who claimed to have been offered money to keep quiet about his activities. It scares me, as all the press know, and as we get closer to the election someone is going to make trouble, very close to her indeed. (Edwina Currie, Diaries 1987-1992 (London: Little, Brown, 2002), p. 195)

Currie Diaries

The following are the recollections of Grahame Nicholls, who ran the Chester Trades Council (Morrison was the MP for Chester from 1974 to 1992), who wrote:

After the 1987 general election, around 1990, I attended a meeting of Chester Labour party where we were informed by the agent, Christine Russell, that Peter Morrison would not be standing in 1992. He had been caught in the toilets at Crewe station with a 15-year-old boy. A deal was struck between Labour, the local Tories, the local press and the police that if he stood down at the next election the matter would go no further. Chester finished up with Gyles Brandreth and Morrison walked away scot-free. I thought you might be interested. (cited in ‘Simon Hoggart’s week’, The Guardian, November 16th, 2012)

Sir Peter Morrison (1944-1995) was known, according to an obituary by Patrick Cosgrove, as a right winger who disliked immigration, supported the return of capital punishment, and wished to introduce vouchers for education. He was from a privileged political family; his father, born John Morrison, became Lord Margadale, the squire of Fonthill, led the campaign to ensure Alec Douglas-Home became Prime Minister in 1963, and predicted Thatcher’s ultimate accession to the leadership (Sue Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’, Daily Mail, July 12th, 2014, updated July 16th). The young Peter attended Eton College, then Keble College, Oxford. Entering the House of Commons in 1974 at the age of 29, during the first Thatcher government he occupied a series of non-cabinet ministerial positions, then became Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1986, replacing Jeffrey Archer after his resignation, and working under Chairman Norman Tebbitt.

Morrison was close to Thatcher from when he entered Parliament (see Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 837), working for her 1975 leadership campaign and, after she became Prime Minister, putting her and Denis up for holiday in the 73 000 acre estate owned by his father in Islay, where games of charades were played (Jonathan Aitken, Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 158-160, 279-281). After being appointed as Thatcher’s Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1990, he ran what is generally believed to have been a complacent and lacklustre leadership campaign for her when she was challenged by Michael Heseltine; as is well-known, she did not gain enough votes to prevent a second ballot, and then resigned soon afterwards. Morrison was known to some others as ‘a toff’s toff’, who ‘made it very clear from the outset that he did not intend spending time talking to the plebs’ on the backbenches (Stephen Norris, Changing Trains: An Autobiography (London: Hutchinson, 1996), p. 149).

Jonathan Aitken, a close friend of Morrison’s, would later write the following about him:

I knew Peter Morrison as well as anyone in the House. We had been school friends. He was the best man at my wedding in St Margaret’s, Westminster. We shared many private and political confidences. So I knew the immense pressures he was facing at the time when he was suddenly overwhelmed with the greatest new burden imaginable – running the Prime Minister’s election campaign.

Sixteen years in the House of Commons had treated Peter badly. His health had deteriorated. He had an alcohol problem that made him ill, overweight and prone to take long afternoon naps. In the autumn of 1990 he became embroiled in a police investigation into aspects of his personal life. The allegations against him were never substantiated, and the inquiry was subsequently dropped. But at the time of the leadership election, Peter was worried, distracted and unable to concentrate. (Aitken, Margaret Thatcher, pp. 625-626).

An important article by Nick Davies published in The Guardian in April 1998, also made the following claim:

Fleet Street routinely nurtures a crop of untold stories about powerful abusers who have evaded justice. One such is Peter Morrison, formerly the MP for Chester and the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Ten years ago, Chris House, the veteran crime reporter for the Sunday Mirror, twice received tip-offs from police officers who said that Morrison had been caught cottaging in public toilets with underaged boys and had been released with a caution. A less powerful man, the officers complained, would have been charged with gross indecency or an offence against children.

At the time, Chris House confronted Morrison, who used libel laws to block publication of the story. Now, Morrison is dead and cannot sue. Police last week confirmed that he had been picked up twice and never brought to trial. They added that there appeared to be no trace of either incident in any of the official records. (Nick Davies, ‘The sheer scale of child sexual abuse in Britain’, The Guardian, April 1998).

In an article in the Daily Mail published in October 2012, former Conservative MP and leader of the Welsh Tories Rod Richards claimed that Morrison (and another Tory grandee who has not been named) was connected to the terrible abuse scandals in Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn children’s homes, in North Wales, having seen documents which identified both politicians as frequent, unexplained visitors. Richards also claimed that William Hague, who was Secretary of State for Wales from 1995 to 1997, and who set up the North Wales Child Abuse inquiry, would have seen the files on Morrison, but sources close to Hague denied that he had seen any such material. A former resident of the Bryn Estyn care home testified to Channel 4 News, testified to seeing Morrison arrive there on five occasions, and may have driven off with a boy in his car (‘Exclusive: Eyewitness ‘saw Thatcher aide take boys to abuse”, Channel 4 News, November 6th, 2012).

Morrison’s successor as MP for Chester, Gyles Brandreth, wrote that he and his wife Michelle had been told on the doorstep repeatedly and emphatically that the MP was ‘a disgusting pervert’ (David Holmes, ‘Former Chester MP Peter Morrison implicated in child abuse inquiry’, Chester Chronicle, November 8th, 2012). The journalist Simon Heffer has also said that rumours about Morrison were circulating in Tory top ranks as early as 1988, whilst Tebbitt has admitted hearing rumours ‘through unusual channels’, then confronting Morrison about them, which he denied (Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’).

Recently, Thatcher’s bodyguard Barry Strevens has come forward to claim that he told Thatcher directly about allegations of Morrison holding sex parties at his house with underage boys (one aged 15), when told about this by a senior Cheshire Police Officer. (see Lynn Davidson, ‘Exclusive: Thatcher’s Bodyguard on Abuse Claims’, The Sun on Sunday< July 27th, 2014 (article reproduced in comments below); and Matt Chorley, ‘Barry Strevens says he told Iron Lady about rumours about Peter Morrison’, Mail on Sunday, July 27th, 2014). Strevens claimed to have had a meeting with the PM and her PPS Archie Hamilton (now Baron Hamilton of Epsom), which he had requested immediately. Strevens had claimed this was right after the Jeffrey Archer scandal; Archer resigned in October 1986, whilst Hamilton was Thatcher’s PPS from 1987 to 1988. Strevens recalls Thatcher simply thanking him and that was the last he heard of it. He said:

I wouldn’t say she (Lady Thatcher) was naive but I would say she would not have thought people around her would be like that.
I am sure he would have given her assurances about the rumours as otherwise she wouldn’t have given him the job.

The accounts by Nicholls and Strevens make clear that the allegations – concerning in one case a 15-year old boy – are more serious than said in a later rendition by Currie, which said merely that Morrison ‘had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21’ (cited in Andrew Sparrow, ‘Politics Live’, The Guardian, October 24th, 2012). A further allegation was made by Peter McKelvie, who led the investigation in 1992 into Peter Righton in an open letter to Peter Mandelson. A British Aerospace Trade Union Convenor had said one member had alleged that Morrison raped him, and he took this to the union’s National HQ, who put it to the Labour front bench. A Labour minister reported back to say that the Tory Front Bench had been approached. This was confirmed, according to McKelvie, by second and third sources, and also alleged that the conversations first took place at a 1993-94 Xmas Party hosted by the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party. Mandelson has not yet replied.

In the 1997 election, Christine Russell herself displaced Brandreth and she served as Labour MP until 2010, when she was unseated by Conservative MP Stephen Mosely (see entry for ‘Christine Russell’ at politics.co.uk).

In 2013, following the publication of Hoggart’s article citing Nicholls, an online petition was put together calling for an inquiry, and submittted to then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State Christopher Grayling. Russell denounced the ‘shoddy journalism’ of the Guardian piece, recalled rumours of Morrison’s preferences, but said there was no hint of illegal acts; she did not however rule out an agreement that Morrison should stand down (‘Campaigners ask for inquiry over ex-Chester MP’, Chester Chronicle, January 3rd, 2013).

Despite being a Labour Party supporter and member, I agree with those who say that the allegations concerning Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt during the time of their positions in the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE – about which more in a later blog post) are not trivial; the fact that the PIE was able to remain affiliated to NCCL for an extended period, despite many newspaper reports about activities of its leading members, some of whom were imprisoned during this period, raises serious questions. But equally if not more important to investigate is the allegation that a very senior Tory politician who was a close personal acquaintance of a Prime Minister, was known by various others to be a pederast, and may have been involved in an awful organised abuse scandal. A new police inquiry was announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in November 2012, which became Operation Pallial; a heavily redacted version of the Jillings Report was published in July 2013. In the meantime, allegations fly all over the internet about senior politicians and the child abuse scandal at Elm Guest House in Barnes, as currently being investigated in Operations Fernbridge and Fairbank (the most reliable reports on this can be found at the Exaro website); some of this is internet conspiracy theorising, and the provenance of some sources is questionable, but major names are floating around the cyber-ether, whilst the police have confirmed that one visitor to the house was the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith.

If Labour have explaining to do concerning Harman, Dromey and Hewitt, then so do the Tories about Morrison and the Liberal Democrats about Smith; some of these allegations are not yet proven, but that is all the more reason to address them.

In particular, questions now need to be asked of Lord Tebbit, Teresa Gorman, Edwina Currie and other senior Tories, not to mention Christine Russell and others in Chester Labour Party, of what was known and apparently covered-up about Morrison. The identity of Morrison and Gorman’s agent (I could find no mention of a name in Gorman’s autobiography No, Prime Minister! (London: John Blake, 2001)) must be established and she should be questioned if still around. If money was involved, as Currie alleges was told to her by Gorman, then the seriousness of the allegations is grave. And Lord Steel must be properly held to account (and other senior Liberal Democrats questioned) about what was known about Cyril Smith, and whether they acted in such a way as to enable him to continue to abuse with impunity


MPs in terms of gender, ethnicity and state/private education – some figures and reflections

This week, at Prime Minister’s Question Time, Labour leader Ed Miliband tore into David Cameron for the representation of women in his party, pointing to the all-male frontbench in front of him, in contrast to his own. Miliband did not care to mention the ethnic make-up of that front bench, perhaps because of fear of alienating xenophobic Middle England from which he needs to gain votes, or perhaps because his own wholly white front bench on display that day would score no better. At present, the cabinet consists of 22 members, of whom 18 are male and 4 female. Not one member belongs to an ethnic minority. The shadow cabinet contains 25 members, of whom 14 are male and 11 female, with 2 members from ethnic minorities. What is not visible, but no less important, is the representation of different educational backgrounds amongst both cabinets. Of the cabinet, 12 were educated in the state sector, 10 privately; of the shadow cabinet, 19 were state-educated, 5 privately; for one member it is unclear. The difference in the break-up of either cabinet in terms of educational background is as stark as that for gender and ethnicity. With this in mind, I decided to assemble some wider statistics concerning the MPs in the three major parliamentary parties, not least to draw attention to the least commented-upon form of discrimination and favouritism, to do with the vast over-privileging, above all in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties, of those who were privately educated. This is a subject frequently evaded by many leading politicians in any of the parties; the New Statesman have recently referred to ‘education’s Berlin Wall’, a term even taken up by Education Secretary Michael Gove, though as an NS leader pointed out, the privately educated Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt declined to comment on the subject.


UK Population by Gender and Region

According to the 2011 census, as provided by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the population of the UK was 63,182,000 million people, made up of 31,028,000 million men and 32,154,000 million women. In percentage terms this means 49.1% men, 50.9% women. Between the four regions, this breaks down as follows:

England: 53,012,456 – 26,069,148 (49.2%) men; 26,943,308 (50.8%) women.
Scotland: 5,295,000 – 2,567,000 (48.5%) men; 2,728,000 (51.5%) women.
Wales: 3,063,456 – 1,504,228 (49.1%) men; 1,559,228 (50.9%) women.
Northern Ireland: 1,810,863 – 887,323 (49%) men; 923,540 (51%) women.

Total Population of mainland (England, Scotland and Wales): 61,370,912 – 30,140,376 (49.1%) men; 31,230,536 (50.9%) women.

Total Population of UK: 63,182,000 – 31,028,000 (49.1%) men; 32,154,000 (50.9%) women.

Percentages of UK population represented by region:
England: 83.9%
Scotland: 8.4%
Wales: 4.8%
(Mainland: 97.1%)
Northern Ireland: 2.9%.

The gender discrepancy can mostly be explained by different life expectancies, certainly amongst the existing population who are now aged over 50, as the differences in numbers become more pronounced and regular in the upper age bracket. As can be seen, the overall discrepancy is relatively consistent amongst the regions, except for Scotland, where it is around 3% (compared to 1.6-2% elsewhere, smallest in England).


UK Population by Ethnicity and Region

The ethnic break-up of the United Kingdom as a whole can be compiled from individual results for each region. In England and Wales, according to the 2011 report by the ONS, 86.0% of the population are classified as White (divided into ‘White British’ and ‘Any Other White’, with populations of 80.5% and 4.4% respectively). After this, the next largest groups are Indian (2.5%), Pakistani (2.0%) and Black African (1.8%). Overall, Asian and Asian British groups account for 7.5%, whilst Black African, Caribbean, Black British and others account for 3.3%. 14% of the English and Welsh population can be considered as belonging to non-white ethnic minorities. Wales itself is the least ethnically diverse region (closely followed by South West England), with 95.6% white population, 4.4% ethnic minorities. Using the population figures above (England 53,012,456; Wales 3,063,456; England and Wales 56,075,912), this amounts to numbers of approximately 2,928,663 white, 134,793 ethnic minorities in Wales. In England and Wales combined the figures will be 48,225,284 white; 7,850,628 ethnic minorities. Thus in England alone the figures are 45,296,621 (85.4%) white; 7,715,835 (14.6%) ethnic minorities.

The 2011 census results for Scotland show that 96% of the population are classified as White. Of the remaining 4% (Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Other Asian, African, Caribbean, Black British, Arab, and Other), the largest ethnic minority is Pakistani (1%). Asians make up around 3% of the population, and Black African, Caribbean and other around 1%. Thus from a total population of 5,295,000, approximately 5,038,200 are white, 275,000 ethnic minorities.

The representation of ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland is much smaller than in the rest of the UK, with 98.2% of Northern Ireland residents classified as White. From the remaining 1.8% split (in descending order of prominence between Chinese, Irish Traveller, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Other Asian, Black Caribbean, Black African, Black other, Mixed and Other). The largest ethnic minority in Northern Ireland, Chinese, accounts for just 0.35% of the population. Thus from a total population of 1,810,863, approximately 1,778,267 are white, 32,596 ethnic minorities.

If these figures are weighted relative to the population of each region, the following figures are obtained:

England: White 85.4%; Ethnic Minorities 14.6%.
Wales: White 95.6%; Ethnic Minorities 4.4%.
Scotland: White 96%; Ethnic Minorities 4%.
Northern Ireland: White 98.2%; Ethnic Minorities 1.8%.

From this, figures can be calculated for the mainland (population 61,370,912) and the UK as a whole (population 63,182,000). The population of the mainland, from the figures above, is approximately 53,263,484 white; 8,125,628 ethnic minorities. For the UK as a whole, the figures are approximately 55,041,751 white; 8,158,224 ethnic minorities. In percentage terms, this amounts to:

Mainland (England, Scotland and Wales): White 86.8%; Ethnic Minorities 13.2%.
UK: White 87.1%; Ethnic Minorities 12.9%.


UK Population by Education

Historical statistics for state or private education in England and Wales can be found in a 2012 report by Paul Bolton. They show a proportion of pupils educated at independent and direct grant schools falling from 8.1% to 5.7% between 1963 and 1978, then rising again, peaking around 1990 at around 7.4%, then falling slightly to around 6.5% in the years approaching 2000, then rising slightly again over the next decade, with a small fall from around 2010. The following figures are provided for percentages of pupils at independent schools at five yearly intervals from 1950 (from 1963 they apply to England alone):

1950: 4.6%
1955: 4.7%
1960: 5.3%
1965: 7.5%
1970: 6.5%
1975: 5.9%
1980: 5.9%
1985: 6.5%
1990: 7.4%
1995: 6.8%
2000: 6.7%
2005: 7.0%
2010: 7.1%
2011: 7.1%
2012: 7.0%

For those aged roughly between 25 and 70 in 2010, who thus were educated from age 7-18 between 1947 and 2003, I will take an average percentage from the figures from 1950 and 2005, which works out at around 6.2% of those in such an age range who were privately educated. For Wales the figure in 2011 was 1.9% and for Scotland in 2013 , 4.5%. Applying a weighting to these figures in line with that for the average over this period compared to the present number in England (thus 6.2/7) gives the following figures

For those aged between 25 and 70 in 2010:
England: 6.2% privately educated
Wales: 1.7% privately educated
Scotland: 4.0% privately educated

These three sets of figures can then be weighted according to the population of each mainland region (England 83.9%, Scotland: 8.4%, Wales: 4.8%), thus calculating (6.2*83.9/100) + (1.7*4.8/100) + (4*8.4/100) = 5.6% of the mainland UK population born aged between 25 and 70 in 2010 who were privately educated, and thus also 94.4% who were state educated.


Figures for MPs

The House of Commons website with data on elected MPs (see here and other pages linked to at this site), and the study of MPs compiled by the Smith Institute following the 2010 UK general election serve as the basis for most of my calculations. A few seats have changed hand following by-elections, but as these types of changes have generally been atypical of changes at general elections, I will use the figures from immediately after the election for my calculations. The following are the figures for those elected by party, with the brackets after the numbers giving the number of re-elected MPs, followed by the number of those newly elected.

Conservatives: 306 (166 + 140)
Labour: 258 (190 + 68)
Liberal Democrats: 57 (46 + 11)
Others: 28 (20 + 8) [Independent MPs: 1; Green: 1; Scottish National Party: 6; Plaid Cymru: 3; Democratic Unionist: 8; Sinn Fein: 5; Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3; Alliance: 1]
Speaker: 1
Total number of MPs: 650
Total number of MPs in three main parties (Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats): 621

I will concentrate solely on the three major parties, as the numbers of MPs represented by any of the others are generally too small to be able to discern meaningful trends. There are three measures of the representativeness of the MPs in each of these three parties which I will apply – in terms of gender, ethnicity (belonging or not belonging to an ethnic minority), and state/private education. The results are revealing.


MPs: Representation of Gender

Number of male/female MPs by party after 2010 UK General Election:

Conservatives: Male 257 (84.0%); Female 49 (16.0%).
Labour: Male 177 (68.7%); Female 81 (31.3%).
Liberal Democrats: Male 50 (87.7%); Female 7 (12.3%).
All three main parties: Male 484 (76.7%); Female 137 (23.3%).

These can be expressed relative to the numbers in the mainland UK as a whole (49.1% men, 50.9% women) by taking the taking the ratio of the representation in each party to that in the nation, converted into a percentage. So, for example, the ratio of male Liberal Democrat MPs (87.7%) compared to the percentage of the male mainland UK population (49.1%), expressed as a percentage, is 87.7/49.1*100 = 178.6% over-representation.

The figures for representation are thus as follows:

Conservatives: Male MPs 171.1% over-representation: Female MPs 31.4% under-representation.
Labour: Male MPs 139.9% over-representation: Female MPs 61.5% under-representation
Liberal Democrats: Male MPs 178.6% over-representation: Female MPs 24.2% under-representation:
All three main parties: Male MPs 156.2% over-representation: Female MPs 45.8% under-representation.


MPs: Representation of Ethnicity

Number of white/ethnic minority MPs by party after 2010 UK General Election:

Conservatives: White 295 (96.4%); Ethnic Minority 11 (3.6%)
Labour: White 242 (93.8%); Ethnic Minority 16 (6.2%).
Liberal Democrats: White 57 (100%); Ethnic Minority 0 (0%).
All three main parties: White 594 (94.1%); Ethnic Minority 27 (4.3%).

(It is worth noting here that the Liberal Democrats have only once ever had an ethnic minority MP, Parmjit Singh Gill, who only held the seat of Leicester South for less than one year after winning a by-election in July 2004, to be defeated in May 2005 – see http://www.theguardian.com/politics/person/6766/parmjit-singh-gill )

Using the same principle of measurement as for gender, representation can be calculated as follows, on the basis of percentages of 86.8% white, 13.2% ethnic minority for mainland UK:

Conservatives: Whites 111.1% over-representation; Ethnic Minorities 27.3% under-representation.
Labour: Whites 108.1% over-representation; Ethnic Minorities 47.0% under-representation.
Liberal Democrats: Whites 115.2% over-representation; Ethnic Minorities completely unrepresented.
All three main parties: Whites 108.4% over-representation; Ethnic Minorities 32.6% under-representation.


MPs: Representation of Educational Background

These calculations are a little more complicated than the previous two, because of the need to produce averages of those in the wider population who were educated in the state or private sector over a period of time (because of the varying ages of MPs). The Smith Institute gives the following figures for state and private (fee-paying) education of MPs elected or re-elected in 2010:

Labour: State 88%; Private 12%
Conservatives: State 46%; Private 54%
Liberal Democrats: State 59%; Private 41%
All MPs: State 66%; Private 34%

This can then be expressed as ratios relative to the figures for the population aged between 25 and 70 as given above. On the date of the 2010 General Election (May 6th), there were 15 MPs elected who were aged 70 or over – 13 Labour (Gerald Kaufman, Dennis Skinner, Stuart Bell, Joe Benton, David Winnick, Austin Mitchell, Paul Philip Flynn, Glenda Jackson, Ann Clwyd, David Allen Keen, Geoffrey Robinson, Michael Meacher and Frank Dobson) and 2 Conservatives (Peter Tapsell and Alan Haselhurst). The two Conservative MPs were both privately educated; of the 11 Labour MPs whose schools are known, 9 were educated in the state system, 2 at independent schools; the Labour figures roughly tally with the averages for the party, whilst the Conservative sample is too small to be significant. The youngest MP elected in 2010 was Pamela Nash, who was aged 25 at the time, so there were no MPs aged under 25.

The representation of state and privately educated persons in parliament can thus be easily calculated in the same manner as above, by taking a ratio of the percentage represented in parliament to the percentage in the nation as a whole, always using figures for those aged between 25 and 70 in 2010 (state educated 94.4%; privately educated 5.6%). Figures here are used just for the mainland, as no Northern Ireland MPs are not part of the sample.

The figures for each party then are:

Labour: State educated 93.2% under-representation; Privately educated 214.3% over-representation
Conservatives: State educated 48.7% under-representation: Privately educated 964.3% over-representation
Liberal Democrats: State educated 62.5% under-representation: Privately educated 732.1% over-representation.
All three main parties: State educated 70% under-representation: Privately educated 607.1% over-representation


Conclusion

In the three main parliamentary parties, by far the most over-represented group is the privately educated – 607.1% of their representation in the population as a whole. This is followed by male MPs, 156.2% of their representation in the population as a whole, and white MPs, 108.4%. If one looks however at under-representation, then ethnic minorities fair worst in terms of numbers of MPs, at just 32.6% of their representation in the population as a whole. This is followed by female MPs, at 45.8%, and then the state educated, at 70%. In all of these three measures, whether considering over- or under-representation, the Labour Party come out best, with the smallest under-representation of female, ethnic minority and state-educated MPs; the Liberal Democrats are worst in terms of under-representation of female and especially ethnic minority MPs; whilst the Conservative Party are worst in terms of massively disproportionate numbers of the privately educated, over-represented to a huge 964.3%, the worst of any type of over-representation.

Of the 49 Conservative women MPs, I was able to establish the education of 42: of these, one was home-schooled and another had a military education; of the remainder 17 were privately-educated, 23 state-educated, so the privately-educated are less disproportionately represented amongst female than male Conservatives (though still very much over-represented with a figure of around 42.5% privately educated (I will calculate similar figures for female Labour MPs at a later date, when time permits). Only 2 out of 49 (4.1%) female Conservative MPs belong to ethnic minorities (though this is still larger than the representation of ethnic minorities in the whole parliamentary party), however; for Labour the figure is 7 out of 81 (8.6%) (again larger).

There are wider questions to address and more detailed breakdowns of figures to consider (for example, the relationship between representation of ethnic minority MPs and constituencies with larger minority populations, not least in London and other major urban centres). But it is clear that more work is needed on all three fronts of Parliament is to be reasonably representative of the nation as a whole. Labour have gone the furthest to increasing the number of female and ethnic minority MPs, but both categories remain underrepresented; there have been some real moves by the Conservatives to do the same in recent times, which should not be ignored, but there is still a long way to go; as for the Liberal Democrats, their record on both is abysmal. But I have yet to hear of an initiative to redress the balance of state versus privately educated MPs (least of a problem for Labour, though even they should not be complacent); until the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats address this, Gove’s appropriation of the ‘Berlin Wall’ term is hollow and the both parties’ claims to representativeness are wafer-thin. It should be pointed out that it would be possible to have cabinets and shadow cabinets which contained roughly equal numbers of men and women, with members from ethnic minorities commensurate with their representation in the UK population; but if large percentages of these people remain privately educated, then they are still drawn predominantly from a mere 5.6% of the population, and claims to equality are meaningless.

I am not a professional statistician, and do not rule out the possibility that in the above there may have been some miscalculations, or that some of my methodologies might be open to question. I welcome any corrections in these respects; if I feel these to be appropriate, I will happily modify figures and if necessary conclusions as well.