Call for All Political Leaders and Leadership Candidates to Pledge Full Co-operation with Abuse InquiryPosted: July 9, 2015
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is now underway. Despite two previous chairs rightly standing down due to some of their connections, and unpleasant politics between some other panel members and other individuals, resulting in the loss of several very good people, nonetheless what is now in place is strong, focused, and has real powers. I am very pleased at the access to intelligence files and also the pledge that no-one who comes forward will face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. And personally, I am especially pleased that the Terms of Reference make clear that music tuition will be an area of investigation, for which I have campaigned qnd lobbied for several years. The website is at:
Some survivors and campaigners have unfortunately expressed grave reservations about the inquiry. I would implore them to at least try engaging with it, difficult though this might be, in full recognition of the fact that they have more reason than anyone to be distrustful of any such venture. But I believe the chair and panel do wish to get to the bottom of this terrible factor afflicting our society for so long, and help to build a better society in its place.
In an interview I gave earlier today for Sky News:
I called for the leaders of all the major political parties to pledge full co-operation with this inquiry (and make all relevant documentation available) and want to repeat this now, and hope others will help with urging publicly not only current leaders, but also leadership and deputy leadership candidates, to do so. Much evidence has come to light suggesting that abuse by senior politicians in many parties was either ignored or actively covered up, and that other politicians had connections to paedophile organisations. It is paramount that this is fully investigated in order to understand better how high-level abuse could go on for so long with apparent impunity.
So I ask people, journalists, campaigners, bloggers, tweeters and others to help keep the pressure on the following politicians in England and Wales to give such a pledge, and if not, explain not.
Leader: David Cameron
Future Leadership Candidates: Boris Johnson, George Osborne, Theresa May
Leader: Nick Clegg
Leadership Candidates: Tim Farron, Norman Lamb
Leader: Harriet Harman
Leadership Candidates: Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn
Deputy Leadership Candidates: Tom Watson, Stella Creasey, Ben Bradshaw, Angela Eagle, Caroline Flint
Leader: Nigel Farage
Leader: Natalie Bennett
Leader: Leanne Wood
I have been informed through a reliable source (not an MP or anyone working for one) that the Labour Party, upon consultation through the Home Office, who are desperate to avoid a third unsuitable chair for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, have nominated three possible candidates. These are:
Shami Chakrabarti, barrister and Director of Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties) since 2003.
Baroness (Helena) Kennedy QC, barrister specialising in human rights and civil liberties and Labour peer.
Michael Mansfield QC, well-known radical barrister, whose candidacy would certainly be supported by some survivors and their representatives.
These candidates, none of who appear suitable, do however demonstrate the problems with figures close to the Labour Party and associated left wing’s own ‘establishment’, and especially the field of civil liberties and NCCL, about whom there is considerable evidence of strong links to the Paedophile Information Exchange, who they arguably helped to legitimise. I have no doubt that Chakrabarti would do the job extremely well, but because of her position, it would be impossible to guarantee confidence that her work on NCCL would be seen to be fair and objective. I have yet to research properly the extent of Kennedy’s NCCL connections, but certainly there is every likelihood that she is close to many of the individuals who will come under scrutiny, such as Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman. Kennedy also chaired an episode of the late night discussion programme After Dark in 2003 in which former PIE chair Tom O’Carroll appeared. It was also recently reported in the Sunday Times that Kennedy had been offered the chair, but had turned it down. Mansfield was very close to NCCL and Harman, working together with her during the key period when the civil liberties organisation was connected to PIE.
All the political parties need to look for candidates for chair not in order to protect their own interests, seen thus as a ‘safe pair of hands’, but who has the requisite degree of independence to consider the major allegations of child abuse occurring at the hands of senior figures in each party, possibly protected by those parties. A political damage limitation exercise on the part of any party would make a mockery of the inquiry.
For my part, I would suggest consideration of lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith, who has done much work defending those on Death Row in the US, and inmates at Guantanamo Bay. Though his specialist area is not child sexual exploitation, Stafford-Smith is a principled individual whose work is mostly abroad, and so would seem to have had less regular contact with the multiple British establishments whose own sorry involvement needs proper scrutiny.
Be very sceptical about online communications laws which protect the powerful – social media and the right to offendPosted: October 20, 2014
Today the UK Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, clarified that what he called ‘a baying cyber-mob’ could face up to two years in jail under new laws. This refers to proposed amendments to the 1988 Malicious Communications Act, to quadruple the maximum sentence. Already, as modified in 2001 (modifications indicated), the law defines the following offence:
1. Offence of sending letters etc. with intent to cause distress or anxiety
Any person who sends to another person—
(a)a [F1 letter, electronic communication or article of any description] which conveys—
(i)a message which is indecent or grossly offensive;
(ii)a threat; or
(iii)information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender; or
(b)any [F2 article or electronic communication] which is, in whole or part, of an indecent or grossly offensive nature,
is guilty of an offence if his purpose, or one of his purposes, in sending it is that it should, so far as falling within paragraph (a) or (b) above, cause distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom he intends that it or its contents or nature should be communicated.
(2)A person is not guilty of an offence by virtue of subsection (1)(a)(ii) above if he shows—
(a)that the threat was used to reinforce a demand [F3 made by him on reasonable grounds]; and
(b)that he believed [F4, and had reasonable grounds for believing,] that the use of the threat was a proper means of reinforcing the demand.
[F5 (2A)In this section “electronic communication” includes—
(a)any oral or other communication by means of a telecommunication system (within the meaning of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (c. 12)); and
(b)any communication (however sent) that is in electronic form.]
(3)In this section references to sending include references to delivering [F6 or transmitting] and to causing to be sent [F7, delivered or transmitted] and “sender” shall be construed accordingly.
(4)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to [F8 imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both].
Under the new amendments, the maximum sentence would be two years.
Direct physical or other threats are indeed a worrying phenomenon of social media, as are any threats to politicians or others in public life, and I have no problem with these being criminalised. But it is clear that this law goes much further than that. In particular, the terms ‘indecent’ and ‘grossly offensive’ are very nebulous, and could be used in highly censorious ways, as I will attempt to demonstrate presently.
Amongst those cited in support of Grayling’s laws are former Conservative MP Edwina Currie and Labour MP Stella Creasy. A 33-year old man, Peter Nunn, received an 18-month sentence for abusive Twitter messages against Creasy. Yet Creasy’s rank hypocrisy was amply demonstrated when challenged by myself and various others some weeks ago to condemn a case where violence was not merely threatened but actually carried out, in a frenzied attack against Respect MP George Galloway by Neil Masterson, who appears to be a neo-fascist supporter of the Israeli government. The 60-year old Galloway was leaped on in a frenzied manner by the attacker, and suffered a broken jaw, suspected broken rib and severe bruising to the head and face through the attack. There were a shocking number of people posting online in many places to say Galloway deserved it.
Just a few prominent commentators made an issue of this. Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, drew attention to the fact that no political party leader, nor the Speaker of the House of Commons, had condemned this attack on Galloway, which Oborne called ‘beyond doubt an attack on British democracy itself’. He added:
Had an MP been attacked by some pro-Palestinian fanatic for his support of Israel, I guess there would have been a national outcry and rightly so. Why then the silence from the mainstream establishment following this latest outrageous assault on a British politician?
Times journalist Hugo Rifkind, no political supporter of Galloway, tweeted on 31/8 ‘What happened to @georgegalloway shouldn’t happen to any politician in this country. Horrifying. Hope he’s okay.’
Amongst the responses were one by @77annfield, who said ‘any physical attack is wrong but it was his personality that brought it on’ (i.e. he basically deserved it), a few days later by an @ElectroPig who said ‘It shouldn’t happen to an HONEST politician who actually gives a damn. The rest of the bastards? #FineByMe’.
No UK party leader nor prominent politician condemned this attack on a fellow MP. Can we presume that Creasy thinks physical assault is OK, or at least not much of an issue, when it is against a political opponent or someone she doesn’t like? I am quite sure that if Creasy had suffered such an attack, and had her jaw and ribs broken, Galloway would have wholeheartedly condemned it.
Edwina Currie is currently the subject of various scrutiny for her role in appointing Jimmy Savile to a taskforce to run Broadmoor prison,, where he was involved in widespread sexual abuse, and also for the fact that she knew about the paedophile activities of late Conservative MP Peter Morrison, but appeared to do nothing about it until she could use it in diaries she had to sell. She said on the subject of Grayling’s proposals:
Most people know the difference between saying something nice and saying something nasty, saying something to support, which is wonderful when you get that on Twitter, and saying something to wound which is very cruel and very offensive.
it should not be surprising if Currie only wants ‘nice’ things said about her, considering her record. But the freedom to say things which are cruel, very offensive, and may be designed to wound, is fundamental in a democracy, I would say, however much Currie may not wish it to be. I worry about the implications of this law more widely to be possibilities of political dissent and satire in an age in which electronic communications and social media play a more prominent role than ever.
With this in mind, I would strongly recommend watching the two part 1994 BBC series written and presented by Kenneth Baker (now Lord Baker), From Walpole’s Bottom to Major’s Underpants, tracing the history of the political cartoon.
The image below, produced anonymously in 1740, refers to Robert Walpole, Prime Minister from 1721 to 1742.
This dates from 1797, and is by Richard Newton, showing Pope Pius VI kissing the bare bottom of Napoléon Bonaparte.
More recently, this image from 1967, drawn by Gerald Scarfe for Private Eye, shows Harold Wilson pulling down the back of Lindon Baines Johnson’s trousers and pants, as a comment on the Vietnam War; the original image actually had Wilson’s tongue up Johnson’s bottom, but then-editor Richard Ingrams thought this was too much.
This 1988 image, Mirth and Girth by then School or Art Institute of Chicago student David K. Nelson Jr, is of former Chicago major Harold Washington. This picture was confiscated by Chicago police, though Nelson later won a federal lawsuit against the city on the grounds of the confiscation and damage to his picture.
This from 2006, by cartoonist Latuff, shows fundamentalist pro-Israel zealot Alan Dershowitz masturbating over the sight of carnage in Lebanon brought about through Israeli military action.
This cartoon from Martin Rowson from 2007 at the time of Tony Blair’s resignation as Prime Minister, hardly hides its ‘fuck off and die’ message.
And here, from 2012, is a Steve Bell cartoon portraying Angela Merkel as a dominatrix of Europe.
Other example would include a bare-breasted Margaret Thatcher on Spitting Image (which I have been unable to find to post here), and countless other images from that programme (look at the treatment of Cecil Parkinson, David Mellor or Sarah Ferguson, for example, after all were embroiled in sex scandals).
All of these could be more than plausibly described as ‘indecent’ (except perhaps the Rowson cartoon) and ‘grossly offensive’. They all appeared in mainstream publications, but what would happen if a cartoonist posted them online, and tweeted them, perhaps with the hashtag of their subjects included? If they would be liable for prosecution and possibly a two-year prison sentence, this would be an extremely worrying development indeed.
I have seen and experienced intimidation online by other pro-Israeli neo-fascists, who spread messages of sometimes violent hatred. Some students have been revealed to have been paid by the Israeli government to act as propagandists, and I would imagine some of the people I have encountered are amongst these. I cannot imagine these laws being used against them (and certainly have not heard of such a case), though in the future I could certainly imagined them being used to intimidate pro-Palestinian campaigners, by branding various views they might express (such as, for example, that the foundation of the state of Israel involved the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and cannot be accepted as legitimate) as ‘anti-semitic’, and as such constituting quasi-hate crimes against those to whom they are addressed. In neither of these cases is criminalisation appropriate.
In the UK, there is no written constitution as such, and thus no equivalent of the First Amendment to protect free speech. Many on both the left and the right would like to restrict the range of opinions capable of being expressed, at least through media they do not control (such as parts of the internet, as opposed to broadcast media over which the state has a monopoly or a press with whose owners successive Prime Ministers have an unhealthy relationship). But I believe very fundamentally in the right to the widest type of free speech when there is not a direct threat or incitement to something which is already a criminal act. And this would include views or statements which some will interpret as sexist, racist, anti-semitic, etc., or even a belief that terrible things should happen to someone, so long as this is not a direct incitement.
I generally block anyone on Twitter who says that anyone deserves to be hanged, to be raped in prison, or otherwise to be beaten up or mutilated – as often wished upon in the case of child abusers – or those who express approval for vigilantes or gangs thereof (including, for example, the female vigilante gangs in India). To my mind, those who do or wish such things are become little better than the abusers themselves. But I still do not believe at all that they should be criminalised for what they say.
In June, together with a group of others, I was involved in a Twitter campaign to get various MPs to add their names to those calling for a public inquiry into organised child abuse. As I discussed in a post I published on the eve of Simon Danczuk’s appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee (which moved the campaign into another gear), I did not feel the persistent hectoring approach taken by some (and encouraged in that respect by Exaro News) was necessarily very productive. However, the campaign as a whole did undoubtedly result in many more MPs adding their names than would have otherwise been the case, and this played a fundamental part in Home Secretary Theresa May’s agreeing to the inquiry. A few people, including Labour MP Eric Joyce, and for a while former Conservative MP Mark Reckless, complained that this amounted to ‘online bullying’ (a refrain also taken up by some journalistic opponents of an inquiry, and doubtless privately by many other politicians). I would be very worried that in the future such politicians could threaten Twitter activists with this law to dissuade them from running such a campaign. The same would apply to Edwina Currie and her condescending and arrogant approach to questions which are put to her concerning abuse, or to numerous other politicians. Examples of these might be Harriet Harman MP, who is naturally not going to be happy with numerous tweeters reminding her of her earlier activities which served to help the Paedophile Information Exchange and their ideologies, or Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf, proposed chair of the inquiry, who has recently deleted her Twitter account after a period which has seen many tweets asking her questions about the nature of her personal and professional connections to various people themselves likely to come under scrutiny as part of the inquiry.
Be very distrustful of any laws, or any expansion of sentences linked to a law, which receive support first and foremost from politicians or others in power looking to criminalise ordinary people who attack them (when not in a manner actually constituting obviously criminal attack, as with Galloway). With more and more revelations coming to light about politicians, abuse and the corruption of power, there will be many angry people, some of whose statements to politicians on social media may unsurprisingly be intemperate. Do not let those politicians get away with criminalising their critics. So long as there are no direct threats involved, members of the public in a democracy should be free to be as harsh and offensive to politicians as they choose.
But I would ask whether the following hypothetical tweets would lead to two-year jail sentences against those who sent them?
@JimmySavile You are a vile abuser of children and necrophiliac protected at high levels of government
@PeterRighton Your proposed childcare reforms will make it easier for you to rape boys in homes
@PatriciaHewitt You submitted document to government saying child abuse does no harm, paedo defender
@PeterMorrison Did you miss the division bell because you were too busy seeking out adolescents in public toilets?
@CyrilSmith You are a hideous, obese and arrogant ass whose jokey exterior masks boy-raping scum
[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)
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.
Over on the Spotlight blog, a series of important articles have been posted on paedophilia in academia, focusing on the work of sociologist Ken Plummer at the University of Essex, Len Davis, formerly Lecturer in Social Work at Brunel University, and Donald J. West, Professor of Clinical Criminology at the University of Cambridge. There is much more to be written on the issue of the acceptance of and sometimes propaganda for paedophilia in academic contexts; I have earlier published on the pederastic scholarly writings of Clifford Hindley (formerly a senior civil servant at the Home Office alleged to have secured funding for the Paedophile Information Exchange), as well as the pro-paedophile views of leading feminist and Cambridge University Lecturer Germaine Greer. In several fields, including sociology, social work, classical studies, art history, music, literature and above all gender and sexuality studies, there is much to be read produced in a academic environment, and published by scholarly presses, which goes some way towards the legitimisation of paedophilia. In July, Andrew Gilligan published an article on this subject as continues to exist in some academic summer conferences (Andrew Gilligan, ‘Paedophilia is natural and normal for males’, Sunday Telegraph, July 6th, 2014), whilst Eileen Fairweather has written about how easily many in academia were taken in by the language and rhetoric of PIE, as they ‘adroitly hijacked the language of liberation’, presented themselves in opposition to ‘patriarchy’ and would brand critics homophobic (Eileen Fairweather, ‘We on the Left lacked the courage to be branded ‘homophobic’, so we just ignored it. I wish I hadn’t’, Telegraph, February 22nd, 2014). Back in 1998 Chris Brand, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh, was removed from his post after advocating that consensual paedophilia with an intelligent child was acceptable (see Alastair Dalton, ‘Brand loses job fight over views on child sex’ The Scotsman, March 25th, 1988, reproduced at the bottom of this), but such cases are rare.
I would never advocate censorship of this material or research of this type, but I believe it to be alarming how little critical attention this type of material appears to receive, perhaps still because it is taboo in certain circles to criticise anything which in particular attaches itself to the cause of gay rights (just as victims of female abusers, or researchers into the subject, find themselves under continual attack from some feminists who would prefer for such abuse to continue than for it to disturb their tidy ideologies – see my earlier post on child abuse and identity politics).
I have over a period of time been assembling information on what I would call a paedophile ‘canon’ of writings, many of them produced by academics, which use similar ideologies and rhetoric to attempt to normalise and legitimise paedophilia. Detail on this will have to wait until a later date; for now, I want to draw attention to some of the writings of Emeritus Professor of Sociology and University Director of Research at South Bank University Jeffrey Weeks, previously Executive Dean of Arts and Human Sciences and Dean of Humanities. Rarely has Weeks’ work been subject to critique of this type (one notable exception is Mary Macleod and Esther Saga, ‘A View from the Left: Child Sexual Abuse’, in Martin Loney, Robert Bocock, et al (eds), The State or the Market: Politics and Welfare in Contemporary Britain (London: Sage Books, 1991), pp. 103-110, though this is problematic in other respects).
Weeks was described in a hagiographic article from 2008 as ‘the most significant British intellectual working on sexuality to emerge from the radical sexual movements of the 1970s’ (Matthew Waites, ‘Jeffrey Weeks and the History of Sexuality’, History Workshop Journal, Vol. 69, No. 1 (2010), pp. 258-266), having been involved the early days of the Gay Liberation Front and their branch formed at the London School of Economics in 1970. He published first in Gay News, and was a founding member of the Gay Left collective; their ‘socialist journal’ included several pro-paedophile articles (all can be downloaded here – see in particular issues 7 and 8). Weeks’ first book, Socialism and the New Life: the Personal and Sexual Politics of Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis (London: Pluto Press, 1977) was co-authored with Sheila Rowbotham; Rowbotham wrote on Edward Carpenter, who was a key member of the ‘Uranian’ poets, who have been described as ‘the forerunners of PIE’; the volume completely ignored any of this.
In the preface to the paedophile volume The Betrayal of Youth: Radical Perspectives on Childhood Sexuality, Intergenerational Sex, and the Social Oppression of Children and Young People (London: CL Publications, 1986), editor Warren Middleton (aka John Parratt, former vice-chair of the Paedophile Information Exchange and editor of Understanding Paedophilia, who was later jailed for possession of indecent images), acknowledged Weeks gratefully alongside members of the PIE Executive Committee and others who had ‘read the typescripts, made useful suggestion, and, where necessary, grammatical corrections’.
Here I am reproducing passages from four of Weeks’ books, which should make his positions relatively clear. The first gives a highly sanitised view of the paedophile movements PAL and PIE, accepting completely at face value the idea that they were simply ‘a self-help focus for heterosexual as well as homosexual pedophiles, giving mutual support to one another, exchanging views and ideas and encouraging research’, whose ‘method was the classical liberal one of investigation and public debate’ (rather than a contact group for abusers and for sharing images of child abuse, as was well-known and documented by this stage), and more concerned about the tabloid reaction than about their victims. It is a lousy piece of scholarship as well, considering this is a revised edition from 1997 (the book was earlier published in 1977, 1980 and 1993); Weeks breaks one of the first principles of scholarship by shelving information which does not suit his a priori argument, thus saying nothing about the various members of PIE who had been convicted and imprisoned (or fled the country) for offences against children, including most of its leading members, claiming that the involvement of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality was due to its being ‘gratutiously dragged in’, ignoring the fact of their having made public statements of support at their 1974 conference (of which Weeks, at the centre of this movement, would have been well-aware). The second, on ‘intergenerational sex’ (an academic term used to make paedophilia sound more acceptable) is backed up by a range of references which is almost like a who’s who of paedophile advocates, many treated as if reliable scholarly sources rather than the child abuse propaganda they are. In common with many left-liberal writers on paedophilia, he does not endorse sex between adult men and young girls, but applies a very different set of standards when boys are concerned. The third passage is more subtle, appearing to distance Weeks from the view of J.Z. Eglinton and others, but again (drawing upon Brian Taylor’s contribution to the volume Perspectives on Paedophilia) ends up trying to make distinctions in such a way that some child abuse is made less serious. The fourth takes an angle familiar from Peter Righton and others; as abuse mostly takes place in the family, the risks from other types of paedophiles end up being little more than a moral panic.
Weeks’ minimisation of concern about sexual exploitation of boys, and concomitant greater sympathy with gay abusers than their victims, resonates with the view coming from the Labour Party at the moment, with the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper determined to make child abuse purely an issue affecting girls. Furthermore, the Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, as is now well-known, was involved at the centre of the National Council for Civil Liberties when they were closely linked to PIE (whose membership were overwhelmingly adult males looking to have sexual relations with boys). Under General Secretary Patricia Hewitt, NCCL submitted a document in 1976 to the Criminal Law Revision Committee, arguing amongst other things that ‘Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage. The Criminal Law Revision Committee should be prepared to accept the evidence form follow-up research on child ‘victims’ which show that there is little subsequent effect after a child has been ‘molested’’, echoing PIE’s own submission on the subject. Harman was not involved with NCCL until two years later, but there is nothing to suggest policy changed during her time or she had any wish to change it, whilst during her tenure NCCL went on to advertise in PIE’s house journal Magpie, and had Nettie Pollard, PIE member No. 70, as their Gay and Lesbian Officer. This was the heyday of PIE, and the support of NCCL was a significant factor. Harman, quite incredibly, went on to make paedophile advocate Hewitt godmother to her sons. Cooper is of a different generation, but all her pronouncements suggest the same contemptuous attitude towards young boys, seeing them only as threats to girls and near-animals requiring of taming, rarely thinking about their needs nor treating them as the equally sensitive and vulnerable people they are; with this in mind, abuse of boys is an issue she almost never mentions. It is alarming to me that both Harman and Cooper have parented sons and yet appear to be entirely unwilling to accept that boys deserve equal love and respect, nor keen to confront the scale of organised institutional abuse of boys
Though considering the number of stories involving Labour figures alleged to have abused or colluded with the abuse of young boys (I think of the cases in Leicester, Lambeth, the relationship of senior Labour figures to PIE, not just Harman, her husband Dromey, and Hewitt, but also former leadership candidate Bryan Gould, who made clear his endorsement for the organisation (see also this BBC feature from earlier this year; the relationship of the late Jo Richardson to the organisation also warrants further investigation), not to mention the vast amount of organised abuse which was able to proceed unabated in Islington children’s homes when the council was led by Margaret Hodge, who incredibly was later appointed Children’s Minister, the allegations around former Speaker of the House of Commons George Thomas aka Lord Tonypandy, and some other members of the New Labour government who have been identified as linked to Operation Ore; and the support and protection afforded to Peter Righton by many on the liberal left), it is not surprising if the Labour frontbench want to make the sexual abuse of boys a secondary issue. This is unfortunately a common liberal-left view, and a reason to fear the consequences of some such people being in charge of children at all, whether as parents or in other roles. There are those who see young boys purely as a problem, little more than second-best girls, to be metaphorically beaten into shape, though always viewed as dangerous, substandard, and not to be trusted; this in itself is already a type of abuse, but such a view also makes it much easier to overlook the possibility their being sexually interfered with and anally raped (not to mention also being the victims of unprovoked violence) – the consequences are atrocious. Many young boys were sexually abused by members of the paedophile organisation that Harman, Hewitt, Dromey et al helped to legitimise (I am of a generation with many of the boys who appeared in sexualized pictures aged around 10 or under in the pages of Magpie; I was fortunate in avoiding some of their fate, others were not); it is right that they should never be allowed to forget this, and it thoroughly compromises their suitability for public office. The Labour Party and the liberal left in general, have a lot of work to do if they are not to be seen as primary advocates for and facilitators for boy rape. In no sense should this be seen as any type of attack on the fantastic work done by MPs such as Simon Danczuk, Tom Watson or John Mann, or many other non-politicians working in a similar manner; but the left needs rescuing from a middle-class liberal establishment who are so blinkered by ideology as to end up dehumanising and facilitating the sexual abuse of large numbers of people. Weeks, Plummer, West, Davies, Greer, Millett, Hindley, and others I will discuss on a later occasion such as Mary McIntosh, are all part of this tendency.
Jeffrey Weeks, Coming Out: Homosexual Politics in Britain from the Nineteenth Century to the Present, revised and updated edition (London & New York: Quartet Books, 1997)
‘Even more controversial and divisive was the question of pedophilia. Although the most emotive of issues, it was one which centrally and radically raised the issue of the meaning and implications of sexuality. But it also had the disadvantage for the gay movement that it threatened to confirm the persistent stereotype of the male homosexual as a ‘child molester’. As a result, the movement generally sought carefully to distance itself from the issue. Recognition of the centrality of childhood and the needs of children had been present in post-1968 radicalism, and had found its way into early GLF ideology. The GLF gave its usual generous support to the Schools Action Union, a militant organization of schoolchildren, backed the short-lived magazine Children’s Rights in 1972, campaigned against the prosecutions of Oz (for the schoolchildren’s issue) and the Little Red Schoolbook. But the latter, generally a harmless and useful manual for children, illustrated the difficulties of how to define sexual contact between adults and children in a non-emotive or moralistic way. In its section on this, the Little Red Schoolbook stressed, rightly, that rape or violence were rare in such contacts, but fell into the stereotyped reaction by talking of ‘child molesting’ and ‘dirty old men’: ‘they’re just men who have nobody to sleep with’; and ‘if you see or meet a man like this, don’t panic, go and tell your teacher or your parents about it’. 
But the issue of childhood sexuality and of pedophile relationships posed massive problems both of sexual theory and of social practice. If an encounter between child and adult was consensual and mutually pleasurable, in what way could or should it be deemed harmful? This led on to questions of what constituted harm, what was consent, at what age could a child consent, at what age should a child be regarded as free from parental control, by what criteria should an adult sexually attracted to children be judged responsible? These were real questions which had to be faced if any rational approach was to emerge, but too often they were swept aside in a tide of revulsion.
A number of organizations in and around the gay movement made some effort to confront these after 1972 on various levels. Parents Enquiry, established in South London in 1972 by Rose Robertson, attempted to cope with some of the problems of young homosexuals, particularly in their relationships with their parents. Her suburban middle-class respectability gave her a special cachet, and with a series of helpers she was able to help many young people to adjust to their situation by giving advice, holding informal gatherings, mediating with parents and the authorities.  More radical and controversial were two pedophile self-help organizations which appeared towards the end of 1974: PAL (originally standing for Pedophile Action for Liberation) and PIE (Pedophile Information Exchange). Their initial stimulus was the hostility they felt to be directed at their sexual predilections within the gay movement itself, but they both intended to act as a self-help focus for heterosexual as well as homosexual pedophiles, giving mutual support to one another, exchanging views and ideas and encouraging research. The sort of gut reaction such moves could provoke was illustrated by a Sunday People ‘exposé’ of PAL, significantly in the Spring Bank Holiday issue in 1975. It was headed ‘An Inquiry that will Shock every Mum and Dad’, and then, in its boldest type, ‘The Vilest Men in Britain’.  Despite the extreme hyperbole and efforts of the paper and of Members of Parliament, no criminal charges were brought, since no illegal deeds were proved. But it produced a scare reaction in parts of the gay movement, especially as CHE had been gratuitously dragged in by the newspaper.
Neither of the pedophile groups could say ‘do it’ as the gay liberation movement had done, because of the legal situation. Their most hopeful path lay in public education and in encouraging debate about the sexual issues involved. PIE led the way in this regard, engaging in polemics in various gay and non-gay journals, conducting questionnaires among its membership (about two hundred strong) and submitting evidence to the Criminal Law Revision Committee, which was investigating sexual offences.  PIE’s evidence, which advocated formal abolition of the age of consent while retaining non-criminal provisions to safeguard the interests of the child against violence, set the tone for its contribution. Although openly a grouping of men and women sexually attracted to children (and thus always under the threat of police investigation), the delicacy of its position dictated that its method was the classical liberal one of investigation and public debate. Significantly, the axes of the social taboo had shifted from homosexuality to conceptually disparate forms of sexual variation. For most homosexuals this was a massive relief, and little enthusiasm was demonstrated for new crusades on wider issues of sexuality. (pp. 225-227)
28. Sven Hansen and Jasper Jensen, The Little Red School-book, Stage 1, 1971, p. 103. See the ‘Appeal to Youth’ in Come Together, 8, published for the GLF Youth Rally, 28 August 1971.
29. See her speech to the CHE Morecambe Conference, quoted in Gay News, 21.
30. Sunday People, 25 May 1975. For the inevitable consequences of this type of unprincipled witchhunt, see South London Press, 30 May 1975: ‘Bricks hurled at “sex-ring” centre house’, describing an attack on one of the addresses named in the Sunday People article.
31. There is a brief note on PIE’s questionnaire in New Society, vol. 38, No. 736, 11 November 1976, p. 292 (‘Taboo Tabled’).
Jeffrey Weeks, Sexuality and its Discontents: Meanings, Myths & Modern Sexualities (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985).
Intergenerational sex and consent
If public sex constitutes one area of moral anxiety, another, greater, one, exists around intergenerational sex. Since at least the eighteenth century children’s sexuality has been conventionally defined as a taboo area, as childhood began to be more sharply demarcated as an age of innocence and purity to be guarded at all costs from adult corruption. Masturbation in particular became a major topic of moral anxiety, offering the curious spectacle of youthful sex being both denied and described, incited and suppressed. ‘Corruption of youth’ is an ancient charge, but it has developed a new resonance over the past couple of centuries. The real curiosity is that while the actuality is of largely adult male exploitation of young girls, often in and around the home, male homosexuals have frequently been seen as the chief corrupters, to the extent that in some rhetoric ‘homosexual’ and ‘child molesters’ are coequal terms. As late as the 1960s progressive texts on homosexuality were still preoccupied with demonstrating that homosexuals were not, by and large, interested in young people, and even in contemporary moral panics about assaults on children it still seems to be homosexual men who are investigated first. As Daniel Tsang has argued, ‘the age taboo is much more a proscription against gay behaviour than against heterosexual behaviour.’  Not surprisingly, given this typical association, homosexuality and intergenerational sex have been intimately linked in the current crisis over sexuality.
Alfred Kinsey was already noting the political pay-off in child-sex panics in the late 1940s. In Britain in the early 1960s Mrs Mary Whitehouse launched her campaigns to clean up TV, the prototype of later evangelical campaigns, on the grounds that children were at risk, and this achieved a strong resonance. Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign in Florida from 1976 was not accidentally called ‘Save Our Children, Inc.’. Since these pioneering efforts a series of moral panics have swept countries such as the USA, Canada, Britain and France, leading to police harassment of organisations, attacks on publications, arrests of prominent activists, show trials and imprisonments.  Each panic shows the typical profile, with the escalation through various stages of media and moral manipulation until the crisis is magically resolved by some symbolic action. The great ‘kiddie-porn’ panic in 1977 in the USA and Britain led to the enactment of legislation in some 35 American states and in Britain. The guardians of morality may have given up hope of changing adult behaviour, but they have made a sustained effort to protect our young, whether from promiscuous gays, lesbian parents or perverse pornographers. 
From the point of view of moral absolutism intergenerational sex poses no problem of interpretation. It is wrong because it breaches the innocence necessary for mature development. The English philosopher, Roger Scruton, suggested that we are disgusted by it ‘because we subscribe, in our hearts, to the value of innocence’. Prolonged innocence is the prerequisite to total surrender in adult love. Erotic love, he argues, arises from modesty, restraint and chastity. This means ‘we must not only foster those necessary virtues, but also silence those who teach the language which demeans them.’  So ‘intolerance’ is not only understandable but virtually necessary—there are no liberal concessions here.
Liberals and radicals on the other hand have found it more difficult to confront the subject. It does not easily fit into the rhetoric of rights—whose rights, and how are they to be expressed: the child’s, the adult’s? Nor can it be dealt with straightforwardly by the idea of consent. Kinsey argued that in a sense this was a non issue: there was no reason, except our exaggerated fear of sexuality, why a child should be disturbed at seeing the genitalia of others, or at being played with, and it was more likely to be adult reactions that upset the child than the sexual activity itself.  This has been echoed by the advocates of intergenerational sex themselves. David Thorstad of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) argued that ‘if it feels good, and the boy wants it and enjoys it, then I fail to see why anyone besides the two persons involved should care.’ Tom O’Carroll, whose Paedophilia: The Radical Case is the most sustained advocacy of the subject, suggested that:
The usual mistake is to believe that sexual activity, especially for children, is so alarming and dangerous that participants need to have an absolute, total awareness of every conceivable ramification of taking part before they can be said to consent…there is no need whatever for a child to know ‘the consequences’ of engaging in harmless sex play, simply because it is exactly that: harmless. 
There are two powerful arguments against this. The first, put forward by many feminists, is that young people, especially young girls, do need protection from adult men in an exploitative and patriarchal society, whatever the utopian possibilities that might exist in a different society. The age of consent laws currently in operation may have degrees of absurdity about them (they vary from state to state, country to country, they differentially apply to girls and boys, and they are only selectively operated) but at least they provide a bottom line in the acceptance of appropriate behaviour. This suggests that the real debate should be about the appropriate minimum age for sex rather than doing away with the concept of consent altogether.  Secondly, there is the difficult and intricate problem of subjective meaning. The adult is fully aware of the sexual connotations of his actions because he (and it is usually he) lives in a world of heavily sexualised symbols and language. The young person does not. In a recent study of twenty-five boys engaged in homosexual paedophile relations the author, Theo Sandfort, found that ‘Potentially provocative acts which children make are not necessarily consciously intended to be sexual and are only interpreted by the older persons as having a sexual element.’  This indicates an inherent and inevitable structural imbalance in awareness of the situation. Against this, it might be argued that it is only the exalted cultural emphasis we place on sex that makes this an issue. That is undoubtedly true, but it does not remove the fact of that ascribed importance. We cannot unilaterally escape the grid of meaning that envelops us.
This is tactily accepted by paedophile activists themselves who have found it necessary to adopt one or other (and sometimes both) of two types of legitimation. The first, the ‘Greek love’, legitimation basically argues for the pedagogic value of adult-child relations, between males. It suggests—relying on a mythologised version of ancient Greek practices—that in the passage from childhood dependence to adult responsibilities the guidance, sexual and moral, of a caring man is invaluable. This position is obviously paternalistic and is also often antihomosexual; for it is not the gay nature of the relationship that is stressed, but the age divide and the usefulness of the experience for later heterosexual adjustment. The second legitimation relies on the facts of childhood sexuality. O’Carroll carefully assesses the evidence for the existence of childhood sex to argue for the oppressiveness of its denial.  But of course an ‘is’ does not necessarily make an ‘ought’, nor does the acceptance of childhood sex play inevitably mean the toleration of adult-child relations.
It is difficult to confront the issue rationally because of the series of myths that shroud the topic. But all the available evidence suggests that the stereotypes of intergenerational sex obscure a complex reality.  The adult is usually seen as ‘a dirty old man’, typically ‘a stranger’ to the assaulted child, as ‘sick’ or an ‘inhuman monster’. Little of this seems to be true, at least of those we might describe as the political paedophile. He is scarcely an ‘old man’ (the membership of the English Paedophile Information Exchange, PIE, varied in age from 20 to over 60, with most clustered between 35 and 40); he is more likely to be a professional person than the average member of the population (only 14 per cent of PIE members were blue collar workers); he is more often than not a friend or relation of the child; and to outward appearances is not a ‘special type of person’ but an apparently healthy and ordinary member of the community. His chief distinguishing characteristic is an intense, but often highly affectionate and even excessively sentimental, regard for young people. 
The sexual involvement itself is typically seen as being an assault on extremely young, usually pre-pubertal, people. The members of PIE, which generally is preoccupied with relations with pre-pubertal children, seem chiefly interested in boys between 12 and 14, though heterosexual paedophiles tended to be interested in girls between 8 and 10. This is less startling than the stereotype of babies barely out of the cradle being assaulted but poses nevertheless difficult questions about where protection and care ends and exploitation begins. Most members of NAMBLA, on the other hand, which has attracted obloquy in the USA as great as PIE has attracted in Britain, have a quite different profile. They appear to be chiefly interested in boys between 14 and 19. As Tom Reeves, a prominent spokesman for man/boy love, has put it:
My own sexuality is as little concerned with children, however, as it is with women. It is self-consciously homosexual, but it is directed at boys at that time in their lives when they cease to be children yet refuse to be men. 
Self-identified ‘boy-lovers’ like Reeves scarcely fit into any conceivable picture of a ‘child molester’. They carefully distinguish their own practices from sex between men and girls which ‘seems to be a reprehensible form of power tripping as it has been reported by women’; and stress the beneficial aspects for adult and young partners of the sexual relationship.
When the official age of consent in France is 15 for boys and girls in heterosexual and homosexual relations (compared to 16 for girls in Britain, and 21 for male homosexuals), and when in the 1890s Krafft-Ebing fixed on 14 for the dividing line between sexually mature and immature individuals,  the fear that NAMBLA is attempting a corruption of young people seems excessive.
The young people themselves are typically seen as innocent victims. Certainly, many children are cruelly assaulted by adults, but in relations involving self-identified paedophiles or ‘boy lovers’ there seems to be no evidence of either cruelty or violence. Sandfort found that in his sample the boys overwhelmingly experienced their sexual activities as positive. The most common evaluative terms used were ‘nice’, ‘happy’, ‘free’, ‘safe’, ‘satisfied’, and even ‘proud’ and ‘strong’; and only minimally were negative terms such as ‘angry’, ‘sad’, ‘lonely’ used. Even when these negative terms were used, it was largely because of the secrecy often necessary and the knowledge of hostile norms and reactions, not because of the sexual contact itself.  There is strong evidence that the trauma of public exposure and of parental and police involvement is often greater than the trauma of the sex itself. Moreover, many adult-child relations are initiated by the young person himself. A young member of NAMBLA was asked ‘You can be desperate for sex at 13?’ He replied, ‘Oh yes’.  Force seems to be very rare in such relations, and there is little evidence amongst self-declared paedophiles or ‘boy lovers’ of conscious exploitation of young people.
All this suggests that intergenerational sex is not a unitary category. Brian Taylor has distinguished eight possible categories which pinpoints the existence of ‘paedophilias’ rather than a single ‘paedophilia’. There are the conventional distinctions between ‘paedophiles’ (generally those interested in prepubertal sex partners), ‘pederasts’ (those interested in boys) and ‘ephobophiles’ (those interested in adolescents). But distinctions can also be made on gender of the older person or the younger person and along lines of homosexuality and heterosexuality. This variety suggests we need to be equally discrete in our responses.  There are three continuums of behaviour and attitude which interweave haphazardly. Firstly, there is a continuum of beliefs and attitudes, from the actual violent assaulter at one end to the political paedophile at the other. These can not readily be put in the same class for approval or disapproval. Most people brought before the courts for child abuse are heterosexual men who usually view their girl victims as substitutes for real women. Most activists who court publicity (and risk imprisonment themselves, as happened to Tom O’Carroll of PIE in 1981) have adopted a political identity, which sometimes does not coincide with their actual sexual desires (both NAMBLA and PIE had members interested in older teenagers) but is built around an exaggerated respect for children.  It is not obvious that all people involved in intergenerational sex should be treated in the same way by the law or public opinion if intentions or desires are very distinct.
A second continuum is of sexual practices. Some researchers have found coitus rare. It seems that the great majority of heterosexual paedophilia consists of ‘sex play’, such as looking, showing and fondling, and much homosexual involvement seems to be similar. Tom O’Carroll has suggested that these sexual distinctions should be codified, so that intercourse would be prohibited before a certain minimum age of twelve.  But bisecting these nuances, problematical in themselves, are two other crucial distinctions, between boy partners and girl, and between heterosexual and homosexual relations. There is a strong case for arguing that it is not the sex act in itself which needs to be evaluated, but its context. It is difficult to avoid the justice of the feminist argument that in our culture it is going to be very difficult for a relationship between a heterosexual man and a young girl to be anything but exploitative and threatening, whatever the sexual activity. It is the power asymmetry that has effect. There is still a power imbalance between an adult man and a young boy but it does not carry the socio-sexual implications that a heterosexual relation inevitably does. Should these different types of relation carry the same condemnation?
The third continuum covers the age of the young people involved. There is obviously a qualitative difference between a 3-year-old partner and a 14-year-old and it is difficult to see how any sexual order could ever ignore this (even the PIE proposals, which first sparked off the panic about paedophile cradle snatching in Britain, actually proposed a set of protections for very young children). ‘Sex before eight, or it’s too late’, the reputed slogan of the American René Guyon Society, founded in 1962 to promote intergenerational sex, is not likely to inspire widespread support, because it imposes sex as an imperative just as now our moral guardians would impose innocence. There is a strong case for finding non-legal means of protecting young children, as Tom O’Carroll has suggested, because it is clear that the law has a damaging and stigmatising impact.  But protection of the very young from unwanted attentions will always be necessary. The difficult question is when does protection become stifling paternalism and ‘adult oppression’. Puberty is one obvious landmark, but the difficulty of simply adopting this as a dividing point is that physiological change does not necessarily coincide with social or subjective changes. It is here that it is inescapably necessary to shift focus, to explore the meanings of the sex play for the young people involved.
Kate Millett has powerfully underlined the difficulties of intergenerational sex when adult/child relations are irreducibly exploitative, and pointed to the problems of a paedophile movement which is arguing for the rights of adults. What is our freedom fight about? she asks. ‘Is it about the liberation of children or just having sex with them?’  If a progressive sexual politics is fundamentally concerned with sexual self-determination then it becomes impossible to ignore the evolving self-awareness of the child. That means discouraging the unwelcome imposition of adult meanings and needs on the child, not simply because they are sexual but because they are external and adult. On the other hand, it does mean providing young people with full access to the means of sexual knowledge and protection as it becomes appropriate. There is no magic age for this ‘appropriateness’. Each young person will have their own rhythms, needs and time scale. But the starting point can only be the belief that sex in itself is not an evil or dirty experience. It is not sex that is dangerous but the social relations which shape it. In this context the idea of consent takes on a new meaning. There is a tension in consent theory between the political conservatism of most of its adherents, and the radical voluntarism implicit in it. 50 For the idea of consent ultimately challenges all authority in the name of free self-determination. Certain categories of people have always been deemed incapable of full consent or of refusing ‘consent’—women in marriage, certain children, especially girls, under a certain age, classes of women in rape cases. By extending the idea of consent beyond the narrow limits currently employed in minimum age or age of consent legislation, by making it a positive concept rather than simply a negatively protective or gender-dichotomised one, it may become possible to realize that radical potential again. That would transform the debate about intergenerational sex, shifting the focus away from sex in itself to the forms of power in which it is enmeshed, and the limits these inscribe for the free play of consent. (pp. 223-231)
29. See, for example, Daniel Tsang, ‘Struggling Against Racism’ in Tsang (ed.), The Age Taboo, pp. 161-2.
30. Ibid., p. 8. There are plentiful examples of the automatic association made between male homosexuality and child molesting. In the year I write this, 1983, there has been a rich crop of them in Britain, with the low point being reached in the Brighton rape case, August 1983, where a deplorable assault on a young boy led to a rapacious press attack on the local gay community and legal action against members of the Paedophile Information Exchange, who were in no way connected with the case. The moral panic had found its victims; calm was restored; but the three men who actually assaulted the child were never found.
31. Kinsey et al., Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p. 117, note 16; Mary Whitehouse, Cleaning-up TV. From Protest to Participation, London, Blandford Press, 1967, and A Most Dangerous Woman?, Tring, Herts, Lion Publishing, 1982; Anita Bryant, The Anita Bryant Story. For general commentaries on events see the articles in Tsang, The Age Taboo; Altman, The Homosexualization of America, pp. 198ff; Mitzel, The Boston Sex Scandal, Boston, Glad Day Books, 1980; Tom O’Carroll, Paedophilia: The Radical Case, London, Peter Owen, 1980, ch. 12; Ken Plummer, ‘Images of Paedophilia’ in M. Cook and G.D. Wilson (eds), Love and Attraction: An International Conference, Oxford, Pergamon, 1979; Major events included the Revere ‘Sex Scandal’ in Boston, the raid on Body Politic following its publication of the article ‘Men Loving Boys Loving Men’ in Dec. 1977; the ‘kiddie porn’ panic of 1977; the trial of Tom O’Carroll and others in England for conspiracy to corrupt public morals in 1981.
32. Pat Califia, ‘The Age of Consent; An Issue and its Effects on the Gay Movement’, The Advocate, 30 October 1980, p. 17. See also Florence Rush, ‘Child Pornography’ in Lederer (ed.), Take Back the Night, pp. 71-81; Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission, Sexual Exploitation of Children, Chicago, The Commission, 1980 (see further references in Tsang, op. cit., pp. 169-70); and on similar events in Britain Whitehouse, A Most Dangerous Woman?, ch. 13, ‘Kiddie Porn’, pp. 146ff.
33. Roger Scruton, The Times (London), 13 September 1983.
34. Kinsey et al., Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p. 121.
35. Interview by Guy Hocquenghem with David Thorstad in Semiotext(e) Special: Large Type Series: Loving Boys, Summer 1980, p. 34; Tom O’Carroll, Paedophilia, p. 153.
36. See, for example, ‘“Lesbians Rising” Editors Speak Out’ in Tsang, op. cit., pp. 125-32; Stevi Jackson, Childhood and Sexuality, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1982, ch. 9. See also, Elizabeth Wilson’s comments on the debate about proposals to lower the age of consent in England in What is to be Done about Violence against Women? p. 205.
37. Theo Sandfort, The Sexual Aspects of Paedophile Relations: The Experience of Twenty-Five Boys, Amsterdam, Pan/Spartacus, 1982, p. 81.
38. Kenneth Plummer, ‘The Paedophile’s Progress’ in Brian Taylor (ed.), Perspectives on Paedophilia. See J.Z. Eglinton, Greek Love, London, Neville Spearman, 1971 for a classic statement of the first legitimation, and O’Carroll, Paedophilia, especially chs 2 and 5 for the second.
39. For an overview of these stereotypes (and the facts which rebut them) to which I am very much indebted, see Plummer, ‘Images of Paedophilia’.
40. Glenn D. Wilson and David N. Cox, The Child-Lovers. A Study of Paedophiles in Society, London and Boston, Peter Owen, 1983; Peter Righton, ch. 2: ‘The Adult’ in Taylor, Perspectives in Paedophilia; Parker Rossman, Sexual Experiences between Men and Boys, London, Maurice Temple Smith, 1976.
41. Tom Reeves, ‘Loving Boys’ in Tsang, op. cit., p. 27; the age range given on p. 29. On PIE members’ interests see Cox and Wilson, op. cit., ch. II.
42. Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, p. 552: ‘By violation of sexually immature individuals, the jurist understands all the possible immoral acts with persons under fourteen years of age that are not comprehended in the term “rape”.’
43. On paedophilia as abuse see Florence Rush, The Best Kept Secret: Sexual Abuse of Children, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1980; Robert L. Geiser, Hidden Victims: The Sexual Abuse of Children, Boston, Beacon Press, 1979. For alternative opinions: Sandford, op. cit., pp. 49ff; cf. Morris Fraser, ch. 3, ‘The Child’ and Graham E. Powell and A.J. Chalkley, ch. 4, ‘The Effects of paedophile attention on the child’ in Taylor (ed.), Perspectives on Paedophilia.
44. See interview with the then 15-year-old Mark Moffat in Semiotext(e), loc. cit, p. 10; cf. Tom Reeves’s account of being cruised by two 14-year-olds in Tsang, op. cit., p. 30; and O’Carroll, ch. 4, ‘Paedophilia in Action’ in Paedophilia.
45. Taylor (ed.), Perspectives on Paedophilia, ‘Introduction’, p. xiii. In the rest of the discussion I shall, however use the term ‘paedophile’ to cover all categories as this is the phrase adopted most widely as a political description: ‘Boy lover’ is specific, but exclusive.
46. On offences see P.H. Gebhard, J.H. Gagnon, W.B. Pomeroy and C.V. Christenson, Sex Offenders, New York, Harper & Row, 1965; J. Gagnon, ‘Female child victims of sex offences’, Social Problems, no. 13, 1965, pp. 116-92. On identity questions see Plummer, ‘The paedophile’s progress’.
47. O’Carroll, Paedophilia, pp. 120, 118.
48. Ibid., ch. 6, ‘Towards more Sensible Laws’, which examines various proposals, from Israel to Holland, for minimising the harmful intervention of the law; compare Speijer Committee, The Speijer Report, advice to the Netherlands Council of Health concerning homosexual relations with minors, English Translation, London, Sexual Law Reform Society, n.d.
49. Interview with Kate Millett by Mark Blasius in Semiotext(e) Special, loc. cit, p. 38 (also printed in Tsang (ed.), op. cit.).
50. Carole Pateman, ‘Women and Consent’, Political Theory, vol. 8, no. 2, May 1980, pp. 149-68.
Jeffrey Weeks, Sexuality, third edition (London & New York: Routledge, 2010; first edition 1986)
4. The limits of consent: paedophilia
The power relations that sex can involve are most dramatically illustrated by the question of sex between the generations, or paedophilia. Few topics arouse such fear and anxiety in contemporary societies. The ‘paedophile’ has become a symbol of predatory evil, a synonym indeed not only for child abuser but also in many cases for child abductor and even murderer. The peculiar horror invoked by the abuse of innocence, by the imposition of adult desires on the vulnerable, powerless child, speaks for a culture that is profoundly anxious about the boundaries and differences between adults and children, and has become increasingly concerned with protecting the young as long as possible. Yet this has not always been the case.
In the late nineteenth century paedophilia was lauded by some for its pedagogic possibilities – the so-called Greek love justification: in the passage from childhood dependence to adult responsibility, guidance, sexual and moral, of a caring man can be invaluable, it was argued. It was further legitimated in the twentieth century by the supposed facts of childhood sexuality: sexology itself has revealed the wide extent of childhood sexual potentiality including the existence of infantile masturbation. If something is so natural, and omnipresent, should it be as rigidly controlled as childhood sexuality is today? And again, if it is natural, then surely it cannot be harmful even if it takes place with adults. As Tom O’Carroll, a militant supporter of inter-generational sex (who ended up in prison for his pains) wrote ‘. . . there is no need whatever for a child to know “the consequences” of engaging in harmless sex play, simply because it is exactly that: harmless’. 
For the vast majority of the population this is not harmless play, it is simply child sex abuse. It involves powerful adults using their experience and wiles to gain satisfaction from exploiting children. The growing sensitivity to abuse is the result of long campaigns, often led in Western countries by feminists, or by campaigners who experienced abuse themselves. This has become a global phenomenon, with international campaigns to end the traffic in children and the worst abuses of sex tourism. This without doubt marks an advance in society’s awareness of the reality of exploitation, and the power of adults over children. Yet there is something rather odd in the ways in which various late modern societies, from Australia to Europe to the USA, have focused on the figure of the anonymous paedophile rather than on the hard reality that most abuse of children is carried out by a close relative or family friend, or perhaps by a priest, as a wave of scandals from the UK and Ireland to Australia and the USA has recently underscored. 
Despite, or perhaps because of, the emotiveness of the issue, it is important to be as rational and dispassionate as possible in looking at what is involved. Age is an ambiguous marker. Is there an ideal age at which consent becomes free, rather than abusive, and a relationship becomes consensual, rather than coercive? Certainly the vast majority of us could agree that it should not be 3 or 8, but what about 12 or 14 or 15 which are the ages of consent in various European countries? Laws vary enormously, and sometimes affect boys and girls quite differently. Brian Taylor has pointed to the existence of eight possible subcategories of inter-generational sex, depending on the age of those involved, the distinction of gender, the nature of the sexual proclivity, and the interaction of all three (Taylor 1981). This suggests that there are paedophilias, not a single paedophilia, and the social response should be sensitive to these distinctions, even as it focuses rightly on protecting the young and vulnerable. (pp. 95-97)
6 O’Carroll (1980: 153). For the various legitimations offered, see the discussion in Plummer (1981).
7 There is an excellent debate on the implications of the early twenty-first century anxiety about paedophilia in Loseke et al. (2003). For feminist perspectives, see Reavey and Warner (2003).
Jeffrey Weeks, The World We Have Won: The Remaking of Erotic and Intimate Life (London & New York: Routledge, 2007)
‘Through stories – of desire and love, of hope and mundane reality, of excitement and disappointment – told to willing listeners in communities of meaning, people imagine and reimagine who and what they are, what they want to become (Plummer 1995 [Plummer, K. (1995) Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change and Social Worlds, London: Routledge], 2003 [Plummer, K. (2003) Intimate Citizenship: Private Decisions and Public Dialogues, Seattle: University of Washington Press]). Of course, all this does not mean that anything goes. It is noticeable that as some barriers to speaking are removed or redefined new ones are erected. Paedophilia began to speak its name in the 1970s, but has been redefined as child abuse and trebly execrated in the 2000s.’ (p. 10)
‘The age of consent may be an ambiguous barrier for young people themselves but it is a fraught one for many adults, usually men. The age of consent itself is constructed in terms of protection of young girls, and it assumes male agency (Waites 2005a [Waites, M. (2005a) The Age of Consent: Young People, Sexuality and Citizenship, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan]). But the growing awareness of the extent of child sex abuse poses wider questions about the power relations between adults and children (see Reavey and Warner 2003 [Reavey, P. and Warner, S. (eds) (2003) New Feminist Stories of Child Sexual Abuse: Sexual Scripts and Dangerous Dialogues, London and New York, Routledge]; O’Connel Davidson 2005 [O’Connell Davidson, J. (2005) Children in the Global Sex Trade, Cambridge: Polity Press]). The government has responded to widespread anxieties about breach of trust on the part of adults by attempting to write into law notions of protection that should operate in certain types of adult child relationships, such as teaching (Bainham and Brooks-Gordon 2004 [‘Reforming the Law on Sexual offences’, in Brooks-Gordon, B., Gelsthorpe, L., Johnson, M. and Bainham, A. (eds) (2004) Sexuality Repositioned: Diversity and the Law, Oxford, and Portland, OR: Hart Publishing, pp. 291-296]; Epstein et al. 2004 [Epstein, D., Johnson, R. and Steinberg. D.L. (2004) ‘Thrice Told Tales: Modernising Sexualities in the Age of Consent’ in Steinberg, D.L. and Johnson, R. (eds) (2004) Blairism and the War of Persuasion: Labour’s Passive Revolution, London: Lawrence & Wishart, pp. 96-113). These have the habit of all attempts at redrawing boundaries of becoming fiery touchstone issues, as the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Ruth Kelly, found out in early 2006. The discovery by the press that there were teachers in schools who had previously been accused of abusing children threatened to engulf her and end her career, though she could realistically have had very little knowledge of how her civil servants operated the register of offenders (Doward 2006a:8-9; [Doward, J. (2006a), ‘Sex Scandal that Engulfed Kelly’, Observer, 15 January, pp. 8-9] see also Aaronovitch 2006: 21) [Aaronovitch, D. (2006), ‘The Paedophile Panic: Why We Have Reached Half Way to Bonkers Island’, The Times, 12 January, 21] Behaviours which were once regarded as natural and even healthy (childhood nudity, for example) have become fraught with menace, as parents and carers have discovered when their holiday photographs of naked children playing on the beach have been processed, and police summoned.
Many of these anxieties had been brought to the surface following the murder of the 8-year-old Sarah Payne in summer 2000. The News of the World’s campaign, in response to this, of naming and shaming alleged paedophiles, in turn stimulated a local vigilante campaign led by mothers on the Paulsgrove housing estate in Hampshire (Bell 2003: 108-28 [Bell, V. (2003), ‘The Vigilantt(e) Parent and the Paedophile: The News of the World Campaign 2000 and the Contemporary Governmentality of Child Sex Abuse’’, in Reavey and Warner 2003, pp. 108-28]). This raised in turn a number of crucial issues: the role of the press in stirring up moral panic, the role of class in configuring the response to the working-class mothers’ action, the role of women in confronting an alleged lack of communication from the state, and the role of the state itself in responding to acute anxiety, ignorance and fear. But as important was the shift in the perception of sexual risk and the management of risk that was taking place. As Rose (1999: 206) [Rose, N. (1999), Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (2nd edn), London and New York: Free Associations Books] points out, outrage at the neglect of abuse emerged most strongly from the very group in society that was once deemed most likely to abuse children – the working class itself. And in practice, of course, the vast majority of cases of abuse take place within families or are by someone known to the child. Yet the anger focused on the dangerous stranger, the paedophile, bearer of a particular psychopathology and history, completely detached from the family. A similar process has been at work in relation to so-called paedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church. A scandal that the church had long hidden, it raised crucial questions about the religious calling, church discipline, priestly celibacy and simple trust. Yet in the church’s eyes it became less about abuse than about Catholic attitudes towards homosexuality, gay priests and the like. When in 2006 a new Pope sought to ban gays from taking up the priesthood, it was widely seen as a response to the paedophile scandal (Loseka 2003: 13 [‘”We hold these Truths to be Self-evident”: Problems in Pondering the Paedophile Priest problem’, Sexualities 6 (1), February, 6-14]). Anxiety has become individualized, thus expunging the most dangerous sites for the production of abuse, the home, the local community, and it appears the Catholic church, from the story. (pp. 153-154)
The Scotsman, March 25th, 1988
Alastair Dalton, ‘Brand loses job fight over views on child sex’
THE controversial academic Chris Brand, sacked by Edinburgh University for promoting his views on paedophilia, yesterday lost his appeal against his dismissal.
The independent QC asked by the university to hear the appeal agreed that the psychology lecturer’s behaviour had amounted to gross misconduct and ruled that his dismissal could not be said to have been improper or inappropriate.
Mr Brand, 54, last night described the university’s actions as “treacherous”, but refused to say whether he planned to take his case to an industrial tribunal or the courts.
He was dismissed for gross misconduct last August by the university principal, Professor Sir Stewart Sutherland, after he published on the Internet his view that consensual sex between adults and children was acceptable as long as the child was intelligent.
Mr Brand had previously caused a storm after his 1996 book, The g Factor, claimed there was genetic proof black people had lower IQs than white people. It prompted students to disrupt his lectures and the book was withdrawn by the publisher. The university found no grounds for disciplinary action against him then, although the principal described his views as “obnoxious”.
Gordon Coutts, QC, who conducted Mr Brand’s two-day appeal hearing last week, stated : “The appeal fails. I reject all the revised amended grounds of appeal. I find that the appeal does not raise any question of academic freedom.”
He added: “In pursuit of his objectives, he (Mr Brand) set out to promote controversy. In that he succeeded but cannot now complain if the effect of his behaviour has been to render his continued employment by the university impossible.
“The principal of the university did not dismiss him for views he held; he was dismissed because it was established that his behaviour made it impossible for him to work within a university department.”
Sir Stewart said yesterday he was “naturally content” that “an independent legal expert has endorsed in the clearest possible terms” the findings of the university’s disciplinary tribunal and his subsequent decision to sack Mr Brand.
He said: “I would repeat that it is for aspects of his conduct, not his opinions, that Mr Brand has been dismissed. Mr Brand has again, in recent months, been reported in the press as alleging this process was an attack on academic freedom, though this was not argued by his counsel at the appeal hearing. It has not and never has been such an attack, as independently confirmed by the appeal decision.
“Neither I nor my colleagues at this university have sought in any way to censor Mr Brand’s researched conclusions, on ethnic background and intelligence, for example.
“But it was made clear to him, well before he publicised views on paedophilia, that he also had responsibilities to act with care, whether in a departmental, teaching or wider situation – advice which he apparently chose to ignore.”
Mr Brand condemned the university. He said: “Their behaviour has been shameful.
They have been treacherous to their own academic staff and a disgrace to academia.”
Mr Brand, a former prison service psychologist, had stated on his web site: “Academic studies and my own experience as a choirboy suggest that non-violent paedophilia with a consenting partner over 12 does no harm so long as the paedophiles and their partners are of above-average intelligence and educational level.”
He was suspended in November 1996 and a three-member disciplinary tribunal was appointed the following April to consider the charges against him.
The tribunal ruled that Mr Brand had compromised his position, and his teaching had fallen below the standards expected of him. It further ruled that the university’s reputation had not been damaged by Mr Brand’s publications on the Internet, but a disciplinary offence had been committed.
Mr Brand, a London-born father of three, had been at Edinburgh University since 1970.
Last night Nicola Owen, convener of the Anti-Nazi League Society at Edinburgh University, said: “It’s wonderful news.
It vindicates all the students who fought to get Mr Brand removed from the university.”
At the time of writing this (evening on Monday June 30th, 2014), it is the day before an important event in the House of Commons. Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, co-author (with Matt Baker) of Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback, 2014), is due (at 4:15 pm on Tuesday July 1st) to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. Whilst the ostensible subject of this meeting is to do specifically with historical child abuse in Rochdale (Cyril Smith’s old constituency, now Danczuk’s), Danczuk has also written of how Smith was connected to the sinister figure of Peter Righton and a wider paedophile ring including prominent politicians (see this article by Watson in praise of Danczuk). In particular, this ring is thought to have frequented the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes, South-West London, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and one name in particular of a very senior former cabinet minister from the Thatcher era (a name which I do not intend to share here) has been widely circulated around social media and the internet. This ex-minister has also been linked to a separate story concerning the rape of a woman known just as ‘Jane’ in 1967, but the police apparently have dropped any plans to prosecute (or even arrest or interview) the minister.
Back in April, Danczuk indicated to the Daily Mail that he might use Parliamentary Privilege to name the MP in question; in an interview given to The Independent a little over a week ago, he affirmed his intention to do so if asked, and may also name a further Labour politician involved in a separate abuse scandal (this is likely to be the former Blair-era cabinet minister alleged to have abused boys in a children’s home in Lambeth, run by paedophile Michael John Carroll, in which case experienced detective Clive Driscoll was taken off the case as he allegedly came to investigate the minister.
The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) has eleven members; five Conservatives (Nicola Blackwood, James Clappison, Michael Ellis, Lorraine Fullbrook and Mark Reckless), one Liberal Democrat (Julian Huppert) and five Labour (Chair Keith Vaz, Ian Austin, Paul Flynn, Yasmin Qureshi and David Winnick). Vaz has a particular connection as he was Solicitor for Richmond Council, and a parliamentary candidate for Richmond & Barnes around the time when the alleged events at Elm Guest House occurred (see the account of his career with primary sources, ‘Keith Vaz and the Mystery of Barnes Common’ at Spotlight). Three members of the HASC – Huppert, Flynn and Qureshi – have declared their support for a national inquiry into organised abuse; one member of the HASC has confirmed that Danczuk will be asked about visitors to Elm Guest House (Leftly, ‘MP will name politician ‘involved in child abuse”). This will be an important occasion at the HASC which may change the whole climate of opinion concerning abuse and the urgent need for an inquiry.
Yet at the eleventh hour, the Exaro news website, who have attempted to claim control and credit for all matters relating to the call for an inquiry (with the help of a few people never described more specifically than ‘Exaro’s twitter followers’), are calling upon Danczuk not to name the minister(s) in question, as well as claiming on Twitter that they have now got some special information which changes things (which of course they are not prepared to share). I will return to this in a moment.
First I want to respond to a blog post by Eric Joyce, MP for Falkirk . In response to a lobbying campaign of MPs to support a national inquiry into organised abuse, started by seven MPs (Conservative Zac Goldsmith and Tim Loughton, Liberal Democrat John Hemming and Tessa Munt, Labour Tom Watson and Danczuk, and Green Caroline Lucas), which was indeed reported by David Hencke for Exaro (David Hencke, MPs call on Teresa May to set up inquiry into child sex abuse’), a relatively organic campaign was started around the same time (beginning with a draft letter from earlier by another campaigner on another forum) which came to be initially about encouraging all those who agree to write to their own MPs and ask them to join the original seven. Some took the decision instead to send Tweets to all MPs on Twitter, which has certainly led to positive responses from some. In most cases, it is likely that a combination of the reminders on Twitter, together with letters sent to all MPs from Tim Loughton, information about the campaign e-mailed by various of us to MPs requesting it, and private discussions between MPs (not least between Tory MPs and Loughton, and Labour MPs and Watson) has led many to support the campaign, which some have announced on Twitter; at the time of writing the number stands at 123, though there has been only minimal coverage in the mainstream media, even in the wake of the latest Savile reports (such as this article by Robert Mendick and Eileen Fairweather in the Telegraph). Mark Watts, Editor-in-Chief at Exaro, who tweets as @exaronews as well as under his personal handle, has certainly been urging people to simply keep asking MPs Yes or No. Sometimes the Twitter campaign has got rather hysterical, with tweets which appear to scream at both politicians and journalists, sometimes accusing them of being supporters of child rape if they don’t reply, or don’t support this precise campaign. This mode of argument allows for no discussion, no reasonable and intelligent debate about the exact nature, remit and purpose of an inquiry, nothing more than screaming emotional blackmail, and serves no good purpose other than to try and bully politicians into agreeing. It is certainly not something with which I want to be associated, and shows Twitter at its worst. But this is what appears to have provoked Eric Joyce’s blog post.
Joyce’s primary objections to the demands of the original seven campaigners can be summarised as follows:
(a) they would undermine the Crown Prosecution Service’s consideration of an important police report presently before it (he does not make clear exactly which report this refers to).
(b) the campaign does not mention Savile of the issues implied by this case, and would thus miss these.
(c) it is focused entirely on historical rumours about ‘senior politicians’.
(d) it would exclude adult victims of Savile.
Then he also lays out wider objections to the actions of other campaigners (i.e. beyond the original seven MPs):
(i) they routinely use abusive bullying tactics, which are hardly persuasive.
(ii) it all has a ‘really sickening “get the pedos/cops/politicians” feel about it’ and ‘looks like a campaign designed to catch public attention for its own sake rather than a genuine effort to get at important truths’.
(iii) names of politicians have routinely been published online, which could wreck the lives of innocent people and destroy the case put by the police to the CPS.
(iv) the whole campaign is really a self-aggrandising exercise by Exaro, who have recently found that they cannot pay their one way, and have become a ‘schlock merchant’ who only really have one story, cynically waiting until the names of alleged ‘politician paedophiles’ were all over the internet before asking campaigners not to post or tweet them.
(v) there is some confusion between calls for other types of wide inquiry and this specific one, differences between which are papered over by Exaro.
I cannot deny that (i) is true of some campaigners, though this is definitely not a style I want anything to do with – nor with campaigners associated with the BNP, those who are homophobes, man-haters, paranoid conspiracy theorists, unconcerned about the difference between truth and fiction, and so on. One reason for becoming involved in abuse campaigning (over and above knowing a good deal of survivors sometimes very close to me, and becoming convinced that this was an issue bigger than simply individual perpetrators, in classical music and elsewhere), was the hope that it might be possible to avoid and go beyond tabloid-style hysteria over this inevitably highly emotive subject. As far as I am concerned, though, those who support vigilante action, capital punishment or other forms of cruel and unusual punishment, are no better than abusers themselves. However, the medium of Twitter, allowing only for 140 characters per tweet, can hardly do justice to this nuanced and complex subject, nor do I imagine (whatever some might think) that many MPs’ minds were changed purely by receiving a tweet from someone using a pseudonym; rather used this prompt to announce something they had already decided. I disdain (ii) for the same reasons, but realise that only by identifying prominent names is it likely that the whole campaign will gain wider attention with a public otherwise seeing celebrity names such as Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, Max Clifford and others. As things stand the campaign can resemble a cult, with various people frequenting small sub-sections of social media and Exaro, but unfortunately sometimes not realising how invisible this is to much of the wider public. Social media are certainly not the place to name names (coming to (iii)), but in light of the fact of many claims of failure of police to interview prominent figures, intelligence services sitting in on interviews, witnesses being threatened, important evidence going missing (including dossiers going to the Home Office), I do believe some more decisive action is needed now (more to follow on this in a moment).
I will come back to (iv) but will address (a)-(d) first. Objection (a) is unclearly specified and so cannot be responded to properly. There is no reason why the inquiry could not also look at Savile, certainly (there is plenty of reason to think there may be connections between his activities and those in other abuse scandals, not least his connections to senior politicians). And just because of the areas specified as requested to be included in the original letter from the seven MPs to Teresa May (which I have also posted below Joyce’s blog), such an inquiry could certainly be extended further. Re (c), The demands go well beyond historical cases involving politicians, dealing with a range of children’s homes, businessmen trafficking between countries, churches, public schools, and much more, so this criticism is wholly unfounded. The issue of adult victims is a serious one (also a big issue in the classical music world, abuse of all types in which is a particular area on which I have campaigned extensively), but I cannot believe an inquiry could not be adapted around this as well. I doubt many supporters have an absolutely clear idea of exactly the form the inquiry would take; rather it is the principle that this type of inquiry should happen which is being supported.
Returning to (iv); I do not really want to write too much about Exaro, as I certainly think some of their journalists – most notably David Hencke – do excellent work (see also Hencke’s blog), and do not share anything like as negative a view as does Joyce. I do have problems with the way in which Mark Watts, however, has attempted in a territorial fashion to claim complete control of the campaign as purely an Exaro initiative sustained through ‘Exaro’s twitter followers’, showing zero interest in a wider campaign involving e-mailing and constituents contacting their MPs (less ‘rapid-fire’ than anonymous tweets), whilst jealously guarding information for himself and trying to shore up a fledgling organisation, and tweeting with a rather boorish swagger which has unfortunate associations. Most posts or tweets by Watts try to steer the serious issues of organised abuse and urgent need for investigation into being self-promotion for Exaro, in a territorial manner which has perhaps dissuaded other media from taking an interest (most other journalists and broadcasters I have contacted have felt the story is not yet big enough to cover). When I first started being involved in abuse campaigning last year I was warned (not least by some senior journalists who I consulted) about two things in particular: (a) how some journalists will try and get you to do their work for them for free; and (b) how many people greatly exaggerate the importance of social media. Of both of these I am definitely convinced, but have known excellent journalists (including Hencke) with whom to work on stories and share information under fair conditions of confidence.
Sadly, with these lessons in mind, I do have reason for scepticism about Exaro on several fronts, which I would not bring up were it not for their eleventh-hour intervention. The Twitter campaign seems a typical example of their getting others to do their work for them (posing as campaigners rather than journalists) for free. Through the course of the last 18 months Exaro have promised major new developments, arrests, and built up to each new report in an extremely dramatic way. There have certainly been some important reports, for sure, not least those on ‘Jane’ (though this story does have its doubters) and also Mark Conrad’s earlier reports on links between Operations Fairbank and Fernbridge and the killings of Sydney Cooke, though much less coverage (or links to coverage by others) of issues involving Peter Righton and numerous networks involved in children’s homes, not to mention churches, schools and elsewhere, stories which are generally less spectacular. The sort of investigative journalism which grapples with the complexities of these other fields is done more successfully by a variety of other journalists at The Times (Andrew Norfolk’s work on Caldicott, Colet Court, St Paul’s and many other public schools, and Sean O’Neill on Robert Waddington and Manchester Cathedral), The Independent (Paul Gallagher on abuse in music schools and colleges), The Guardian (Helen Pidd’s important set of articles on Chetham’s and the RNCM), and sometimes at the Mail (Martin Beckford on PIE and their Labour links, and many earlier articles published here and in the Standard and Telegraph by Eileen Fairweather), Express (the latest work by Tim Tate and Ted Jeory on PIE and the Home Office), Mirror (Tom Pettifor on abuse in Lambeth and the Labour connection) and People (Keir Mudie and Nick Dorman on Operation Fernbridge and associated investigations, sometimes working together with Exaro). Exaro have certainly provided an important service, as one of various news organisations.
But now I fear that territorial attitudes could play a part in sabotaging an important opportunity. Watts has published a piece today aimed at dissuading Danczuk from naming, in which in a rather grandiose fashion he reports how ‘We have strongly advised him against naming the ex-minister tomorrow, and we are grateful that he has listened to us closely and is considering our points carefully’ and the same time as (almost comically) disparaging ‘Journalists on national newspapers, desperate for a splash story’, who allegedly have been arguing otherwise. Watts argues that ‘David Cameron is under intense pressure to agree to an overarching inquiry into child sex abuse in the UK’ which he doesn’t want. How big this pressure is is debatable; Cameron could brush off a question from Duncan Hames at Prime Minister’s Questions quite easily (see the bottom of here for the exchange), and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not seem particularly flustered at the debate in the Commons last week. The majority of MPs supporting an inquiry have been Labour – 73 at the current count, compared to 23 Conservatives. Many Conservatives have been copying and pasting stock replies which say nothing. Furthermore, most of the Labour MPs have been backbenchers without so many high profile figures; despite the support of Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham (who did not necessarily commit his party to support in the Commons, though, as I argued last week – this is a response to point (v) which I identify in Joyce’s blog), there has been only occasional support from other front bench figures. A proper inquiry would need to look at such matters as abuse which went on at children’s homes controlled by Islington Council when senior Labour figure Margaret Hodge was leader, of the role of the Paedophile Information Exchange, about whom I have written amply elsewhere, which embroils current Deputy Leader Harriet Harman and frontbench spokesman Jack Dromey; as argued earlier, Ed Miliband needs to take a lead on this, but it should not be so surprising that he has not yet done so. There are rumblings about Labour figures also visiting Elm Guest House, and of course the deeply serious issue of a senior Labour figure as a suspect for abuse in Lambeth, not to mention continuing investigations into Lord Janner, whose office at the House of Lords was raided earlier this year. Certainly any such inquiry would not be likely to be easy for Labour, nor for the Liberal Democrats, with the debacle of Cyril Smith still haunting them, and further rumbling about some other senior figures.
But at present mainstream media attention is very sporadic, and certainly in my experience (amongst generally educated people well-informed on news) very little of this has yet registered with a wider public. Cameron has in the last week had to deal with the conviction (and possible further retrial) of his former press secretary Andy Coulson, the charging of his former advisor on online pornography Patrick Rock for manufacturing images of child abuse, and now his failure to avoid Jean-Claude Juncker from being voted to be the next EU Commissioner. It is hard to see how a demand primarily from a group of Labour backbenchers would be obsessing him at such a time (though the campaign should definitely continue and hopefully grow). Watts claims that Danczuk’s naming of the ex-minister (he doesn’t mention the Labour minister) would serve as a ‘diversion from the inquiry call’, as front pages would be dominated by the ex-minister’s name. I think this is nonsense; such dissemination of the allegation that an extremely senior minister could themselves have been part of a ring-fenced VIP ring would cause outrage and anger, and the pressure for a proper inquiry would be irresistible. This very evening, Watts has also been tweeting that some new information has come to light which changes everything, but characteristically they will not even hint at what this is. Major developments have been promised before by the organisation, but these have rarely materialised. It is now looking more like a petty playground fight over who has the biggest amount of secret information.
Ultimately, as mentioned before, simple lists of MPs’ names are not that newsworthy, as various major journalists have had to point out to me. Only a major catalyst such as the revelation of a major name would be likely to get more attention. What this would also change is that the story would be taken up by all the major media, to such an extent that Exaro’s contributions would cease to be so central; I do wonder if this is what Watts is trying so hard to avoid. In the end, though, wider exposure for the many stories of abuse (which would follow upon the outrage caused by revelations that this extends to the very highest levels, and other figures were protected for this reason) is more important than the prestige of one website.
If Danczuk is certain that the ex-minister (and the ex Labour minister) are guilty, and the only reasons why they have not been brought to justice is through cover-ups, destruction of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, or simply stalling for convenience’s sake, then I hope very much he will name names tomorrow. If there is doubt about this, then it would only be wise not to do so – using Parliamentary Privilege in a way which would smear an innocent person would be reprehensible. I have faith in Danczuk to do the right thing, and hope the momentum which has been achieved will not be sacrificed for the short-term interests of any media organisation. If all of this is being covered in details in newspapers and on broadcast news programmes being read/watched by many of the country’s population (in some cases with stories written for these papers by Hencke, Conrad and others), it would be all for the better, even if many of the earlier campaigners (including myself) are quickly forgotten.
[Since first publishing this article online a number of further MPs have indicated their support for a national inquiry in line with the express wishes of the original seven. For details of this, and how to write to your MP to ask them to support, please see this post]
The pioneering news organisation Exaro have published two important articles today by David Hencke relating to a cross-party group of seven MPs who have written jointly to Home Secretary Theresa May called for a proper inquiry into child abuse, citing the Hillsborough inquiry as a model (see Hencke, ‘Police keep failing ‘to follow evidence’ in abuse cases, say MPs: Call for wide inquiry into ‘schools, churches, children’s homes, politicians and celebrities’, 3/6/14, and ‘MPs call on Theresa May to set inquiry into child sex abuse: Tim Loughton and Zac Goldsmith in cross-party group that highlights failures by police’, 3/6/14; see also Jason Beattie, ‘MPs demand inquiry into historic claims of child sex abuse by Cabinet Ministers’, Daily Mirror, 4/6/14).
The seven MPs in question (who Hencke has elsewhere called the ‘Magnificent Seven’) are:
Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, whose constituency contains Elm Guest House, Grafton Close Children’s Home, and Colet Court and St Paul’s Schools (Twitter @ZacGoldsmith ).
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and former Children’s Commissioner, who spoke powerfully in the House of Commons in September 2013 about many ongoing revelations of abuse (Website here; Twitter @timloughton ).
John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley, who made representations on behalf of financial journalist Leah McGrath Goodman on the grounds of her being banned from the UK following investigation into child abuse at Haut de la Garenne, Jersey, but has also been critical of UK family courts when dealing with allegations of abuse against parents. (Website here; Twitter @johnhemmingmp )
Tessa Munt, MP for Wells, who as a member of the Education Select Committee has taken a special interest in child safeguarding, and whose constituency contains Wells Cathedral School, one of the five specialist music schools, all of which have been connected to abuse (Website here; Twitter @tessamunt )
Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, who has been indefatigable in his commitment to this issue ever since raising in Westminster in October 2012 the issues of a high-level paedophile ring (see Watson’s blog and articles here and many other places online; Twitter @tom_watson ).
Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale, co-author with Matthew Baker of Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback, 2014), who has written of how Smith was connected to Peter Righton and also a wider paedophile ring including prominent politicians (see this article by Watson in praise of Danczuk) (Website here, Twitter @simondanczuk )
These seven MPs are concerned about how important files, surveillance videos and other material have gone missing, lack of charges brought as a result of Operation Fernbridge, and in general an apparent reluctance on the part of the police and others to pursue cases of serious abuse. Watson has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions naming a former cabinet minister alleged to have raped a woman going by the name of ‘Jane’ (see also the detailed five-part account linked to at the bottom of this article and the video interview with ‘Jane’); this is the same senior cabinet minister who has been linked to the VIP paedophile ring related to Elm Guest House (as confirmed by Mark Watts on Twitter on 18/5/14). The Metropolitan Police have chosen not to pursue Jane’s allegations further, nor even interview the alleged perpetrator, raising serious questions about whether proper procedure has been followed; Exaro have also claimed that there was a shocking concerted police smear campaign aimed at discrediting ‘Jane’. Furthermore, there are serious questions about the whereabouts of a series of documents submitted to the Home Office by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP (see here, here and here), one of the few MPs who continued to pursue this issue in the 1980s. Loughton has spoken of his alarm at consistent ‘reluctance, or more worryingly, the seeming complicity of police and other agencies to investigate the allegations seriously, and pursue the perpetrators rigorously’, and how ‘Documents go missing and investigations are curtailed with a chilling frequency, and that now threatens a serious undermining of the public’s confidence in our current child-protection system despite all the progress that has undoubtedly been made in recent years’.
The range of areas of public life in which there have been major allegations of abuse is frighteningly large: these include children’s homes in Islington (see also here and this article by whistleblower Liz Davies), Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Haute de la Garenne in Jersey, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk, Staffordshire (the ‘Pindown’ scandal) Birmingham, Leicestershire, North Wales, South Wales, Cheshire, Leeds, Sunderland, Northumberland, Lothian, Renfrewshire, Isle of Lewis, the Kincora Boy’s Home in Belfast, Stockgrove Park School, Buckinghamshire, Stanbridge Earls School near Romsey, Hampshire, New Barns School, Gloucestershire, Castle Hill School, Shropshire, St George’s School, Suffolk, Knowl View School in Rochdale, in Cleveland, many of the leading public schools (see also the range of articles here), the Catholic Church, not least in Scottish abbeys, the Church of England, the entertainment industry (not least involving Jimmy Savile), grooming gangs in the North West and Oxford, music education, a ring around Piccadilly Circus, major networks trading images of child abuse, and more. Some of these cases have been investigated, with some prosecutions, but there is good reason to believe some of these investigations have been half-hearted, whilst other cases have simply been ignored. There are many individuals linked to multiple networks (not least the sinister figure of Peter Righton), continuing talk of the VIP paedophile ring connected to Elm Guest House and elsewhere, major information concerning late MPs Cyril Smith and Peter Morrison and serious allegations about others who are living (not least the severe claim that a Blair era cabinet minister was being investigated for abusing children in a home in Lambeth, leading to a detective being taken off the case, and even that a council official looking to expose a ring involving the minister was murdered). The activities of members of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), about whom I have blogged in detail, remain shady, and there are many suggestions that this organisation might be linked to a great number of cases of abuse. Furthermore, it is now clear that PIE had deep links to the Home Office, receiving large amounts of money from the organisation, with at least three members working on its premises (with a phone line there), its magazine printed there, and some civil servants receiving images of child abuse delivered to the building!
It is heartening to see such a diverse cross-party group of MPs coming together on this issue. Yet it is more than a little disappointing that there are not more, and that the most senior politicians in all the major parties do not appear to be taking seriously what can only be called an epidemic (if even less than half of the allegations were true). I would urge everyone reading this to write to their own MP and implore them to support the seven courageous figures above (any of whom I would gladly vote for). I have earlier blogged on the need for Ed Miliband, the leader of the party to which I belong (Labour), to put all of his weight behind calls for a proper inquiry, but also how there is near-silence from the upper echelons of Labour, perhaps related to the fact that senior Labour politicians are under investigation and also that the current Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, has been linked to PIE during her time as Legal Officer at the NCCL, during which period NCCL took out an advert in PIE’s journal Magpie and also their policy on images of children reflects aspects of PIE thinking. But this should not be stopping Miliband, nor should worries about the former Thatcher era cabinet minister, and Peter Morrison and others, be stopping David Cameron (and in light of revelations about Cyril Smith, Nick Clegg should be firmly behind this).
Leading experts, researchers and campaigners on child abuse Peter McKelvie and Liz Davies met recently with Home Office minister Norman Baker. They were granted a mere ten minutes of time, despite having built up huge bodies of evidence about child abuse, but it was made clear that there was no intention to undertake either a national police investigation (absolutely necessary because so many complex cases are interlinked) nor a public inquiry. I would urge people to read the account above. Nonetheless, I have been informed that both individuals spoke very highly of Zac Goldsmith’s commitment to the issues in particular.
The media have reported much about the relatively small number of cases coming to court as a result of Operation Yewtree. But these are just a tiny fraction of the wider allegations of serious and sustained abuse (and non-sexual abuse should not be treated any less seriously). All credit to these seven MPs, but as for the others – if our MPs do not care about protecting children in the most vulnerable situations, what do they care about?
Many different stories involving alleged organised or institutionalised abuse of children have been prominent in the press during since February: about the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), and their links to the National Council of Civil Liberties, about abuse in a range of top private schools (especially Colet Court and St Paul’s), about the hideous range of abuse carried out by late Liberal MP Cyril Smith and then further in special schools in Rochdale, trials (with both convictions and acquittals) of celebrities as a result of Operation Yewtree, further information concerning the shocking abuse cases in children’s homes run by Islington Council, and new stories relating to abuse in Lambeth, with suggestions that a detective was taken off the case after a cabinet minister from the Blair era became a suspect (see also here, here, here and here, whilst the inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland (the largest inquiry of its type in the UK) opened at the beginning of the year. Other investigations continue, most notably Operations Fairbank, Fernbridge and Cayacos, resulting from the questions put to the House of Commons by Tom Watson MP in October 2012, and dealing in particular with suggestions of a VIP paedophile ring, involving senior politicians from various parties, and centered upon the terrible abuse scandal at the Elm Guest House in Barnes (see also the various links here), and the possibility that children may have even been trafficked to this place from a children’s home in Grafton Close in nearby Richmond to service VIP guests. Cyril Smith and the late Sir Anthony Blunt, former Master of the Queen’s Pictures and Soviet spy, have been named as visitors to Elm Guest House.
The courage of a few good politicians
The Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, co-author with Matthew Baker of the excellent Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback Publishing, 2014) has reiterated the claims that Smith was not working alone, and was part of a wider VIP ring; indeed Danczuk has gone so far as to argue that if charges had been brought against Smith, he would have named others and the resulting scandal could have toppled a government. Certainly the same possibility would have applied for the Blair government if a serving minister there had been charged with the abuse of children.
Danczuk has indicated that he is considering using Parliamentary Privilege to name one especially prominent former cabinet minister who was part of a ring with Smith and involved at Elm Guest House. This is almost certainly a figure from the Thatcher era whose identity is well-known on the internet, but has not been otherwise made public in the mainstream media in this context, though he was named when such allegations were dismissed thirty years ago. Various reports from Exaro News and The People newspaper (see links above) have indicated that a former cabinet minister was involved, with stories of videos and the possibility of some survivors being able to identify this figure . I hope that if Danczuk is secure in his conviction here that he will indeed name this figure, as unfortunately there is reason (on the basis of precedent) to have doubts as to the possibility of full investigations being able to proceed without external interference. This name, if made public, may cause shockwaves both in the UK and wider afield, and in such a context it would be very hard to resist the call for a proper public inquiry (and, perhaps more importantly, it would be harder for darker forces to try and prevent the police investigating this figure properly).
Danczuk and Watson are heroic politicians for our time, both risking huge amounts of approbrium and antipathy from colleagues and others (as Watson has detailed in his tribute to Danczuk). As a campaigner and independent researcher into abuse in musical education and also into PIE (about which numerous earlier blog posts give primary source information) I have had the pleasure to meet with Watson. No words can praise highly enough his complete dedication to these issues, as demostrated earlier with the allegations about the media and phone hacking. A few other MPs have shown courage and determination with these issues: Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, has continued to pursue the issue of abuse in music education and safeguarding (with Chetham’s and the Royal Northern College of Music both lying within her constituency), whilst Conservative MP Tim Loughton, former Children’s Minister, also speaking out about the scale of organised abuse as can be read in a speech he made to Parliament last September detailed here in Hansard.
But these politicians (and a few others) are relatively few and far between. Others have tried to fudge or ignore the issues, perhaps knowing of the fact that a full inquiry could uncover information deeply unsettling for all the three major British political parties (and maybe several others as well). As the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens found, pursuing the issue of organised child abuse involving prominent individuals is a lonely cause. When Dickens claimed that children were being abused on a council estate in Islington, the Labour MP for Islington North (my own MP), Jeremy Corbyn, claimed that Dickens was ‘getting cheap publicity at the expense of innocent children’ (see here for more on this story). When Dickens tried in 1984 to introduce a bill proscribing organisations like PIE, Labour MP Clare Short claimed the reason for the bill was ‘publicity for the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens)’ and spoke of ‘cheap publicity stunts’.
The left, paedophile organisations, and organised abuse
During this period, as has been amply chronicled recently, there were sections of the left, even the far left. Investigation of pro-paedophile literature (which I have done extensively, finding an alarming amount of this in mainstream publications, including scholarly literature, which I will document at a later date) shows no shortage of individuals (even including several prominent feminists) who sought to link the issue of paedophilia to supposedly progressive attitudes towards gender and sexuality. NCCL were affiliated to PIE for an extended period, and took out advertisements in PIE publications Understanding Paedophilia and Magpie, whilst their 1976 evidence to the Criminal Law Revision Committee (some of which reads almost exactly in the manner of a good deal of pro-paedophile literature) included the astonishing claim that ‘Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage’. It is clear that for a period NCCL (and also various gay rights organisations) were influenced, possibly even infiltrated, by paedophile campaigners, a process Christian Wolmar has traced (drawing in part upon first-hand experience of encountering paedophile groups) over a range of leftist organisations in the 1970s (this is also documented in Lucy Robinson’s book Gay Men and the Left in Post-War Britain: How the Personal got Political (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011)).
Current Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman MP was Legal Officer for the NCCL from 1978 to 1982; she joined the organisation two years after the Criminal Law Revision Committee submission, but no evidence has yet been provided of her – or her husband, Jack Dromey (who was on the committee of NCCL from 1970 to 1979, and has claimed to have opposed PIE but given no evidence for this) opposing the influence of PIE at the organisation.
How has Harman responded to the latest flurry of press attention? After the story was re-hashed in the Daily Mail in mid-February (having appeared sporadically for several years previously); it had become clearer how deeply PIE were involved with a wide range of abuse scandals, an involvement which has become even clearer in the subsequent months. In particular, the sinister figure of the late Peter Righton (files relating to whom provided the impetus for the police investigations which opened in 2012 – see also this 1994 documentary), who weaned his way to influential positions in the social work profession, was a high-up member of PIE, and has been linked to a network of abusers in public schools and to a range of cases of abuse in children’s homes; one victim has linked Righton to Cyril Smith (Smith may have met Righton when he was Liberal spokesperson on social services from 1976 to 1977). The journalist Eileen Fairweather, who broke the story of widespread abuse in Islington children’s homes for the Evening Standard, wrote of how one woman recalled being told openly by Righton at a social function in the 1970s how he enjoyed having sex with boys in children’s homes; Righton apparently assumed that as a lesbian she ‘wouldn’t break ranks’, and the woman went along with what she called ‘a typical gay man’s excuse – that he didn’t use force’ (she later gave a statement to the investigators) (cited in Christian Wolmar, Forgotten Children: The Secret Abuse Scandal in Children’s Homes (London: Vision Paperbacks, 2000)). Righton also wrote an endorsement which was used on the cover of Tom O’Carroll’s book Paedophilia: The Radical Case (ibid). Elsewhere, Fairweather has written of the deep links between Islington Council and PIE.
Harman’s first response was completely defensive: in a statement which was printed in the Mail on February 24th, she referred to the allegations as a ‘smear campaign’, and denied any connection with NCCL policy on lowering the age of consent to ten, or opposing the law on incest, as in the 1976 submission, pointing out that she did not work for NCCL until two years later, and denying that her involvement with NCCL implied any further support for PIE. However, as the paper pointed out, the 1976 submissions remained policy in 1978, when Harman joined, and she does not appear to have raised any objections then; furthermore, the affiliation continued throughout her time as Legal Officer. In a statement published together with Harman’s, Dromey argued that he was ‘at the forefront of repeated public condemnations of PIE and their despicable views’
As the media response grew louder, Harman appears to have realised that this would not be enough, and gave an interview with Laura Kuenssberg for Newsnight, again denying this amounted to anything more than a smear. She pointed out that PIE were one of a thousand organisations affiliated to NCCL, and that any organisation could affiliate. Ed Miliband (in what appears to have been his only statement on the whole controversy) backed Harman absolutely on the same day, reiterating her claim that the story amounted purely to a smear (Sam Coates, ‘Miliband backs Harman over ‘paedophile smears’, The Times, February 25th, 2014). It was later revealed that Harman and Dromey may not have been so confident about what journalists might find, and they trawled the NCCL archives in Hull themselves (their names can be found in the ledgers) on February 24th, five days after the story broke, and on the same day as the Newsnight interview. The Mail responded by pointing out that in the year when Harman joined the organisation, PIE was listed in the book The NCCL Guide to Your Rights as one of eighteen organisations which ‘may be helpful’ to readers, alongside the likes of the Family Planning Association and Rape Crisis Centre, and also that by 1982, the constitution of an affiliated institution had to be ‘approved by the Committee’ (PIE continued to be affiliated for a further year). The Telegraph also viewed other internal documents that cast serious doubts upon Harman’s claims that PIE had been ‘pushed to the margins’ back in 1976, before she went to NCCL, revealing that NCCL gay-rights spokesperson Nettie Pollard (probably the key link between NCCL and PIE, who has elsewhere herself been named as a member (#70) of PIE) had sat on a fourteen-strong NCCL gay rights committee with PIE chairman Tom O’Carroll (O’Carroll later thanked Pollard for her help in the foreword to his 1980 book Paedophilia: The Radical Case), and printed a letter from Harman forwarding a query from Pollard as to how to table amendments to the Protection of Children Bill in the Lords in 1978; this story was also pursued briefly in The Guardian. At this stage a spokesman for Harman had to concede that Pollard had promoted paedophilia and exploited the gay rights committee. Most damningly, the Mail printed a copy of the NCCL advert taken out in PIE journal Magpie in 1979 (which I had earlier revealed, though omitted at this stage to mention the earlier 1977 advert in Understanding Paedophilia).
Various of these articles drew attention in particular to how Harman herself urged changes to the 1978 Protection of Children Bill by saying that ‘images of children should only be considered pornographic if it could be proven the subject suffered’; this is perhaps the most crucial piece of information, and which comes dangerously close to PIE-style thinking, by positing that something only becomes pornographic if the child considers it as such (rather than in a statutory fashion). Though Harman protested that this was to stop parents being criminalised for taking beach or bathing pictures of their children (which would in itself be fair), these proposed amendments went further than that, as a lawyer would surely know.
As the furore continued, Patricia Hewitt made a reasonably decent and measured statement (after a period when she was uncontactable), claiming that NCCL was ‘naive and wrong to accept PIE’s claim to be a ‘campaigning and counselling organisation’ that ‘does not promote unlawful acts’, accepting responsibility and apologising, saying she ‘should have urged the executive committee to take stronger measures to protect NCCL’s integrity from the activities of PIE members and sympathisers’, though disclaiming any part in the ‘proposal to reduce the age of consent’, and saying nothing about the 1976 Criminal Law Revision Committee submission. Hewitt’s retirement from her position as a non-executive director of BT was also announced a few weeks later, though it is not clear whether this was related.
But there was no such humility from Harman, whose public school haughtiness deserves consideration just as does that of David Cameron or George Osborne; in an interview for The Times in early March, she adopted a contemptuous tone, continuing to refuse to apologise, talked about intending to be Deputy Prime Minister, and even talking about how she was ‘spending a lot of money on my hair, which is the same colour as when I was 33 [….] I’m not quite sufficiently politically correct to be able to stop it’, giving the impression that this mattered more than the ongoing stories about abuse (Sam Coates, ‘I want to be deputy PM, says Harman as she stands firm over paedophiles’, The Times, March 8th, 2014).
Former Head of the Obscene Publications Squad Michael Hames (author of The Dirty Squad (The Inside Story of the Obscene Publications Squad)) argued that ‘the NCCL legitimised the Paedophile Information Exchange’, and that Harman, Dromey and Hewitt ‘made a huge mistake. At the very least they should acknowledge, publicly, that they got it wrong’. But this would not be forthcoming from either Harman or Dromey. The current director of Liberty (the renamed NCCL), said that past paedophile infiltration of the organisation was a matter of ‘continuing disgust and horror’, statement endorsed by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
A civil liberties organisation should defend the civil liberties of all people, including those whose views they might otherwise despise and reject. The American Civil Liberties Union has defended the right to free speech of the Klu Klux Klan; in my view, they are absolutely right to do so, for using fascistic techniques of censorship is no way to combat fascist ideology and organisations. Paedophiles have rights and civil liberties as well (and I have no interest in debating with those people who would deny that they do); were the NCCL simply to be defending these, or indeed fighting against the rather archaic law of ‘Conspiracy to Corrupt Public Morals’, then their actions should be applauded. Furthermore, it would be rash to censor even a debate on the precise age of consent, which varies slightly between different Western countries.
But NCCL’s support for PIE went further than this. I do not believe Harman, Dromey or Hewitt to have been active supporters of the abuse of children themselves; however, at a time when PIE was at its height, they were all intimately involved with an organisation which not only allowed PIE to affiliate (would Harman have been so happy with a group which advocated that a man can beat his wife if she is disobedient, or a fundamentalist Christian anti-gay organisation?), but also advertised in its own deeply unpleasant publications (see the ample amount of material I have published on this blog here, here and here) and appear to have been influenced by aspects of PIE thinking in their policy, as well as having PIE members on their own committees. No clear evidence has been provided for any of these three figures having opposed this, unlike with Peter Hain, say. PIE’s strategy was to infiltrate and influence mainstream gay rights and civil liberties organisations towards their own ends; Harman, Dromey and Hewitt stand as appearing culpable in allowing this to happen, and in the process adding a degree of respectability to that very paedophile movement which looks to have been involved in the worst cases of organised abuse.
As further investigations into the latter continue, it would be a miracle if the involvement of leading PIE members is not evoked on many future occasions, and many more questions asked about just how this organisation and the ideologies it espoused came to win a degree of acceptance especially on the liberal left (two very thoughtful articles on this question have recently been published by Eileen Fairweather and Christian Wolmar). However, all figures associated with the Labour leadership appear to have treated this as an issue primarily of the reputations of Harman and Dromey (Hewitt is less active in politics today and no longer in Parliament). Harman’s own self-centered attitudes and absolute refusal to concede that this might be about more than her, has precluded the leadership from really commenting at all on the many other stories which have been further illuminated, an intolerable state of affairs. I would personally have difficulty campaigning for Labour if this situation continues.
The need for a decisive lead from Labour and Ed Miliband
The potential situation for Labour is grave: senior figures such as Harman, Dromey or Margaret Hodge (in charge of Islington Council during the period when paedophiles manage to infiltrate their children’s homes, and who tried to dismiss newspaper reports claiming this – but amazingly went on to become Children’s Minister under Tony Blair) stand likely to be found to have been at least complacent if not complicit in a situation which enabled PIE, and as a result widespread abuse, to flourish. If coupled with revelations about a Blairite cabinet minister, this could cast an unremovable shadow over the whole Blair era. Danczuk has written of how ‘it seemed that a fair few on the Left, including some who have subsequently become key figures in the Labour Party were fooled into giving this hideous group [PIE] shelter’, part of the situation which enabled Cyril Smith to act with relative impunity – he does not name the figures in question, but there is little question that he is referring to Hewitt, Harman and Dromey. The dismissive statements of Corbyn and Short, at a time when Dickens was fighting practically a one-man campaign against PIE, look like a form of petty tribalism which in this context could be dangerous; more ominously, some other Labour names have been mooted in terms of visitors to the Elm Guest House. Eileen Fairweather has described the type of Stalinist thinking to be encountered on the left when there are abuse allegations involving gay men, whilst some researchers into abuse committed by women, such as Michelle Elliott or Jackie Turton, have encountered similar resistance to any investigation of the subject. It would seem as if for some on the left, child abuse only matters when it can be exploited to serve a particular type of gender/sexuality politics; when the perpetrators are women or gay men, some might prefer that the abuse go unchecked*.
All of this remains at the level of allegations, for sure, but it seems unlikely that an investigation would not do damage to the Labour Party. But this is equally true for the Liberal Democrats because of Cyril Smith, and very much so for the Conservative Party, with a serious of prominent figures also having been mooted as Elm Guest House visitors (one of them still in the House of Commons today), not to mention the as yet far-from-clarified situation involving the late Peter Morrison, about whom I have blogged at length, involving allegations (based upon accounts by Conservative politicians) of cover-up and even bribery, and that Morrison was linked to the North Wales abuse scandals.
I am a member of the Labour Party; I was unable to stay supporting them following the Iraq War, but rejoined after Tony Blair left the leadership and have had high hopes of Ed Miliband, who I voted for as leader. I look to the Labour Party to protect the interests of ordinary citizens against powerful forms of exploitation, and can hardly imagine an issue Labour should be opposing and attacking more strongly than the existence of networks of VIPs using their position to exploit and abuse children sexually, protected through friends in high places. Miliband showed great resolve over the issue of Murdoch and hacking; now he needs to do the same of the issue of organised and institutional abuse. His silence (and that of most other senior Labour politicians) to date on the issue, save to defend Harman as mentioned earlier, is no response befitting of a Prime-Minister- and government-in-waiting; as with other party leaders, the impression given is of one more concerned about protecting the reputation of a few of his colleagues than in investigating extremely serious allegations of abuse (just as has been seen in numerous other institutions facing abuse or cover-up allegations relating to some of their members).
This should not be a partisan issue, and attempts by all sides to exploit it for party political advantage are crass in the extreme. Ed Miliband has the opportunity to change this and call for an all-purpose public inquiry with which he and his party will fully co-operate, which would put real pressure on the other parties to do the same, as he should also demand. This would require a similar level of commitment from his senior colleagues; if some are not prepared to give this commitment, then Miliband must make clear that he is no longer in a position to lend them support.
[*As for example in the case of the American feminist Kate Millett, who when asked in an interview (originally published in Loving Boys (New York: Semiotext(e), 1980), pp. 80-83) ‘Do you think that a tender loving erotic relationship can exist between a boy and a man?’ she replied ‘Of course, or between a female child and an older woman’ and also said that ‘ part of a free society would be that you could choose whomever you fancied, and children should be able to freely choose as well’. Millett’s book Sexual Politics (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1969) remains a standard feminist text, but I believe on the basis of this interview anything she says about sexual politics should be considered suspect. ]