Rightly or wrongly, today it seems quite widely assumed that a defence of high culture (and its public funding) is a conservative position, at odds with ‘progressive’ arguments which reject that it has any intrinsic value over and above popular/commercial alternatives, and as such deserves no special treatment (also that Western high culture is deeply entwined with colonialism, an argument I have attempted to address in a musical context in this article recently published in The Critic magazine).
At the height of the Thatcher-Reagan era, in 1989 (when both politicians were near the end of their careers, but their policies had become firmly entrenched), two books in the field of cultural studies appeared which argued this perspectively on high/low culture most fervently: John Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989) and Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 1989). Fiske interprets various approaches to consumption (which he describes as ‘a tactical raid upon the system’), such as sporting of particular garments, make-up or hairstyles, as guerrilla actions which subvert dominant values, writing that ‘At the point of sale the commodity exhausts its role in the distribution economy, but begins its work in the cultural. Detached from the strategies of capitalism, its work for the bosses completed, it becomes a resource for the culture of everyday life’. Ross is utterly scathing about any type of defence of high culture, seeing in this an affront to the values of democracy, and a hegemonic attempt by a dominant class to protect their privilege.
Yet in the House of Commons, a very different political alignment was made clear the following year. It came about in a speech during a debate on arts funding by hard right-wing Conservative MP Terry Dicks (1937-2020), then MP for Hayes and Harlington:
Terry Dicks: My hon. Friend said that the arts contribute to the quality of life. Perhaps he could explain to me one day how the arts’ contribution to the quality of life affects my pensioners and ordinary people who want to buy a pint and have a game of bingo– [Interruption.] Their quality of life is not enhanced by seeing some man prance about in a box or by listening to the different range of an opera singer.
Other questions that I should like to ask–which nobody answers, certainly not any of the great and the good on the Opposition Benches–is, what is art? What is culture? Who defines it? The answers to those questions are personal, but I know who the hell pays for it. The ordinary chap down the street pays for most of it, while the great and the good take advantage.
We have heard about the royal opera house. I shall show the way in which it thinks about money. I gather that it is about £3 million in debt. It spent £200,000 recently on a production. It has agreed to a 15 per cent. increase for ballet dancers who prance around, pretending they are toys, at an annual cost of £600,000. I find it strange that the arts world is up in arms about the lack of money yet ballet dancers can get a 15 per cent. increase, which is twice the rate of inflation. Nobody mentions that–certainly no Opposition Member has mentioned it. When extra money is called for, all the whingers appear on both sides of the Chamber [Interruption.] Every man, well and good, appears. Nobody should need to question the situation : everyone should understand what needs to be done. Why should we subsidise old pros dressed in doublets and hose? I do not understand.
In common with my right hon. Friend the Minister, I could say that it is all “Much Ado About Nothing”, but I am not an expert on Shakespeare. The Royal Shakespeare Company has made its bed and it must lie on it. I see no justification for a grant increase, nor can I see any justification for any grant. No one in the working class, or the people I represent, could give a toss about the Royal Shakespeare Company staying open or closing down. There is nothing special about it.
One can compare and contrast the RSC with the commercial theatre, which must survive by putting on a programme that people are prepared to pay an economic cost to see. The same argument applies to professional football. In common, I am sure, with many colleagues I received a copy of a letter from Ken Bates, who is the chairman of Chelsea football club. He says :
“The Arts Council grant to the Opera House this year is more than £13.3 million, or £75,000 a week I’d be interested to know what percentage that is of the Opera House’s total income.”
So would I.
“Far from offering us any subsidy or assistance, it”–the Government–“takes £300 million a year in betting tax out of the game, which is equal to £3 million per Football League club”
Is it not strange that the working-class pastime gets hammered by the taxman while the upper-class pastime–I notice that a member of the middle class is sitting next to the upper-class man on the Opposition Front Bench- -is subsidised all the time by the rest of us. The poor chap down the road must pay the full whack to see Brentford or Chelsea, apart from the cost that he must meet in the future towards increased safety in those football grounds. He must pay for that ticket from his own pocket, but the great and the good, in their bow ties and long frocks, get them paid for by someone else. It is strange that we adopt such an approach to the upper class in this House and we forget the ordinary people who put us here. [ Hon. Members– : “Hear, hear.”] I am glad that the audience is so good, and that most of the audience have had a good dinner.
Child benefit has not been uprated for a couple of years and the ambulance men are being offered only 6.5 per cent. for this year–
After a few other interventions, and more from Dicks, the then-Labour MP for Newham North-West, Tony Banks (1942-2006) (associated with the relatively hard left, an ally of Ken Livingstone, Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn), responded as follows:
Tony Banks: My right hon. and hon. Friends know that an economically efficient and socially just society will not only address the problems of homelessness, poverty and unemployment that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) mentioned. Such a society will support also a thriving and burgeoning arts expenditure. It is a mark of a confident and strong society that it encourages and nurtures the arts. The Victorians did it in the past in this country, and the French, Germans and Italians do it today.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington is not in his place, because listening to him opining on the arts is rather like listening to Vlad the Impaler presenting “Blue Peter”. The hon. Gentleman is undoubtedly living proof that a pig’s bladder on a stick can be elected as a Member of Parliament.
Several Hon. Members rose —
Mr. Speaker : Order. I know–but although the hon. Gentleman’s comments may not be very pleasant, they are not unparliamentary.
This amusing exchange shows how the political alignment I outlined at the beginning of this piece has by no means always been accepted. Some of us on the left still believe passionately in the value of high culture, and of subsidy to try and make it available to a wider section of the population. For all that I would never defend Soviet communism, the success of such a venture on a large scale is made clear in Pauline Fairclough’s book Classics for the Masses: Shaping Soviet Musical Identity under Lenin and Stalin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), and recently in a fantastic keynote on ‘The Soviet model of teaching music at universities and conservatories, and its implementation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe’ at my conference on ‘Music and the University: History, Models, Prospects’ (of which more in a blog post to follow), Serbian musicologist Ivana Medić gave plentiful detail about how this approach was disseminated through Eastern Europe (including in countries which had broken with Moscow such as Yugoslavia), and still informs musical education today. There remains plenty to learn from this.
To do justice to Arnold’s enviable legacy, we should reverse the tendency towards the de-skilling of a discipline.
During the contributions to Arnold Whittall’s 80th birthday colloquium at King’s College, London, Jonathan Cross linked two events: Arnold’s appointment as the first Professor of Theory and Analysis in 1982, and later in the decade the purported expansion of musicology to incorporate issues of gender, sexuality and race, methodologies from sociology, anthropology, cultural studies and elsewhere, and greater focus on popular musics and other traditions outside of Western art music. Some of the latter phenomena are associated with the so-called ‘new musicology’ in the US and its slightly milder counterpart ‘critical musicology’ in the UK.
All of these were portrayed by Cross as a general broadening of the discipline, a welcome infusion of increased diversity of subject and methodology, a natural step forward. But an academic field now in large measure antipathetic to claims of musical autonomy seems nonetheless to claim a fair degree of autonomy for its own trajectory, in a way I find implausible and even disingenuous. There may be some common determinants underlying all these apparent broadenings of the field, and both systematic analysis and the new musicology have been opposed by conservatives such as Peter Williams. Nonetheless, the wider ideologies underlying these disparate developments can be quite antagonistic, as was certainly made clear in an important interview between Arnold and Jonathan Dunsby published in Music Analysis (Vol. 14, No. 2/3 (Jul. – Oct., 1995), pp. 131-139) for the former’s 60th birthday.
The ‘new musicology’ is frequently argued to have been inaugurated with the publication of Joseph Kerman’s Contemplating Music (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985) (UK title Musicology). Despite being replete with factual errors, Kerman’s appeal to a musicological inferiority complex, a field presented as trailing far behind other disciplines in terms of adoption of ideas from phenomenology, post-structuralism, feminism and more, not to mention his negative view of both musical modernism and historically-informed performance, as well as residual anti-German prejudice, would prove very influential.
But Kerman was also the author of the polemical ‘How We Got into Analysis, and How to Get out’ (Critical Inquiry, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Winter 1980), pp. 331-331), absolutely at odds with what Arnold was advocating and aiming for at around the same time. The contexts for these two musicologists were very different: Kerman was responding to a particular North American situation (though he was shameless in extrapolating universal pronouncements from a rather provincial perspective), with a much starker distinction between ‘historians’ and ‘theorists’ than in the UK. In the US, a heavily mediated rendition of Schenker’s work had flowered since 1931 through his student Hans Weisse, and in the early post-war era through other students Felix Salzer and Oswald Jonas, whilst other intense analytical approaches had been developed by Rudolph Réti, Milton Babbitt, Allen Forte, George Perle, David Lewin and others. In the UK, on the other hand, as Arnold would note in a 1980 article (‘Musicology in Great Britain since 1945. III. Analysis’, Acta Musicologica, Vol. 52, Fasc. 1 (Jan. – Jun. 1980), pp. 57-62), systematic analysis had made little advance, despite a gauntlet having been set down by Ian Bent’s advocacy at the Congress of the International Musicological Society in 1972. What did exist – through some interest in Réti’s work, the ‘functional analysis’ of Hans Keller, and a smattering of other work from Alan Walker, David Osmond Smith and a few others – was occasional and patchy, and this was undoubtedly a major factor in Arnold’s co- founding, in 1982, the journal Music Analysis together with Jonathan Dunsby, with whom he would author what remains the leading general textbook on analysis in English six years later. The subject has continued to grow and develop, with excellent work from UK academics, such as Matthew Riley’s studies on Haydn and Mozart, Michael Spitzer’s work on the affective function of gesture, Nicholas Cook on analysis and performance, or Allan Moore’s work on rock, but it is difficult in 2015 to see analysis as having attained a central position in musicology as might have seemed possible in 1982. Various musicologists who assumed prominent positions from the 1990s onwards have made no secret of their disdain for this sub-discipline, sometimes inspired by American writings of a similar ideological persuasion.
Assumptions of autonomous development of the discipline in the 1980s and 1990s are belied by issues such as the wider politics of education from the Thatcher years onwards. These entailed cuts in musical provision in schools, the 1992 removal of the formal distinction between universities and polytechnics, and then expansion of student numbers. After a doubling of the number of students (in all subjects) between 1963 and 1970 following the Robbins Report, numbers remained static until the late 1980s, when during a period of around a decade student numbers practically doubled from 17% in 1987 to 33% in 1997, then rose steadily to peak at 49% in 2011. This move from an elite to a mass educational system occurred in parallel with attempts to erase the very real differences in preparedness and background amongst students at different types of institutions, with a net levelling effect upon many.
Much of the new embrace of popular music had less to do with genuine diversification than an enforced denial of very real differences of various forms of musical production’s relationship to the marketplace. One of Thatcher’s neoliberal mantras, ‘There Is No Alternative’ (TINA) was echoed by many a musicologist scornful of any possible value in state-subsidised musical activity thus able to operate with a degree of autonomy from shortterm market utility. As subsidy is rare or minimal in the US, this ideology was convenient for American musicologists eager to claim some radical credentials through valorisation of the commercial whilst still appearing patriotic; it was disappointing to see so much of this ideology imported wholesale in the UK, a country with a modest level of subsidy for music compared to its continental European counterparts.
I had always thought of music, at a tertiary level, as a highly skilled discipline for those who have already developed and refined musicianship prior to entering university. This belief may reflect a background in a specialist music school in which, if nothing else, the teaching of fundamental musical skills was rigorous and thorough. Nonetheless, the importance of not allowing music slip to become a ‘soft’ subject requiring only nominal prior skills (and, as with much work in the realm of cultural studies, not requiring any particular artistic disciplinary expertise or extended knowledge) is to me self-evident. But with declining primary and secondary musical educational provision, frequently the extent of such prior skills amongst students can be quite elementary.
Furthermore, following the trebling of tuition fees in 2012 and other measures removing caps on recruitment, higher education has become a more ruthlessly competitive market with institutions fighting to attract and keep students. These various factors provide the context from which we should view the growth in many departments of types of popular music studies, film music studies, cultural studies, and some varieties of ethnomusicology, in which engagement with sounding music is a secondary or even non-existent concern. Such focus enables the production of modules which can be undertaken by those students with limited prior skills, but militates against musical analysis in particular.
We now have a situation, unthinkable a few decades ago, where some senior academics – even at professorial level – have no ability to read any type of musical notation. These academics (not to mention some of their students who will go onto teach at primary and secondary levels) may only perpetuate and exacerbate this situation for their own students. Similarly, a number of sub-disciplines of academic music can now be undertaken without linguistic skills, or much background in history, literature, the visual arts, philosophy and so on. Students have always had uneven or patchy backgrounds in these respects, but the will to help them improve upon this has also declined in various institutions. Expansion of musical study to encompass wider ranges of music and disciplinary approaches is certainly to be welcomed when this entails the cultivation of equal degrees of expertise and methodological refinement and critical acumen, but not necessarily when these are simply a means for attracting and holding onto less able students.
In short, these developments in musical higher education have seen a well-meaning liberal quest for inclusivity amount in practice to a pseudo-egalitarian de-skilling of a profession. In order to build upon the legacy bequeathed above all by Arnold for the support of specialised and rigorous analytical skills, we cannot ignore this issue any longer.
Peter Morrison – the child abuser protected by MI5, the Cabinet Secretary, and Margaret Thatcher – updated July 2015Posted: July 26, 2015
[With great thanks to @Snowfaked and @MySweetLandlord on Twitter for finding some extra pieces of information, especially relating to Morrison and Islay, and the picture of Thatcher, Morrison and Brittan]
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. She may be the same person who is a Local Authority Governor for St Peter’s Catholic Primary School in Billericay.
In 1982, a boy who would then have been around 14 (the same age as I was at the time) has given a vivid account of his experiences at the hands of Morrison (Bill Gardner, ‘Westminster paedophile ring: ‘I allowed my son to go with him. You trusted people more in those days”, Daily Telegraph, January 3rd, 2015). This boy encountered Morrison, dressed in a pin-striped suit in the village of Harting, West Sussex; Morrison told him his car had broken down, offered him money to help him start it, then invited the boy to his ‘nice big house in London for the weekend’. The boy said he couldn’t come, but gave Morrison his phone number when he asked, and then received repeated phone calls imploring him to come, eventually saying yes after refusing repeatedly. Morrison came down to Sussex with a driver, told the boy and his father he had homes in Chester and London, but not that he was an MP (he said he was a barrister). To the boy’s father’s great regret, he let him go; almost immediately on the journey, Morrison began to sexually assault the boy, who said:
He’d leave me alone for a little bit, and then he’d come at me again. . . . Before long, he had my trousers off. At one point we stopped for petrol, and I thought about running out of the car, but I realised the doors had some sort of child lock and I couldn’t get out. I was so frightened.
Matters got worse: Morrison gave beer and wine to the boy and then took him to a house, which the boy (now a man in his mid-40s) thinks was Elm Guest House. There were seven or eight men around the house, and Morrison took him upstairs, stripped him, and raped him for at least an hour; the man says ‘It was the most horrendous experience of my life.’ Morrison then told him they would be going to the sauna together, visiting a ‘party’, and he would be sleeping in Morrison’s bed later. The boy managed to sneak out of the house unseen, get back on a train to Harting, and tell his father what had happened. A local policeman was called, and the boy was taken to a police doctor, with medics telling the father afterwards that his son had ‘certainly been sexually abused’. Two detectives from Scotland Yard took a full statement from the boy, who soon afterwards received calls at home from various men in London asking where he was, which he attributed to Morrison panicking after he had disappeared. Nothing more happened until two Scotland Yard officers arrived on the family’s doorstep a year later, with the boy’s clothes in a bag, saying that the man in question had been convicted in a Chelsea court, had been imprisoned for two years, and nothing else was to worry about. Only years later did the victim recognise Morrison as a prominent MP in the Thatcher government. Operation Fairbank continue to investigate this story (Bill Gardner, ‘Thatcher confidant raped boy and police covered crime up’, Daily Telegraph, January 5th, 2015). The man now says that:
I believe that Morrison was a high-profile guy so he got away with it. Either the police were paid off or they hushed it up because he was an MP.
“I was never the same after what happened – he ruined my life really. I left school soon afterwards because I lost all my confidence. I couldn’t handle what had happened to me.
Scotland Yard, in January 2015, were unable to confirm whether Morrison had been investigated at the time (Rebecca Camber, ‘Tory MP who was Thatcher’s confidant ‘raped my 14-year-old son at paedophile guest house’, Daily Mail, January 4th, 2015). More ominously, it was revealed that the body of the murdered Vishal Mehortra was found in woodland in Rogate, less than two miles from Harting (‘Thatcher aide could be linked to body found in Rogate’, Midhurst and Petworth Observer, January 10th, 2015).
However, since then reports have alleged that Morrison was arrested twice for picking up men at the toilets at Piccadilly tube, taken to West End Central police station in Savile Row and let off with a caution each time (a second caution is very unusual); the Met are trying to track down officers who were involved with the arrests. There are also rumours of Morrison’s having been caught making similar approaches at toilets in Crew railway station in Cheshire. These have all led to a probe into police corruption and high-level cover-up (Nick Dorman, ‘Probe over claims Margaret Thatcher aide escaped prosecution because of Establishment links’, Sunday People, July 18th, 2015; Martin Beckford, ‘Met launch probe into Maggie aide and its own cover up’, Mail on Sunday, July 19th, 2015). A later report made clear that one of the offences for which Morrison was arrested involved a 15-year old boy (Matt Chorley, ‘Senior Westminster figures from 1970s and 1980s including former Home Secretary Leon Brittan named in government child abuse files’, Daily Mail, July 22nd, 2015).
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).
Former MP for Chester (1997-2010), Christine Russell
This week, it has emerged that previously undiscovered files exist on Morrison (and Leon Brittan, former Wokingham MP Sir William van Straubenzee, and others including a figure named only as ‘Vanessa the Undresser’) which are thought to relate to abuse, and were not seen by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC when preparing their earlier report (a supplement has been published here) (Tom Parmenter, ‘Key Westminster Figures in Child Abuse Papers’, Sky News, July 23rd, 2015). A report in The Times has named Morrison as an MP about whom communications took place in November 1986 between the late Sir Antony Duff (1920-2000), then head of MI5, and Sir Robert Armstrong, then cabinet secretary. Two sources had approached senior officials with reports that Morrison had ‘a penchant for small boys’. He was questioned about these but the security services accepted his claims that the allegations were false (Daniel Martin, ‘Secret files ‘show MI5 let abuse claim MP off hook’: Security chief said the case would ’embarrass the Government”, Daily Mail, July 22nd, 2015). Duff concluded ‘The risks of political embarrassment to the Government is rather greater than the security danger’ (clearly the interests of the victims did not even filter into Duff and Armstrong’s calculations, as has been commented upon by many, including Wanless and a spokesperson for NSPCC) (Sean O’Neill and Gabriella Swerling, ‘Child abuse suspect was Thatcher aide’, The Times, July 24th, 2015 [see below]; Daniel Martin, ‘Secret files ‘show MI5 let abuse claim MP off the hook’: Security chief said the case would ’embarrass the Government’, Daily Mail, July 22nd, 2015; ‘Child abuse: PM Tells Police – No Limits’, Sky News, July 23rd, 2015; Joseph Watts, ”Child abuse’ files must give justice to victims, says NSPCC chief’, Evening Standard, July 23rd, 2015). Approached a few days ago by The Times, Armstrong had the following to say:
My official business was the protection of national security. I have to stress that there was nothing like evidence in this case. There was just a shadow of a rumour. It’s impossible to take investigative action on shadows of rumours. . . If there is some reason to think a crime has been committed, then people like the cabinet secretary are not to start poking their noses into it. It’s for the police to do that.
To the Mail, Armstrong (who would not name Morrison to them), said:
I thought MI5’s actions were correct at the time. I think they were right to report the rumour, they were right to make what inquiries they could and they were right to come to the conclusion they did. I think if there was evidence it would have been properly examined at the time. I don’t think this is a matter of important people being protected. You can’t pursue inquiries unless you have evidence on which you can base the enquiry. A shadow of a rumour is not enough.
He went on to say ‘I think he [Morrison] was interview but he denied it. It is not my position to name him’, and did not know if Thatcher was made aware of the MI5 decision, which drew a furious response from Rochdale MP and long-term campaigner against child abuse Simon Danczuk (Vanessa Allen, Claire Ellicott and Daniel Martin, ‘I won’t name child abuse MP; Fury as Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet chief defends failure to act over senior Tory’, Daily Mail, July 24th, 2015). See also Armstrong’s non-committal response to questions sent to him by investigative journalist Tim Tate, and Tate’s own blog on this.
Armstrong, who once became notorious for using the phrase ‘economical with the truth’ when involved in trying to prevent the publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher (Sue Reid, ‘Mandarin who can’t help being economical with truth: Lord Armstrong at centre of accusations of child abuse cover-up’, Daily Mail, July 24th, 2015), also has past form in terms of his dismissive responses to the entreaties by pianist and whistleblower Martin Roscoe for the Royal Northern College of Music, of which Armstrong was the chair of the board of governors in 2002, not to employ violinist Malcolm Layfield as their Head of Strings, after his record of sexually exploiting girls at Chetham’s School (see Charlotte Higgins, ‘After Michael Brewer: the RNCM teacher’s story’, The Guardian, February 13th, 2013; ‘Correspondence over appointment of Malcolm Layfield at Royal Northern College of Music’, The Guardian, February 8th, 2013).
On top of everything else, the Labour MP John Mann published a series of important tweets: ‘In 1984 Geoffrey Dickens gave Leon Brittan as Home Secretary a further list of alleged paedophiles linked directly to Peter Morrison’; ‘What happened to the list of Peter Morrison linked paedophiles given to Home Secretary in 1984? And why was no action taken?’; ‘I have just met person who gave list of Peter Morrison linked paedophiles to Geoffrey Dickens. Astonishing developments and cover ups’; ‘The new list of Dickens names was entirely different to first. It was given to him precisely because of publicity about his initial action’ all of which suggests new dimensions to the files supplied by Dickens to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan.
Sir Peter Morrison (1944-1995) was known, according to an obituary by Patrick Cosgrove, as a right winger who disliked immigration, supported the return of capital punishment, and wished to introduce vouchers for education. He was from a privileged political family; his father, born John Morrison, became Lord Margadale, the squire of Fonthill, led the campaign to ensure Alec Douglas-Home became Prime Minister in 1963, and predicted Thatcher’s ultimate accession to the leadership (Sue Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’, Daily Mail, July 12th, 2014, updated July 16th). The young Peter attended Eton College, then Keble College, Oxford. Entering the House of Commons in 1974 at the age of 29, during the first Thatcher government he occupied a series of non-cabinet ministerial positions, then became Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1986, replacing Jeffrey Archer after his resignation, and working under Chairman Norman Tebbit. His sister, Dame Mary Morrison, became a lady-in-waiting to the Queen (Gyles Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’: In a brave and haunting account, TV star and ex MP Gyles Brandreth reveals the years of abuse he endured at prep school’, Daily Mail, September 12th, 2014).
Morrison was close to Thatcher from when he entered Parliament (see Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 837), working for her 1975 leadership campaign and, after she became Prime Minister, putting her and Denis up for holiday in the 73 000 acre estate owned by his father in Islay, where games of charades were played (Jonathan Aitken, Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 158-160, 279-281); Thatcher stayed there after her 1979 election victory, together with Morrison and also Leon Brittan (see the image below of the three of them, from Tom Shields, ‘Mrs T weathers rainy day blues’; Glasgow Herald, August 17th, 1979; see also Michael White’s his obituary of Brittan on how he helped to ‘keep her entertained during her reluctantly taken holidays’; Michael White, ‘Leon Brittan: Thatcher’s protege turned scapegoat’, The Guardian, January 22nd, 2015) Lord Margadale had previously entertained Princess Alexandra, Harold Macmillan and Ted Heath there. Morrison himself said in 1979 that Thatcher likely knew the people of Islay better than any others, except for in her constituency of Finchley (Tom Shields, ‘Not even on Islay can Mrs Thatcher get away from it all’, Glasgow Herald, August 16th, 1979; Tom Shields, ‘Islay estate sacks half its workers’, Glasgow Herald, August 2nd, 1982).
After being appointed as Thatcher’s Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1990, Morrison ran what is generally believed to have been a complacent and lacklustre leadership campaign for her when she was challenged by Michael Heseltine; as is well-known, she did not gain enough votes to prevent a second ballot, and then resigned soon afterwards. Morrison was known to some others as ‘a toff’s toff’, who ‘made it very clear from the outset that he did not intend spending time talking to the plebs’ on the backbenches (Stephen Norris, Changing Trains: An Autobiography (London: Hutchinson, 1996), p. 149).
Jonathan Aitken, a close friend of Morrison’s, would later write the following about him:
I knew Peter Morrison as well as anyone in the House. We had been school friends. He was the best man at my wedding in St Margaret’s, Westminster. We shared many private and political confidences. So I knew the immense pressures he was facing at the time when he was suddenly overwhelmed with the greatest new burden imaginable – running the Prime Minister’s election campaign.
Sixteen years in the House of Commons had treated Peter badly. His health had deteriorated. He had an alcohol problem that made him ill, overweight and prone to take long afternoon naps. In the autumn of 1990 he became embroiled in a police investigation into aspects of his personal life. The allegations against him were never substantiated, and the inquiry was subsequently dropped. But at the time of the leadership election, Peter was worried, distracted and unable to concentrate. (Aitken, Margaret Thatcher, pp. 625-626).
An important article by Nick Davies published in The Guardian in April 1998, also made the following claim:
Fleet Street routinely nurtures a crop of untold stories about powerful abusers who have evaded justice. One such is Peter Morrison, formerly the MP for Chester and the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Ten years ago, Chris House, the veteran crime reporter for the Sunday Mirror, twice received tip-offs from police officers who said that Morrison had been caught cottaging in public toilets with underaged boys and had been released with a caution. A less powerful man, the officers complained, would have been charged with gross indecency or an offence against children.
At the time, Chris House confronted Morrison, who used libel laws to block publication of the story. Now, Morrison is dead and cannot sue. Police last week confirmed that he had been picked up twice and never brought to trial. They added that there appeared to be no trace of either incident in any of the official records. (Nick Davies, ‘The sheer scale of child sexual abuse in Britain’, The Guardian, April 1998).
Recently, the former editor of the Sunday Mirror, Paul Connew, has revealed how he was told in 1994 by House of the stories concerning Morrison. Connew has revealed that it was a police officer who was the source, dismayed by the lack of action after Morrison had been arrested for sexually molesting under-age boys; the officer revealed how Morrison had attempted to ‘pull rank’ by demanding to see the most senior officer, and announcing proudly who he was. All the paperwork relating to the arrest simply ‘disappeared’. Connew sent a reporter to confront Morrison at his Chester home, but Morrison dismissed the story and made legal threats, which the paper was not able to counter without naming their police source, which was impossible. The story ultimately died, though Connew was able to establish that in the senior echelons of Scotland Yard, Morrison’s arrest and proclivities were no secret; he had been arrested on multiple occasions in both Chester and London, always hushed up (Paul Connew, ‘Commentary: how paedophile Peter Morrison escaped exposure’, Exaro News, September 26th, 2014).
In an article in the Daily Mail published in October 2012, former Conservative MP and leader of the Welsh Tories Rod Richards claimed that Morrison (and another Tory grandee who has not been named) was connected to the terrible abuse scandals in Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn children’s homes, in the Wrexham area of North Wales, having seen documents which identified both politicians as frequent, unexplained visitors. Richards also claimed that William Hague, who was Secretary of State for Wales from 1995 to 1997, and who set up the North Wales Child Abuse inquiry, would have seen the files on Morrison, but sources close to Hague denied that he had seen any such material. A former resident of the Bryn Estyn care home testified to Channel 4 News, testified to seeing Morrison arrive there on five occasions, and may have driven off with a boy in his car (‘Exclusive: Eyewitness ‘saw Thatcher aide take boys to abuse”, Channel 4 News, November 6th, 2012; see also Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’).
The owner of Bryn Alyn and other homes, John Allen, was sentenced to life in December 2014 for sexual abuse of 18 boys and one girl there (‘Children’s home boss John Allen jailed for life for campaign of sex abuse’, Daily Telegraph, December 1st, 2014), and was revealed to be a friend of Michael John Carroll, who was abusing children in homes in the London borough of Lambeth (Tom Pettifor and Elwyn Roberts, ‘Two notorious paedophiles at centre of nationwide network of abusers including Tory and Labour politicians, Daily Mirror, December 1st, 2014). The implications – that Morrison was connected not just to abuse in North Wales but also to a wider ring of abusers – are almost too horrifying to contemplate, but must be considered (see also my collection of reports on abuse in Lambeth, which I will update soon).
More stories and allegations have emerged about a Wrexham paedophile ring operative in the 1970s and 1980s, and trials are ongoing, so I will just link to a few articles about these (James Tozer, ‘Police probe into historic paedophile ring reveals 140 victims allege abuse by 84 people at 18 care homes across North Wales’, Daily Mail, April 29th, 2013; David Holmes, ‘Chester man alleges his child abuse claims were ignored for more than a decade’, The Chester Chronicle, December 3rd, 2014; Steven Morris, ‘Wrexham paedophile ring preyed on boys in north Wales, court told’, The Guardian, April 21st, 2015; ”Predatory’ paedophiles abused boys in Wrexham in the 1980s’, BBC News, April 21st, 2015; ‘Historic Predatory Paedophile Ring In Wrexham Convicted’, Wrexham.com, July 2nd, 2015; Steven Morris, ‘Five men found guilty of being members of ‘predatory paedophile ring”, The Guardian, July 3rd, 2015). As far as those who have been convicted is concerned, it is a matter of paramount importance to establish whether Morrison was acquainted with any of them. The 2000 Waterhouse Inquiry Report concluded that there was a paedophile ring operative in Chester and Wrexham (‘Waterhouse Inquiry: recommendations and conclusions’, The Telegraph, November 6th, 2012), thus linking North Wales abuse to Morrison’s own constituency.
Morrison’s successor as MP for Chester, Gyles Brandreth, told the press that he and his wife Michelle had been told on the doorstep repeatedly and emphatically that the MP was ‘a disgusting pervert’ (David Holmes, ‘Former Chester MP Peter Morrison implicated in child abuse inquiry’, Chester Chronicle, November 8th, 2012). This appeared in Brandreth’s book, Breaking the Code: Westminster Diaries (London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), p. 54, in the entry for September 12th, 1991 (taken from the entry ‘Brandreth on the child abuser Peter Morrison MP’, cathyfox blog, July 26th, 2015):
In a build-up to the launch of a new edition of Brandreth’s book (London: Biteback Publishing, 2014), which suggested major new revelations but delivered little, Brandreth merely added that when canvassing in 1991 ‘we were told that Morrison was a monster who interfered with children’, and added:
At the time, I don’t think I believed it. People do say terrible things without justification. Beyond the fact that his drinking made Morrison appear unprepossessing — central casting’s idea of what a toff paedophile might look like — no one was offering anything to substantiate their slurs.
At the time, I never heard anything untoward about Morrison from the police or from the local journalists — and I gossiped a good deal with them. Four years after stepping down, Peter Morrison was dead of a heart attack.
What did Mrs Thatcher know of his alleged dark side? When I talked to her about him, I felt she had the measure of the man. She knew he was homosexual, and she knew he was a drinker. She was fond of him, clearly, but told me that he had ruined himself through ‘self-indulgence’ — much as Reginald Maudling had done a generation earlier. (Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’)
Brandreth did however crucially mention that William Hague had told him in 1996 that Morrison’s name might feature in connection with the inquiry into child abuse in North Wales, specifically in connection to Bryn Estyn, thus corroborating Rod Richard’s account, though Brandreth also pointed out that the Waterhouse report made no mention of Morrison (Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’).
At present, William Hague (who retired from the Cabinet and Parliament quite suddenly, stepping down at the 2015 election, in circumstances which have never been fully explained) is expected to be heavily criticised in a forthcoming report on the North Wales abuse scandal, from the Macur inquiry, to which Rod Richards gave evidence (Glen Owen and Brendan Carlin, ‘Hague faces cover-up row over Thatcher ally’s link to care home abuse scandal: Former foreign secretary said to have been made aware of Sir Peter Morrison’s connections while working as Welsh secretary, Mail on Sunday, May 31st, 2015).
On top of all of this, Morrison’s name has surfaced in connection with another murder inquiry (as well as that of Vishal Mehortra), of Martin Allen, who disappeared on Bonfire Night 1979, and has never been found. Morrison was amongst those (together with Peter Hayman and Leon Brittan) who visited the cottage in Kensington of Allen’s father, who was chief chauffeur at the Australian High Commission (Don Hale, ‘Witness comes forward in Martin Allen case linked to Westminster paedophile ring’, Daily Star, April 12th, 2015).
The journalist Simon Heffer has also said that rumours about Morrison were circulating in Tory top ranks as early as 1988, whilst Tebbit has admitted hearing rumours ‘through unusual channels’, then confronting Morrison about them, which he denied (Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’); Tebbit, who has suggested that a cover-up of high-level abuse by politicians is likely, now concedes that he had been ‘naive’ in believing Morrison, and rejected Currie’s account of Morrison having admitted his offences to him (James Lyons, ‘Norman Tebbit admits he heard rumours top Tory was paedophile a decade before truth revealed’, Daily Mirror, July 8th, 2014). In a recent interview, Tebbit has given a slightly different rendition of things, claiming that he had ‘heard stories that Peter had an unhealthy interest in young men but not that it was with underage children. I confronted him about this, he denied it flat’ (Marie Woolf, ‘Tebbit quizzed MP on sex claims’, The Sunday Times, July 26th, 2015). He also refused to say who had told him about Morrison, saying somewhat cryptically:
There was no official contact. I choose my words carefully. I will just say that I was made aware. I was not sent a file.
Furthermore, Tebbit claimed he had had ‘no reason to believe Downing Street was aware of the allegation’, and had not contacted Thatcher about it, nor pursued the matter with the police, as he assumed they had no evidence and would not press charges (which raises the question of whether it was the police who told him).
Other Tory politicians recall John Wakeham, Chief Whip from June 1983 to January 1987 (see Wakeham’s profile at parliament.uk) telling them, after coming to him with reports of Morrison’s cottaging skirmishes, ‘If someone brings me some evidence I can do something about it, if required’. Another Tory said ‘It never got out, but people said ‘they’ll never be able to do that for Peter again’ (Michael White, ‘Politicians regret complacency over alleged establishment child abuse’, The Guardian, March 17th, 2015).
The novelist Frederick Forsyth, on the other hand, described Morrison as someone ‘who should have been exposed many years ago’, as well as being a politically incompetent alcoholic; however, as far as his sexual offences were concerned, Forsyth claimed Thatcher ‘suspected nothing’ (Frederick Forsyth, ‘Debauched and dissolute fool’, The Express, July 18th, 2014). Later he called Morrison an ‘awful slut’ who was ‘now exposed at last as a ruthless boy-molester’ (Frederic Forsyth, ‘Mrs Thatcher should have chosen better’, Sunday Express, January 9th, 2015).
Recently, Thatcher’s bodyguard Barry Strevens has come forward to claim that he told Thatcher directly about allegations of Morrison holding sex parties at his house with underage boys (one aged 15), when told about this by a senior Cheshire Police Officer. (see Lynn Davidson, ‘Exclusive: Thatcher’s Bodyguard on Abuse Claims’, The Sun on Sunday, July 27th, 2014 (article reproduced in comments below); and Matt Chorley, ‘Barry Strevens says he told Iron Lady about rumours about Peter Morrison’, Mail on Sunday, July 27th, 2014; see also Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, ‘Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’’, The Independent, July 27th, 2014). Strevens claimed to have had a meeting with the PM and her PPS Archie Hamilton (now Baron Hamilton of Epsom), which he had requested immediately. Strevens had claimed this was right after the Jeffrey Archer scandal; Archer resigned in October 1986, whilst Hamilton was Thatcher’s PPS from 1987 to 1988. Strevens recalls Thatcher simply thanking him and that was the last he heard of it. He said:
I wouldn’t say she (Lady Thatcher) was naive but I would say she would not have thought people around her would be like that.
I am sure he would have given her assurances about the rumours as otherwise she wouldn’t have given him the job.
Strevens spoke again to the press in May 2015, to clarify further his account given in July 2014: he said that he had been told by a senior officer in Chester of rumours of under-aged boys attending sex parties at a home owned by Morrison. According to Strevens, Archie Hamilton ‘took notes and they thanked me’ (Hamilton recalls the officer being at Downing Street, but no mention of under-age boys), listened to him, and left it at that. Four years later, Thatcher recommended Morrison for a knighthood, which he received (Jonathan Corke, ‘Margaret Thatcher knew paedophile Tory’s sick secret but STILL secured him a knighthood; The former PM also recommended alleged abuser Leon Brittan and is claimed to have been aware of allegations about fellow knights Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith’, Sunday People, May 9th, 2015)
Strevens with Thatcher
Danczuk, who says that he met someone who alleges that Morrison raped him, made clear that in his view ‘There is little doubt in my mind that Margaret Thatcher turned a blind eye to known paedophiles from Peter Morrison to Cyril Smith and the rest.’ (James Lyons and James Gillespie, ‘Thatcher ignored Smith Abuse’, The Sunday Times, March 8th, 2015).
The accounts by Nicholls and Strevens make clear that the allegations – concerning in one case a 15-year old boy – are more serious than said in a later rendition by Currie, which said merely that Morrison ‘had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21’ (cited in Andrew Sparrow, ‘Politics Live’, The Guardian, October 24th, 2012). A further allegation was made by Peter McKelvie, who led the investigation in 1992 into Peter Righton in an open letter to Peter Mandelson. A British Aerospace Trade Union Convenor had said one member had alleged that Morrison raped him, and he took this to the union’s National HQ, who put it to the Labour front bench. A Labour minister reported back to say that the Tory Front Bench had been approached. This was confirmed, according to McKelvie, by second and third sources, and also alleged that the conversations first took place at a 1993-94 Xmas Party hosted by the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party. Mandelson has not yet replied.
In the 1997 election, Christine Russell herself displaced Brandreth and she served as Labour MP until 2010, when she was unseated by Conservative MP Stephen Mosely (see entry for ‘Christine Russell’ at politics.co.uk).
In 2013, following the publication of Hoggart’s article citing Nicholls, an online petition was put together calling for an inquiry, and submittted to then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State Christopher Grayling. Russell denounced the ‘shoddy journalism’ of the Guardian piece, recalled rumours of Morrison’s preferences, but said there was no hint of illegal acts; she did not however rule out an agreement that Morrison should stand down (‘Campaigners ask for inquiry over ex-Chester MP’, Chester Chronicle, January 3rd, 2013).
Morrison is now widely believed to have been a central character in a network of high-level VIP abusers (see Keir Mudie, ‘VIP paedophile files: The sick web of high-powered and well-connected child abusers’, Sunday People, March 21st, 2015).
Further questions now need to be asked of Lord Tebbit, Teresa Gorman, Edwina Currie, William Hague and other senior Tories, and crucially of Frances Mowatt, not to mention Christine Russell and others in Chester Labour Party, of what was known and apparently covered-up about Morrison. Frances Maude (now Baron Maude of Horsham), the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was PPS to Morrison from 1984-85 (see Maude’s biography at politics.co.uk), a crucial period, and also needs to be questioned on what he knew about his former boss’s activities. In March of this year, Maude, then Cabinet Minister, refused to make details of newly-found files public (Tom Parmenter, ‘Family Demands Names Of New Child Abuse Files’, Sky News, March 7th, 2015); it appears now that one of these files referred to his old boss Morrison. If money was involved in at least offers to Mowatt, as Currie alleges was told to her by Gorman, then the seriousness of the allegations is grave. In October 2014, Currie arrogantly and haughtily declared on Twitter:
@MaraudingWinger @DrTeckKhong @MailOnline I’ve been nicer than many deserve! But I take the consequences, & I do not hide behind anonymity.
@jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel @woodmouse1 I heard only tiny bits of gossip. The guy is dead, go pursue living perps. You’ll do more good
@woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel The present has its own demands. We learn from the past, we don’t get obsessive about it. Get real.
@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel And there are abusers in action right now, while you chase famous dead men.
@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel I’d rather police time be spent now on today’s criminals – detect, stop and jail them
@jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel @woodmouse1 Flattered that you think I know so much. Sorry but that’s not so. If you do, go to police
@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel They want current crimes to be dealt with by police, too. And they may need other help.
@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel Of course. But right now, youngsters are being hurt and abused. That matters.
Considering Currie also rubber-stamped the appointment of Jimmy Savile at Broadmoor (Rowena Mason, ‘Edwina Currie voices regrets over Jimmy Savile after inquiry criticism’, The Guardian, Thursday June 26th, 2014) and clearly knew information about Morrison, including claims of bribery of a political agent, known to at least one other MP (Gorman) as well as herself, it should not be surprising that she would want claims of abuse involving dead figures to be sidelined.
This story relates to political corruption at the highest level, with a senior politician near the top of his party involved in the abuse of children, and clear evidence that various others knew about this, but did nothing, and strong suggestions that politicians and police officers conspired to keep this covered up, even using hush money, in such a way which ensured that Morrison was free to keep abusing others until his death. This story must not be allowed to die this time round. The actions of Duff and Armstrong (and Thatcher) may have sealed the fate of further boys who Morrison went onto abuse. That is the highest dereliction of duty imaginable.
The Times, July 24th, 2015
Sean O’Neill and Gabriella Swerling, ‘Child abuse suspect was Thatcher aide’
A Whitehall investigation was carried out in the mid-1980s after two sources approached senior officials with reports that Morrison had “a penchant for small boys”.
MI5 officers questioned Morrison, the MP for Chester and deputy chairman of the party, and accepted his denials. It is understood that the allegations were not reported to police. Four years later, in July 1990, he was appointed Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS).
Files recently uncovered at the Cabinet Office revealed a note about the incident sent in November 1986 by Sir Antony Duff, head of the Security Service, to Sir Robert Armstrong, the cabinet secretary. It said there was no threat to national security but the claims did carry “the risk of political embarrassment to the government”.
Sir Robert, 88 – now Lord Armstrong of Ilminster – said last night: “My official business was the protection of national security. I have to stress that there was nothing like evidence in this case. There was just a shadow of a rumour. It’s impossible to take investigative action on shadows of rumours.”
He added: “If there is some reason to think a crime has been committed, then people like the cabinet secretary are not to start poking their noses into it. It’s for the police to do that.”
Morrison, who died in 1995, had been a whip and a junior minister before he was made Thatcher’s PPS. His Times obituary said that he “had clearly reached his ministerial ceiling [in 1990] and it was an act of kindness on the prime minister’s part to appoint him as her new PPS”.
He held the job for four months until November 1990, when he mismanaged the party leadership contest that led to Thatcher’s resignation.
The documents referring to Morrison are in four miscellaneous files discovered by a Cabinet Office team this year.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, who led a review into lost Whitehall documents on abuse scandals, said that the Duff memo revealed that “child safety came a poor second to preserving reputations of individuals or government departments”.
Writing in The Times today, he says: “It is plainly obvious . . . those at the highest level who once strode the corridors of power were putting their fear of political embarrassment above the risks to children.”
The documents have been sent to the Goddard inquiry into child sexual abuse which formally opened this month.
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
Various people looking into the Paedophile Information Exchange have mentioned the volume Warren Middleton (ed), The Betrayal of Youth: Radical Perspectives on Childhood Sexuality, Intergenerational Sex, and the Social Oppression of Children and Young People (London: CL Publications, 1986). This book contained a wide range of articles mostly from a pro-paedophilia point of view either by PIE members or sympathisers; the fact that Peter Tatchell contributed a chapter has been the subject of various controversy (to which I will return in a later post). The following constitute the contents of the volume (see here for a selection of pages including more details on contributors):
Part One: Five Controversial Areas
Clive Coliman, ‘Incest’
Richard Green, ‘Child Pornography and Erotica’
Warren Middleton, ‘Child Prostitution’
Liz Holton and Kathy Challis, ‘Gender Differences’
Eric Presland, ‘Power and Consent’
Part Two: Miscellaneous Chapters
Tuppy Owens and Tom O’Carroll, ‘Love and Let Love’
Michael Ingram, ‘Children and Sex: A Child Counsellor’s View’
Beatrice Faust, ‘The Pedophiles’
Peter Tatchell, ‘Questioning Ages of Majority and Ages of Consent’
Roger Moody, ‘Ends and Means: How to Make Pedophilia Acceptable…?’
John Lindsay, ‘Socialism, Class, and Children’s Rights’
Part Three: Protection or Oppression?
Warren Middleton, ‘Childhood Sexuality and Pedophilia: Some Questions Answered’
Part Four: How Youth See the Issues
Jeff Vernon, ‘The Oppression of the Young: An Inside Perspective’
Appendix 1: Steven A. Smith, ‘PIE, from 1980 Until its Demise in 1985’
Appendix 2: Timothy d’Arch Smith, ‘The Uranians’
The first of these two appendices is informative as an insider’s history of PIE. As with all writings by PIE members themselves, this should be read sceptically, aware of how much might have been omitted or distorted in the interests of the author or other members. My earlier post on PIE and the Home Office clarifies how Smith (also known as Steven Freeman) essentially ran the organisation from the Home Office itself. He fled the country for the Netherlands soon after writing this article, as detailed below, and was eventually jailed in 1991, and then more recently was given an indeterminate sentence in 2011 after being convicted of producing drawings of children being raped (‘Ex-paedophile group leader Freeman jailed over child rape drawings’, BBC News, July 15th, 2011). Nonetheless, there is clearly lots of important information to dissect in this chapter which I reproduce complete, without comment, below.
Steven A. Smith, ‘PIE: From 1980 until its Demise in 1985’, pp. 215-245
The name of PIE has cropped up several times in this collection. Since the group had, in its time, been so thoroughly misunderstood and misrepresented, it was deemed only fair to allow Steve Smith, its last chairperson, an opportunity to redress the balance. Accordingly, he now takes up the story from where Tom O’Carroll left off. –ed.
Questions of Priority
It seemed to me, when I succeeded O’Carroll as chairperson in 1979, that the most sensible order of business for PIE was firstly to regulate its internal affairs (MAGPIE  was appearing very erratically – partly my own fault – and members were receiving nothing else of value from the group); secondly to begin an energetic recruitment drive to replenish our depleted executive committee; thirdly to formulate collectively a coherent body of policies on key issues; and fourthly to tackle our campaigning objectives as a group, rather than as one or two individuals speaking on behalf of the group. More than simply addressing an occasional CHE branch, student gaysoc or academic conference, what I wanted to see was PIE producing a manifesto on video for the widest possible circulation (as GYM had done), or trying for ‘community access’ slots on TV and local radio, or producing posters and broadsheets aimed at the public rather than potential members, or even working in concert with the NUSS (the now-defunct National Union of School Students) to redress the steady flow of anti-paedophile propaganda which the police were imparting to schools all over the UK.
PIE had always felt a sense of kinship (not often reciprocated) with the gay movement, and a firm commitment towards autonomous youth liberation (children’s rights), but I wanted to see develop a far closer interaction – on practical as well as philosophical levels – between PIE and the various paedophile groups in Europe and the States. I felt we should lend considerable effort to the formation of an international alliance along similar lines to the International Gay Association (this was before we discovered how bureaucratic the IGA was in practice). Lastly, with the abandonment of PIE’s Contact Page under the menace of further prosecutions, the EC felt very keenly that members still needed something from PIE in the way of social support; something beyond the ad hoc counselling which many committee members undertook on a one-to-one basis. If British law prevented paedophiles from writing directly to one another through a simple small ad service, then some alternative had to be found which would abrogate the profound isolation which had driven them to the desperate resort of joining PIE in the first place. We began to look afresh at the establishment of local groups, which PIE had attempted in earlier years without much success.
In the event, PIE failed to draw onto its committee the kind of radicalised, hard-working people that were needed, and not one of the above objectives was realised. Year by year, PIE had sunk deeper into a state of collective torpor, grimly determined to survive, if only in catatonic immobility. So, we failed to attract into PIE useful paedophiles who were commited [sic] both to political action and to the development of a mutual support framework – this was due in part to PIE’s consummately negative image in all quarters (the radical leader was quite as easily duped by the press stories about us as anyone else, judging from the strange impressions of PIE that had reached our ears), but due also to obstruction and non co-operation wherever we sought wider publicity for the group’s address. Many gay and alternative journals must share the blame for PIE’s then continued parlous, debilitated condition. I’m convinced there are still many thousands of paedophiles in the UK alone who are ignorant of PIE having ever existed, and I know for certain there are many others who saw the various ‘exposés’ and shock reports about us, but were thwarted in their efforts to find us.
Perspectives on Pearl Harbour
A former treasurer, on resigning from the EC, put it to me (though not quite in these terms) that PIE’s reputation across the board had become so desperately negative that the groups’ mere existence could only harm the paedophile cause, whatever we tried to do about it. We were a pariah among alternative movements, evil incarnate to society at large, and by continuing to exist so doggedly in the face of all opprobrium, PIE was doing for British paedophiles what AIDS was doing for the gay community. A harsh judgement, I feel. If AIDS had not existed the Moral Majority would’ve had to invent it. If PIE had not existed, it would have been necessary for the NEWS OF THE WORLD to invent us. And in one sense it’s true to say that the gutter press did invent PIE – or at least, the image of PIE which had been in general coinage since 1977; that of a secretive international ‘cult’, probably with underworld connections, certainly with influence in ‘high quarters’; a porn-producing syndicate of callous men intent upon nothing but their own sexual gratification. But if PIE’s early strategy had been different, how different would its public image have been?
Several times the idea of folding PIE and replacing it with a new paedophile grouping was mooted on committee, but we’d never have successfully jettisoned PIE’s reputation by the simple expedient of a name-change, and even a substantially different alignment would not for long have escaped the vitriolic attention PIE had enjoyed. This rose by any other name would have smelled no sweeter. There was nothing endemic in PIE itself which another broad-based group could have avoided and thus somehow bridged the ‘credibility gap’. NAMBLA in the US, for example, has placed its emphasis exclusively on gay paederasty (men attracted to teenage boys and youths), thus neatly sidestepping the two most controversial planks of PIE’s platform – heterosexual and pre-teen paedophile relationships. Notwithstanding this, NAMBLA has been attacked, boycotted and obstructed every bit as much as PIE had been by the media, women’s groups, sections of the gay scene, and has come in for just the same intimidation and harassment from the authorities. So much for tactical compromise. PIE’s trajectory into the public eye in 1977 can be compared to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, after which Admiral Yamamoto observed: “I fear that all we have done is to waken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve”. Doubtless, many paedophiles wish we’d let this particular giant sleep on, but neither they nor children can be liberated from his tyranny without at least waking him in the process.
The conflicting demands of our campaigning and befriending objectives from the start presented a fundamental dichotomy in PIE. What for years we viewed as one of PIE’s greatest strengths may in truth have been its greatest weakness, or at least its greatest liability; our acceptance into the group and onto its Executive Committee of paedophiles, whatever their attitudes, abilities or political persuasion (with the exception of the far Right, of course). By straining to be all things to all paedophiles I doubt that we fully satisfied any, and we certainly alienated a few. There is a very powerful argument which runs thus: that the accommodation of a passive, inert membership consumes so much of the energies of a small group’s activist core that the raison d’être of the group is lost in a sea of ‘club-shit’. In other words, committee devoted so much of its time and attention to the routine of organisation and providing reading material and other services for consumption by the Moloch that vital campaigning work was neglected. After six years hard labour on the PIE committee I can only say that this was absolutely true.
Probably the only way ahead for paedophilia in the UK will be the emergence of two distinct groupings – though working in concert – attending to these differing needs. I for one did not wish to see the majority of paedophiles abandoned while the few activists diverted their attentions elsewhere, as some would have had us do, but equally I recognised that our political momentum had been retarded by a plague of part-time paedophiles – those who wanted to know what was going on without getting involved any deeper; who wanted to see changes made but not to help bring them about. PIE’s committee did not comprise many true activists anyway – it never did – so it alone did not have the capacity to diverge, and the very few paedophile activists who could be identified outside the group showed no interest in helping the metamorphosis come about.
Perhaps PIE’s mistake was in tackling non-paedophile prejudice in the first place? Perhaps instead we should have operated under the most stringent security precautions as a kind of Masonic network through which paedophiles might have contacted one another in safety? I’ve heard this view from outsiders. I don’t think that locking oneself in the closet would have been a terribly progressive move; by its nature such a network would have benefited only a tiny minority of those ‘in the know’, and the outside world would have been vindicated in its suspicions about us if we had behaved so furtively and were so indifferent to public opinion and the political imperative of children’s liberation.
The most bizarre misconception about PIE was held by a guy who later joined the committee for a short while – Lee Edwards. He’d visualised PIE being as affluent and neatly-organised as the Mormon Church, with smoked glass offices in the City of London and a full-time secretariat. He was, let’s say, a shade disillusioned by the reality. PIE did actually have an office in Westminster only a smirk away from the desk of the Home Secretary, but more of that later. The group’s silence in recent years had done nothing to dispel the illusions of people – friend and foe – about us, but then Pie itself had been undergoing an identity crisis of sorts, uncertain about which direction it should be taking. But one thing is quite certain – if we were none of the things people expected us to be, we were certainly none of the things the press had claimed us to be in their haste to deceive the British public.
Loaves and Fishes
I found PIE in 1978 entirely by accident through a classified ad in TIME OUT magazine. Many others came to us through a regular listing in GAY NEWS. However, both sources of new blood had been closed off long before the trial.  Occasionally, we would discover a listing in some unexpected place, inevitably giving an old address, but in general PIE was unable to get a listing in any gay or alternative paper in the UK. After the trial we attempted to retrieve this situation by a general approach to dozens of such papers here or abroad, asking for either free listings or concessionary advertising rates. A special appeal was made to the membership for donations to fund this advertising drive. MANCUNIAN GAY was the only paper in the UK willing to help us. Abroad, our ad was accepted without qualm by THE BODY POLITIC (Toronto) and GAY COMMUNITY NEWS (Boston) – both excellent gay papers whose unequivocally supportive stance on paedophilia put the faint-hearted GAY NEWS to shame – also by REVOLT (Sweden), CSC NUSLETER (California) and several others. But where we needed members most of all, where members were potentially of most value to the group, here in the UK, the drive got us nowhere. TIME OUT kept our hopes up for several months with repeated promises of a listing, but finally backed out with the feeble excuse that, as PIE wasn’t strictly a gay group, it was inappropriate to include us in a gay listings column. The only option left to us – a rather desperate one – was to litter PIE’s address around the streets by means of a sticker campaign, and this is what we did.
The sticker featured the silhouette of a standing child embracing a seated adult encircled by our name and address. We decided on this low-key format, foregoing bold and provocative slogans, as the object was simply to attract new members, not to outrage every parent that saw them. Even so, we were politely requested by one (prospective) London MP to desist planting them in his constituency (they had been discovered rather close to schools, you know!). Well, the campaign brought us just a handful of new people – too few members had been planting the stickers on a regular basis for fear of being caught red-handed and beaten up; those that were planted were being far too eagerly torn down; and worst of all one committee member made the terrible gaffe of not renewing the postal address on the sticker, so that later mail was never redirected to us at all. Perhaps the act of planting stickers, like writing political graffiti, is little more than a satisfying gesture of defiance for the individual, but I think we made a mistake in not concentrating our efforts on a far smaller area – probably London itself – and perhaps, if there had been a next time, we should have gone for those bold, provocative slogans.
There were a number of projects in various stages of completion during this period – none of which had any significance to non-paedophiles. The PIE Press Service was revived, making available once more all PIE’s early material (UNDERSTANDING PAEDOPHILIA and CHILDHOOD RIGHTS, for example) together with items like Tom’s book PAEDOPHILA: THE RADICAL CASE,  which PIE subsidised to its members; the early US boylove magazine BETTER LIFE; and the celebrated BODY POLITIC article ‘Men Loving Boys Loving Men’  (which has been subjected to not one, but two trials of its own). We owe thanks to Julian Meldrum of the Hall Carpenter Archives for supplying us with much early PIE material. So many important documents were lost whenever Scotland Yard descended on the homes of committee members that arrangements were made with the Brongersma and Bernard Foundations in Holland to deposit copies with them for safe keeping.
A reading list of paedophile fiction was added to the press service, complied by Lewis Grey, David Joy and Leo Adamson, and later a non-fiction list condensed by Tom O’Carroll from the copious bibliography of his book. Work was also begun on a film guide and on a survival guide for paedophiles in the UK.
A growing number of our members were captives in US prisons. Coping with the special needs of these people prompted us to set up a prisoner support scheme which, under Peter Bremner and later Tony Zalewski, found correspondents for these prisoners and sought sponsors to cover the expenses of their membership, mailing them recommended books and items from the press service. It hardly needs saying that our attempts to operate the scheme with inmates of British prisons were scotched by this country’s Draconian censorship restrictions. Mail from US prisoners often carried an apologetic stamp on the envelope which read: “Prisoners’ mail uncensored. Not responsible for contents.” I look forward to the day when British prisons need to be so apologetic – I had a long and fractious correspondence with the governor of Wormwood Scrubs over the confiscation of several letters of mine and other items sent to Tom O’Carroll. As with all things in the US, prison regulations vary wildly from state to state, so while some members were receiving regular visits from the boys for whose ‘protection’ they had been imprisoned, others were not even permitted to receive MAGPIE. NAMBLA was far better placed than we were to defend the interests of these people, and is now doing so. PIE was powerless to help prisoners in the UK without some referral arrangement with the social services, and the Home Office lifting restrictions on visits and correspondence.
Given the monstrous treatment of many paedophiles in prison, and the squalid, dehumanising conditions that prevail throughout the prison system, it is a marvel to me that people can emerge from this ordeal without a deep and burning animosity towards the society that abused them so. Imprisonment is the grossest indecency.
If there was one venture that I expected to be an unqualified success and firmly supported by the membership, it was the re-establishment of social meetings through local group organisers. This was the sort of freedom which other oppressed groups – blacks, gay men and women, and many more – took entirely for granted. Any attempt by PIE to arrange social venues (this applied equally to workshops, AGM’s, marches and demonstrations of any kind) carried with it the implicit danger of press harassment, police observation, and physical attack from fanatics of every species. Accordingly, such precautions had to be taken to insulate these meetings from the hostile gaze that the people who had most need of them – frightened, solitary people with zero political awareness – were the last to be invited to them. Where possible, committee members attempted to meet new people in order to establish their bona fides, but there was always a substantial part of the membership who could not be directly vouched for, and we knew there was an agent of the NEWS OF THE WORLD among them.
Having an EC member in Birmingham, the first step was to organise meetings in this area for members in the midlands. Several meetings took place, but then the host was arrested and sent to remand prison on an unconnected charge, and interest petered out. With my help, an Australian member attempted to generate support for a PIE branch in his country (we had more members in Australia than in Scotland and Wales together), but the majority of those approached preferred to keep the breadth of the globe between them and the kind of flak which PIE attracted. This was not too surprising when one learnt that an earlier bid to establish an independent Australian paedophile group – SYBOL – crashed when a conservative gay group threatened to hand the organisers’ names and addresses to the police. Plans for a Canadian branch of PIE went awry also, but happily NAMBLA was able to establish a chapter there soon after.
Our greatest concentration of members had always been in London and the home counties. All but a handful of PIE’s workers through the years had lived there. From August ’82 we booked a private room one night a week in a series of West end pubs, inviting along all members who were known to us. The average attendance was very disappointing: always the same few faces. Presumably, everyone feared that a press plant would be present, as had in fact happened once before in 1979: A known freelance operating for the NOTW, had turned up half drunk at one pub meeting and begun asking those present to procure boys for him. “I know there are kids around who’ll go with you for money,” he said, “but where are they? Why don’t we do something instead of just sitting here?” No such investigative journalist graced any of the more recent meetings. TIME OUT reporter, John Gill, came along once or twice, but he was there at our invitation, preparing a feature on the anxieties and expectations of paedophiles living in London (a feature subsequently suppressed by the magazine’s editors). Other guests present at those meetings included many GYM members and one or two representatives from CHE – one of them a woman who was entirely supportive. Discussions with these people were on the whole constructive and stimulating, and made the meetings worthwhile for us on the EC, but the objective of a social forum for members outside the committee was never realised.
Babel Wasn’t Built in a Day
In August 1980 PIE circulated an open letter among every known paedophile group in Europe, Scandinavia and North America, and also to prominent individuals such as Dr. Edward Brongersma, Dr. Frits Bernard, Drs. Theo Sandfort, and Valida Davila of CSC (Childhood Sensuality Circle). The letter outlined an ambitious, some would say grandiose, proposal for a new transnational paedophile federation through which member groups would collaborate on material projects and share resources at the same time as working towards a common philosophical platform. As I wrote in MAGPIE 15, “Much more than a simple mutual aid society, such a federation would be the consolidation of a coherent international paedophile and children’s liberation movement out of the present chaos of tiny national groups working largely oblivious of one another”. This initiative was very much a personal commitment of my own – my committee colleagues were not all so inspired by this euro-vision. I had learned through PIE that there were groups in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium, yet we knew virtually nothing about these people and their organisations, what they were doing in their own countries, or how their political analyses differed from that of PIE. Any contact we had established had been of a token kind, genuine in spirit but superficial in practice, so it was safe to assume that these groups were in the same state of ignorance about us. It seemed important to me that a full and penetrating dialogue be established at least with the strongest of them.
Inevitably, there were language obstacles. We mustered a few members to translate from French, German and Dutch for us, but although our files were brimming with magazines from these groups we could hardly ask people to translate whole magazines, and in any case one could not always rely on forming an accurate view of a group’s thinking merely by reading its general literature. (There had been no language barrier for Tom O’Carroll when he represented PIE at an Oslo conference ‘Amnesty for Love and affection’ hosted by the Norwegian group, NAFP, in 1979. There had even been discussions there on forming a new, broad-based international group called ‘Amnesty for Child Sexuality’, but nothing had come of this.)
The Open letter included a proposal for an early ‘summit’ conference of interested groups to discuss the general concept of an IGA-type alliance, and areas of practical collaboration between us. The most enthusiastic responses we received came from people and groups who had least to gain from the proposed alliance: “I am in complete agreement with your plans,” wrote Valida Davila; “Some people are ruined by oppression and persecution, and others are fired to fight back. I see your committee has chosen the latter road.” “We think the idea of an international association for paedophiles excellent,” wrote REVOLT of Sweden; “If there is anything we can do to support, never hesitate to ask.” Pasteur J. Doucé of the Centre du Christ Libérateur, Paris, wrote: “If I can be of any help in the formation of an international paedophile fellowship please let me know.” An anarchist commune for young people in Nuremberg, the Indianner, said that although they had deep reservations about the German group, DSAP, they still wished to “join a basic form” with us.
The groups themselves were not prepared to take a lead. They wanted to see PIE set up the conference itself. What better demonstration of the poor grasp our friends had on the political realities for PIE? We were possibly the only group among them which was unable to hold a general meeting for its own members without grave risk of injury to those attending, and prosecution of the organisers. After the events of 1977 for PIE, did anyone seriously expect an international paedophile conference to be permitted in the UK? NAMBLA chose to “wait and see what leadership develops on these concepts”. The paedophile wing of the Dutch civil rights umbrella organisation, NVSH, felt that their priorities should be domestic, and that international co-ordination should be left to the auspices of the IGA itself. NAFP in Norway “sympathised” but wanted “more concrete ideas”. 
The first months of the following year saw the emergence in France of a new paedophile organisation – the Groupe de recherché pour une Enfance Différente – and four of us from PIE sped along to its inaugural congress in November. Also present on that occasion were David Thorstad representing NAMBLA, Frits Bernard representing DSAP, and a member of the Belgian Paedophile Studygroup [sic]. The atmosphere at that opening day was something I had not experienced before even at PIE’s 1978 AGM – an intensity, an electric urgency of expression that welled as much from the floor as from the platform. The strength of the GRED committee was plain to see, as one after another they all addressed the meeting with equal vigour and self-assurance, and everyone it that packed hall (including, to our delight, a handful of women paedophiles) was involved, not quietly receiving the transmitted wisdoms of the committee. With the promise of an imminent reduction in France’s homosexual ‘age of consent’ from eighteen to fifteen, the liberation of children was for these people far from a remote utopian objective.
I came away from that conference profoundly frustrated, both with the inadequacy of PIE and my own inadequate French. I went to listen, but came away having understood little that I’d heard. I went to contribute my views, but came away without having said a word. I went to take part, but was obliged merely to observe. It’s not entirely unreasonable, of course, that a French group meeting in France should conduct its meeting in French, but I had rather hoped that, at least in the workshop on international collaboration, some concession would be made to a humble Anglophone like myself. Unfortunately, GRED’s English was only a little better than my French. One might think such a lesson in futility would have made me reconsider the practicality of collaboration on the level suggested by the Open Letter but, on the contrary, I felt all the more keenly how much we had to gain from a close dialogue and mutual co-operation with people such as GRED. If we left them with a rather poor understanding of PIE and what we had to deal with over here, that was entirely our own fault, of course, but even among the extrovert committee of GRED, and in its journal, PETIT GREDIN, there was a hint of the same parochialism displayed by the NVSH paedophiles and others, confining their analysis of the problems and solutions within national boundaries. Perhaps PIE was unique in this respect – that more than half our membership lived abroad, scattered among twenty or so countries, and it was plain to us that the ignorance and intolerance of paedophilia knew no frontiers, as with the inhibitory myths of childhood. While the police and the agents of ‘moral’ conformity were concerting their efforts internationally against us, would we not even collaborate in our own defence, if for no better motive?
Another item under preparation for the PIE Press Service at that time was a comprehensive directory of paedophile/children’s liberation groups – the first such guide ever to be published in the English language, filling in a little detail to that cold, unwelcoming expanse of acronyms: SAP, DAP, DSAP, PAC, AKP and so on. Questionnaires were distributed hot on the heels of the Open Letter, and the information that came back immediately helped to dissipate our own ignorance a little. We discovered, inevitably, that some of the groups had already collapsed. In Germany, for example, the Deutsche Studie und Arbeitsgemeinschaft Pädofilie had disintegrated over an ideological clash between anarchists, conservative reformists, and revolutionary socialists – notably about the nature and extent of freedom it wished to seek for young people. Blackmail threats had come into play here too, as with SYBOL in Australia, but this time one paedophile against another, to the utter damnation of those that made them. NAFP in Norway also, sadly, dissolved. And for each group that vanished another would suddenly appear elsewhere on the map – Stiekum in Belgium, for instance.
At the GRED conference it was agreed that the groups represented there would all follow NAMBLA’s example in joining the IGA itself and through it lobbying the gay movement directly for firmer support. The extent of our links with the gay political scene was an essential aspect of PIE’s strategy (insofar as PIE had such a thing) which I want to consider separately but, in the absence of a constructive dialogue with gays (or anyone else) in our own country about the radical means to accomplish our short and long term objectives, other paedophile groups abroad remained the only people from whom alternative strategies could be learned, our own analysis refined, different perspectives examined. Practical alteration to the law and its institutions is an objective necessarily specific to one’s own country, but awakening a whole culture to the living realities of sexuality and of youth is the promulgation of an idea, a new system of living, and is not confined to the arbitrary frontiers of states.
Prodigal Son? _ Or A Cuckoo in the Nest?
1983 was the first time in PIE’s nine-year history that a handful of members carried a PIE banner at the London Gay Pride march. The banner read simply: ‘Adults Loving Children loving Adults’ – a bisexual extension of the famous BODY POLITIC caption. This bold initiative was largely due to the efforts of one EC member, Leo Adamson, who, in a very short time of involvement in PIE, had propelled the group a deal closer to the gay movement than it had been for a considerable while. As a member of GYM (Gay Youth movement), Leo was able to speak for PIE at their annual conference ‘Gym’ll Fix It’, and he also took an active role in the group’s lobby of Parliament. In July ’83 he represented PIE at the IGA conference in Vienna. One could say that PIE had waited a long time for individuals with Leo’s stamina and conviction to come along and fulfil this vital liaison role.
Eric Presland, writing in CAPITAL GAY,  rejoiced in the appearance of PIE’s banner at the Gay Pride march, and bade us a hearty ‘Welcome back!’ While there was no doubting the sincerity of Presland’s support for PIE, nor his personal commitment to the liberation of children, there was an assumption behind his remarks that PIE had somehow drifted away from the gay movement in recent years, had now seen the error of its ways and returned – like the prodigal son – to its spiritual home. But it was not PIE that moved away from the gay movement in the UK, it was the gay movement that moved hastily away from us once the muck began to fly; and not because it viewed PIE as too reformist, sexist or reactionary – these tags were slapped on us much later – not because our proposals were insufficiently radical; they were too radical by half for the majority of gays. If we had concentrated, as NAMBLA had done in the US, simply upon sexual relationships between men and teenage boys, gays might have been rather more sanguine about solidarity with us. We were not prepared to barter away the interests of so many paedophiles and of pre-teenage children to realise that support.
If anything, the political leaning of the EC had become further to the Left than ever before, though unfortunately there was no output from PIE to attest to this. Committee may have been radical in its sympathies, but was singularly reticent to express this thinking through MAGPIE or CONTACT.  Repeatedly it was put to them that committee should buckle down and talk through some coherent policy positions on key questions – I prepared a discussion paper on pornography to set this process going – but there was no enthusiasm at all for the hard graft of policymaking. Little wonder then that Pie was seen as complacent and insular when it could not produce a single political position or line of analysis to promote wider debate. Those people who troubled to look for evidence of PIE’s philosophy or political credentials were left to glean what they might from the tone and content of MAGPIE, or from documents published years ago by a very different EC – the ‘Questions & Answers’ booklet  and our ‘Evidence to the Home Office Criminal Law Revision Committee’.  I don’t think there was anyone active in PIE at this time who was happy with the proposals contained in the ‘Evidence’ paper; many would have liked to see them publicly rescinded. All in all, if gays regarded PIE with some suspicion as being an unknown political quantity we had no-one but ourselves to blame for that.
“I don’t think the time is yet read,” wrote an editor of REVOLT in answer to our Open Letter, “for a great association that would support both gays and paedophiles. There are still too many prejudices in the various camps, and paedophile liberation has some very specific aspects which certainly would be overlooked (or neglected) in a general gay association.” I entirely agree with that view. Whereas those paedophile groups that had sprung initially from the gay movement (PIE, NAMBLA, GRED) had tended to survive without the umbilical intact, those which tried to submerge back into the gay movement, becoming just one of several special interest groups within it, (NAFP for example) expired in the process. It is manifestly obvious that the struggles and obstacles faced by paedophiles in the UK today, and indeed the major arguments marshalled against us, bear a striking resemblance to those which gays themselves were confronted with a scant few decades ago. Many of the tasks that face us are the same – combatting the monolithic heterosexuality of ‘educational’ propaganda, for one – and there is great scope here for joint action, but our demands of society are far from being identical, and nor are they at the same stage of accomplishment.
To pluck a metaphor from the mouths of our critics, in any relationship between paedophiles and gays, it is gays who are demonstrably the stronger partner, far greater in size and power, their social status much higher. In contrast, paedophiles are weak, vulnerable, and – as a political force – lacking in experience, our status just about the lowest there is. Can true equality ever be realised in such a relationship? Will gays not simply abuse their power advantage to silence or control paedophiles? Does the gay movement really care about the needs and aspirations of its younger protégé?
Well, you may be sure that PIE did not endorse that kind of negativistic approach. The assumption that the strong will tend inevitably to exploit the weak is true of fascists, not of sexual groupings. I believe that the gay movement in the UK neglected PIE’s struggle to establish a discrete paedophile consciousness, as it has largely neglected the predicament of gay people younger than sixteen or seventeen. From its position of comparitive [sic] strength it had much to offer us by way of philosophical analysis as well as options for positive action. Instead, we found ourselves forced consistently onto the defensive, perpetually having to justify our very sexuality, to avouch our responsibility as caring people. We were nothing beyond a coffee-table controversy to most gays, and our demands for acceptance and support were given barely more credence here than that which society gives to demands for gay equality. I’m afraid the movement itself has much to answer for the continuing misery and frustration gay children in this country are compelled to endure.
It was a measure neither of PIE’s ineptitude, nor of the political vacuousness of British paedophiles, that so few radical activists materialised among us. It was rather too facile to apply to us the logic of gay and feminist activism, as though the realities were no different for a paedophile coming out in a militant way. Every risk that a gay or lesbian accepts in entering a career of sexual politics, on whatever level, is multiplied many times for a paedophile doing likewise. It is a simple equation of greater risks equalling fewer volunteers. Beyond this rather elementary observation, it is in the nature of paedophilia that the greater number of us will channel their whole energies into working with and for children (however misguidedly), whether this be as youth workers, teachers, nurses or, yes, as scoutleaders. Individuals who would have been of immense value to a group such as PIE either never contemplated joining because their attention was squarely focussed on working with the young, or shied away from deeper commitment for fear the publicity would disable them from continuing such work. True, many of these people themselves inadvertently abet the social conditioning of youth, but they are sincere in the belief that their work is beneficial and constructive. The essential point is that a paedophile’s natural first loyalty is to children – not to other paedophiles.
Unlike gays and feminists, who seek the company of people like themselves for social and sexual reasons, and then develop a political consciousness within that society, drawing strength from their community for ‘coming out’ and embarking on political work, paedophiles do not tend to gravitate so readily into one another’s company, (those that would have no means of doing so, of course) and the breeding medium for radicalisation is so much less fertile for this often-overlooked reason. In the company of a thirteen year old boy one can learn a good deal about the realities of powerlessness and dependence and the frustration of being thirteen in this society – all the more so from a girl – but this is a long way from assimilating a commitment to political struggle. The younger the children a paedophile seeks for company, the more this argument applies.
Thanks in large part to PIE, some paedophiles did befriend one another, but all too often in such meetings the differences of perspective were more apparent than the congruences. There was a commonality of interest without a commonality of awareness. Therefore among paedophiles this consciousness has to be cultivated in an altogether more deliberate and artificial way. Those paedophiles who regard themselves (sometimes mistakenly) as the most revolutionary are generally those that move largely in gay circles. Undoubtedly, coming out as a paedophile via the gay movement increases one’s exposure to radical though – though anyone acquainted with CHE might laugh at this – but it may also leave one with a smug and false sense of security.
While my own sexual tastes extend to eighteen or nineteen year old guys, I confess I never had much inclination to join a gay group or frequent any gay clubs. I think my perspective might have been rather less parochial if I had, but this is to illustrate that there are many paedophiles like myself who wish to work in close harmony with gay society, not to join it. To those who say, “So why didn’t PIE make more effort towards a rapprochement with radical gay groups?” I reply, “Why didn’t the stronger, more numerous, and better-equipped gay groups approach PIE with advice, criticism, active support, even when we were reeling in the wake of an Old Bailey trial?” Why should we have had to make all the running? Let me cite one or two instances of the positive vibrations PIE was receiving from the mighty ‘λ’.
At the 2nd annual conference of the IGA (Barcelona, 1980), the only group to abstain from a general motion calling on member organisations to support paedophile groups more vigorously was Britain’s CHE, who insisted on their exception being noted for the record. At GYM’s 1982 lobby of Parliament (which only twelve of some four hundred MPs felt obliged to attend), it was a vice-president of CHE, Martin Stevens, MP (Conservative, needless to say), who favoured the retention of the homosexual age of consent at twenty-one (for males), whilst others present were quite willing to negotiate an initial reduction to eighteen. Stevens’ rationale – if we may dignify it by that term – was that if homosexual behaviour was legally sanctioned among teenagers, “teenagers might in later years regret their youthful flings”. Similarly, at the IGA’s 1983 Vienna conference, it was Michael Brown of Britain’s Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality who supplied the most stentorian opposition to every paedophile motion put before the conference. In this case, where one of the motions called upon PIE to urge all other paedophile groups to affiliate as we had done, Brown was joined by Denmark’s F48, Norway’s DNF48, and Lavender Left of New York, who had apparently determined by explicit resolution to vote against all paedophile-supportive motions. The excellent ‘Gay Youth Charter’ composed by GYM in 1982 was rejected by CHE’s own conference until a reference to paedophilia had been expunged from it. A comparison between GYM’s ‘Gay Youth Charter’ and CHE’s ‘Charter for Gay Rights’, published in the same year, is extraordinary – the one is detailed, uncompromising, bold and lucid; the other bland, timid and cursory.
CHE’s dilemma was summarised by their own Law Reform Committee thus: “CHE has hitherto directed its campaign towards achieving equality under the law relating to heterosexual and homosexual behaviour. The reasons for this, while in large part tactical, are nonetheless important. The argument for equality is much easier to explain to a prejudiced audience and can be forcefully advocated on grounds of simple justice.” It goes on to ask, “Would adopting a position in favour of the abolition of all ages of consent laws risk appearing, in the eyes of the general public, to be so extreme as to make (CHE’s) aims on other issues more difficult to achieve; or has it reached the position where no further significant advance can be made without working – in collaboration with other organisations – for reform of these and the other laws relating to sexual behaviour generally?” 
It was the same dilemma which confronted broader civil rights groups like the NCCL (National Council for Civil Liberties) when the rights at issue were those of PIE. Any association with our particular cause threatened to undermine their own political credibility cross the board. PIE was the hottest potato of all, and triggered off all kinds of atavistic terrors in more respectable reformist groups. We were therefore sacrificed on the altar of short-term tactical compromise.
Not to confine this criticism to gay and civil rights groups however the producer of London Weekend Television’s ‘Gay Life’ programme (screened once a week in the late night horror slot) promised me there would be a programme on paedophilia in the second series to which PIE might be allowed to contribute. Alas, there was not. Among the helplines which consistently declined to give PIE’s address to paedophile callers were Icebreakers, London Gay Switchboard, Brighton Gay Switchboard, and Friend. One of these told me their solicitors had advised them that by passing out our address it might be construed that they were acting as agents for the organisations.
The fact that PIE was not exclusively homosexual represented part of the reason for this moratorium. GAY NEWS and TIME OUT both quickly zeroed in on this objection, though as with the ubiquitous power argument, it often serve as a radical justification from the mouth for a decidedly unradical prejudice in the mind. I think it stood to the credit of the PIE EC (whose most active members had always been boylovers) that we did not cave in under such pressure. No heterosexual paedophiles ever stepped forward to defend their own ground, and this made it rather difficult for us to answer the challenges of the gays and feminists with total conviction. Between gays and our heterosexual members the strand of mutual acceptance was very thin indeed (between them and feminists it did not exist at all).
David Thorstad, while still spokesperson of NAMBLA, expressed his own position all too clearly: When Anita Bryant would say that gay men are child molesters, they would say ‘Oh no, we don’t do that; gay people are not molesters, it’s the heterosexual who are the molesters’. I’ve used that argument myself; I believe it’s true.”
Many heterosexual paedophiles are just as ready to swallow society’s stereotype model of gays, their masculinity squirming uncomfortably at the prospect of too close an association with the world of such caricatures. This kind of stupidity is an obstacle we can all do without.
No-one will be astonished to hear that the facet of gay politics in the UK for which PIE felt the closest affinity was gay youth, and that GYM came top of our list of groups to form an alliance with. The first meeting between members of our two committees only reinforced this feeling. As we sat about a table in a London pub, no more than a dozen of us, it was not a bunch of middle class, middle-aged liberal paedophiles confronted with a bunch of radical gay teenagers suspicious of our motives. In fact the majority of both committees were in their mid-twenties. The youngest PIE representative was twenty-one, the oldest GYM representative, twenty-six. Some suspicion was evident on GYM’s part, or rather a wry scepticism about PIE’s political soundness, but it was expressed with candour, not hostility. For our own part, the only major criticism of GYM was its arbitrary self-imposed age limit of twenty-six (a strange paradox in a group whose existence is a reaction against arbitrary age boundaries), in that this tasted a little of ageism in reverse – the idea being that, without an upper age limit, GYM would be taken over by older gays (older than the then committee guiding lights), or that gays would flock to it like moths to a flame in search of teenage boyfriends.
Strategically, so much more can be accomplished under the banner of gay youth than would ever be possible for an overtly paedophile organisation, but that apart, GYM has a freshness and directness which PIE lost long ago. Whereas we talked years back of producing a general information video, GYM have gone and made one. While PIE made ginger overtures to carefully-chosen MPs, GYM staged a general lobby of Parliament. While PIE agonised over whether or not we dared to call another AGM, GYM revels in mass meets.
It is time that gay society in this country woke up to the crucial role it has to play in the foundation of a stable, vigorous and independent paedophile movement which is committed to radical change. What emerges may not be PIE, nor will it be a clone of the gay movement itself, for paedophiles are more than simply gay and straight adults who like their partners particularly young. Ours is a whole different sexuality, our needs and priorities are very different. We are brothers with the gay world, not twins.
PIE in the Face of Fleet Street
Journalism is one of those unsavoury professions – advertising is another – in which an individual’s potential for success is inversely proportional to that person’s scruples. Note that I do not say there are no journalists of conscience or integrity in Fleet Street, only that such people had never been to the fore when the focus of attention was on PIE, or paedophile matters, or rights (in their totality) of people under sixteen, and that such exotic blooms must seem strange indeed in that arid, thorny habitat. Doubtless there remains one detective at Scotland Yard who really believes the police are the servants of the community, and not its warders; or doubtless Thatcher has one Cabinet Minister who genuinely believes in equality of opportunity. These are all, however, statistical freaks. If we find journalism itself to be venal and corrupt – as I believe it is – then this is a profound cause for alarm. As one American commentator observed succinctly, (but glibly), “The news media have become Orwell’s Big Brother of ‘1984’ – all pervasive, all influencing. The freedom of the press is eating away the freedom of the individual”.
Television long ago supplanted religion as the opiate of the working class, and most of the criticisms I make here of the press apply with equal force to the broader media, notably television. There is a disturbing trend towards tabloid-style presentation in TV news programmes, with the same crass, superficial coverage, the same rampant sexism and imperious moral tone, and the same calculated imbalance. Recent reports, for example, of a mother seeking legal compulsion on doctors to inform parents before prescribing contraceptives to girls under sixteen were invariably followed or preceded by progress reports from police investigating the sexual murder of a five year old girl. Such judicious editorial juxtapositions are common. (A contemporary report in a local Harrow paper on similar demands from the ‘Harrow Child and Family Protection group’ appeared on the same front page as an overtly sexist pin-up – of a fifteen year old girl.)
As to the quality of the coverage – in a Central TV news report on the swelling number of teenage runaways in the midlands (‘minors’ voting with their feet?), it was emphasised throughout that the principal fear was not of physical, but ‘moral’ peril; that girls would be “drawn into drink, drugs and prostitution”, and that boys would “fall into the hands of homosexuals”. (TV journalists, like their Fleet Street counterparts, do not care to use the word ‘paedophile’, you may notice.) As always, the people who had most to say on the matter, the people most directly affected, whose anxieties and exasperations had driven them to take off in the first place, were the only people not consulted. It might have been a report on lost dogs or stolen cars. So much for the objectivity and impartiality of British television news.
Every year since PIE had come into being, during the slow news time of parliamentary recess, the minions of the soft-porn tabloids had scurried out with their indignation and their power-winder cameras to rake together another shock story about the group. We were a silly-season staple for the NEWS OF THE WORLD, the SUNDAY PEOPLE and the DAILY STAR. The danger with papers of this vulgar, facile kind is that they are widely dismissed as being of no consequence to significant trends in popular opinion. The NOTW is generally regarded as a joke, but without the implicit malevolence and cruelty behind the joke being fully appreciated, or the extent to which the paper’s four million readers are being duped by the fantasies of its squalid-minded editor and staff. There is no room here to catalogue all the misshapen, libellous reports that have appeared concerning PIE over the last few years. An analysis of the coverage of the Old Bailey trial alone would require a full chapter, and in any case, such a virulent poison permeates this sea of press cuttings that the mere task of reading them all through is grossly offensive and unhealthy for one’s state of mind. Confronted with such wholesale, indiscriminate hatred a sense of proportion is difficult to maintain. There had been several major stories on PIE since Tom O’Carroll was convicted, each of which had repercussions far beyond the immediate distress inflicted on the committee members named, and illustrate well the harm which the gutter press can cause.
The first of these stories (NOTW, March 22nd., 1981) was occasioned by PIE having to open a new post Office box, the sponsor of our previous box, David Grove, having died. The Post Office leaked the home address of our new sponsor, Peter Bremner, to the NOTW so fast that the reporters were at his door before the box had even been used, and before the Executive Committee itself, let alone our members, knew where the P.O. Box was located.
Inside, the paper ran a feature on PIE, and the child pornography industry, being careful to blur any distinction between the two. The reporters were Charles Sandell and George Edwards. ‘The Dreadful Web of Child Corruption’ began as follows: “The evil men of Britain’s child sex organisation, the Paedophile Information Exchange, are just the tip of an iceberg. Behind them lies a web of pornography and degradation that spreads its tentacles worldwide – and even involves the Mafia.” After another couple of paragraphs which could leave no doubt in the reader’s mind that PIE was in fact a front for the manufacture and distribution of pornographic material, Sandell and Edwards went on: “The magazines… they produce do not stop at sexual abuse. Some show the systematic slow torture and even murder of children and young people.” Now if that was not a cut and dried case of libel, what is? Who could blame the public for its outrage against PIE when such nightmarish tales could be published about us with complete indemnity?
Someone else who spreads his tentacles worldwide is Rupert Murdoch, the Jehovah of yellow journalism, and the essence of this NOTW story quickly resurfaced as far away as Australia and in Sri Lanka where, in the SUNDAY OBSERVER (April 5th), PIE was described as “the sick porn merchants of the West”. Sri Lanka, like the Philippines, had long been celebrated among paedophiles and gays for its tolerance to homosexuality in general, and sudden government moves late in 1981 to curb sexual contact between local youth and Western tourists have been attributed in part to the scare campaign triggered by the NOTW. Perhaps this is overestimating the impact of that tawdry little paper, but the snowball effect of press hysteria was a very real phenomenon, as later stories demonstrated.
It was an open secret among anyone linked to the Executive Committee that for four years I was employed by a firm of electrical contractors, Complete Maintenance Ltd, to monitor a control panel of alarm systems at the Home Office, Westminster. The job entailed practically no work on my part, beyond attending the panel, and in fact I had a furnished office completely to myself seven days a week on a rotating shift basis. Much of PIE’s less sensitive file material was stored in locked cabinets there, where no police raid would ever have found them. Each year my security clearance was renewed by Scotland Yard without my connection with PIE being discovered. I’d known from the start that such a marvellous snook could never be cocked forever and sure enough the News of the World got hold of this information eventually. The paper contacted the Home Office immediately of course and gleefully drew this oversight to their attention. My security clearance was cancelled on the spot, my employers notified and I found myself not sacked but ‘rendered without employment’ – on the same day that reporter Alex Marunchak greeted me on my doorstep. ‘Child Sex boss in Whitehall Shock’ ran the headline.
And what do you suppose? – “Home Office security chiefs knew all about Steven Adrian Smith’s links with PIE”, claimed the report; “A Home Office spokesman said, ‘We’re aware of Smith’s background, and since the NEWS OF THE WORLD contacted us he has been told he’s no longer acceptable to us. He no longer works here. It would be true to say that he would still be here if you hadn’t been in touch.’” This silly bit of official face-saving apart, Marunchak went on to concoct a brief interview with myself. Instead of slamming the door in his face, which I seem to recall having done, I appear to have told him (with a swirl of my opera cloak), “Yes, I’m the chairman of PIE. So you’ve found out!” and so on. There was possible libel here too, for he alleged that at an EC meeting I had “bragged of (my) relationships with boys and urged members to organise a ‘dirty weekend’ with children at a south coast hotel.” This is imputing to me a specific criminality, but nonetheless – we were advised by a solicitor – whether I won a libel suit or not, and I stood every chance of doing so, that the sympathies of the jury would be wholly against me, and any damages derisory.
Some of us had fondly hoped that my inevitable discovery would at least throw such egg on the face of the government as to oust the Home Secretary (then, Mr. Whitelaw), but in the event, this story was curiously not picked up by any other paper (obviously, the ‘ruling class’ had to be protected), and our own attention was diverted by a plague of visits from DAILY STAR reporters the very next week. (Incidentally, the extent of security chiefs’ knowledge of my activities did not prompt them to investigate the content of my filing cabinets and a carload of PIE files was safely spirited from the building before it could occur to them to intervene.)
Once upon a time a reporter in the alternative press wrote (with just a hint of sarcasm) that it was about as difficult to ‘infiltrate’ PIE as to infiltrate Piccadilly Circus. He was absolutely right. One of the hazards of keeping our door wide open (as any counselling group must) is that all manner of creepy-crawlies are apt to find their way in along with more welcome visitors, and such a one was Charles Oxley, principal of two public schools, Christian fundamentalist, and wizened protégé of Mary Whitehouse.  Under the name of David Charlton he joined PIE with offers of practical help in EC work. He was good enough to type out for us Tom O’Carroll’s copious non-fiction booklist, and to photocopy at his own expense many other items for the PIE Press Service. As with anybody else who expressed a willingness to work, he was first met by an EC member to assess his character and reliability, then invited along to a couple of committee meetings. His sensational findings formed the basis of a four-page spread in the DAILY STAR (‘Child Sex Spy Tells All’ – August 21st, 1982) and many subsequent radio, press and police interviews. On the strength of just two meetings with the EC, Oxley had become the Establishment’s trusted authority on PIE. Who was taken in the more by his fantasies, PIE or the Establishment, is open to question. STAR reporters Paul Henderson and Barry Gardner played Woodward and Berstein [sic] to Oxley’s ‘Deep throat’.
Four committee members were named – David Joy, Peter Bremner, Lee Edwards and myself, and photos appeared of three of us (my mother was later to comment that the STAR photo was one of the best of me she’d seen!) It was no coincidence that the three committee members who were to be raided by the Obscene Publications Squad, almost exactly a year later, were David Joy, Peter Bremner and Lee Edwards. Not content with publishing our addresses, the DAILY STAR carried photos of our homes too, for greater ease of identification by neighbourhood vigilantes, mums’ armies, and neo-fascist groups.
The text itself was rather lame, even amusing in comparison to the previous year’s NOTW extravaganza, and only of interest for the crude, obvious manner in which colour was added. To convey the impression of PIE as a shifty, back-street organisation, our homes were variously described as “dingy”, “seedy”, and “an old mansion that comes straight from a horror movie”. Meetings were arranged, it said, “through a complicated exchange of letters and coded telephone calls” using “secret codes and passwords”. This was total fantasy and a familiar lie printed about the group – arrangements were far more mundane and prosaic than that, I’m afraid. Oxley knew that no pornography had been handed round at the meetings, but he was determined to create that impression at least: “Various paedophile books and magazine were mentioned and passed around” he hinted darkly. As I remember, Oxley took away one of these magazines himself for closer inspection, and never returned it – it was the latest issue of PAN (Paedo-Alert-News).
The news-gathering tactics of the DAILY STAR rate a mention here. We learned later that they had used menaces toward several children in Lee’s home street who would not answer their questions (Lee was staying with a family at the time, and the two daughters were tailed by the press for several days). When this proved fruitless, they set up a couple of young boys to accost Lee in the High Street and make conversation just long enough for him to be photographed form a parked car across the road. (Even when he called on me, Henderson had attempted to force his way into my house.) It was a standard routine for reporters on this kind of story to make a point of visiting all one’s neighbours and filling their heads with who-knows-what horrific yarns. There was a knife attack on Lee shortly after the story appeared, but as Lee is an ex-boxer he managed to send his assailant away with a bloody nose, never to return. Another standard hurdle with these reports was the local press follow-up, a boringly predictable after-shock when your local paper contrives to regurgitate the story for those of your neighbours who missed it the first time around. In this particular instance the STAR itself ran a follow-up story a few days later (‘Ban the PIE Men’) in which glory-hunting Tory back-bencher, Geoffrey Dickens, vowed he would table a Private Member’s Bill at the next session of Parliament which would proscribe PIE explicitly, and outlaw any other pro-paedophile organisations.  Dickens was the same stalwart who named diplomat Sir Peter Hayman, under House of Commons privilege, as the PIE member whose identity had been concealed throughout the trial (some six months after Hayman had been publicly identified in PRIVATE EYE magazine). Dickens did not win the Private member’s ballot, as chance would have it, and nothing more was heard of that pledge, but it seemed to us a serious threat at the time. Even a bungling oaf of Dickens’ calibre could hardly have failed with such an intimidatingly populist Bill, had he won the ballot.
By the winter of ’82, the papers were full of the Geoffrey Prime affair. Prime was exposed as a Russian supermole who worked at the government’s intelligence HQ at Cheltenham. Imprisoned for sex offences against young girls, as well as spying, it was alleged, unsubstantiated of course, that he either had links with Pie or was actually a member under an assumed name. As with the much earlier Sir Peter Hayman affair (he was the former British high Commissioner to Canada), and the later revelation that I myself and an EC colleague, Barry Cutler, were both employed on security at the Home Office, this latest scandal must have caused considerable embarrassment to the government. By now, PIE’s name must have been truly hated in the corridors of power. 
In June, 1983, the NOTW ran yet another of its regular silly stories, this time claiming that top TV stars and MPs were members of the Exchange. No names were mentioned, of course – except those of EC members. As a result of this and follow-up stories in such scandal sheets as the STAR and the SUN, committee members Mike Williams and Richard Travell lost their voluntary work as a scoutmaster and Sunday School teacher respectively. Travell was later denounced by his father, a church minister, and forced to move out of his home.
It would be possible to go on and on about the shock/horror stories concerning PIE, but this would serve little purpose since the point has been made. Suffice it to say that press harassment of the group was real, and it seemed that reporters were prepared to use any means, fair or foul, to ensure the organisation was destroyed. The time is coming when something will need to be done about the press in this country – and the sooner the better.
If paedophiles have little faith in the press, they have certainly got even less for the criminal justice system in this country, for being a paedophile is an invitation for every sort of injustice there is. While baby batterers walk away with derisory sentences after being slapped on the wrist and told not to do it again, people whose only ‘crime’ is that they love children can expect to have the book thrown at them and endure years of attacks in squalid prisons from real criminals. One can inflict horrendous physical suffering on a child, but if one is unfortunate enough to be a paedophile who has consensual sex – oh well, that’s classed as worse than murder.
Similarly with ‘corporal punishment’ which is, in truth, nothing more than a euphemism for legal assault. This practice is widely supported in these isles, and it is no coincidence that the organisations and people who were most opposed to PIE were the very ones who endorsed it most. The message is clear: abuse is okay as long as it is socially approved.
Back in its earlier days, PIE itself initiated a campaign against this practice and received letters of support from such well-known people as Baroness Wootton, and Sir Alfred Ayer, the philosopher. But PIE, being a tiny organisation, could only do so much.
For PIE, the time has now run out; but the ideas behind it will continue to survive.
Editor’s note: Soon after the above article was written, its author along with two other PIE EC members were arrested on incitement charges in connection with issue No. 6 of the group’s internal bulletin, CONTACT. Before the trial, Steve Smith fled to Holland where he still resides. The two other defendants were subsequently found not guilty of the incitement charges, but guilty of a lesser charge. After renewed threats to proscribe PIE, the group finally succumbed to political pressure, and the organisation disbanded in early summer, 1985. Because of this, all articles in this book referring to PIE, including the above, have had the tense changed from present to past.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. A journal of PIE
2. Lee Edwards was later alleged (though unproven) to have given or sold confidential information about PIE and its members to the NEWS OF THE WORLD, which published the details, much of them erroneous, in a front page splash.
3. I refer, of course, to the notorious Conspiracy to Corrupt Public Morals trials of early 1981.
4. Tom O’Carroll (Peter Owen, London, 1980).
5. ‘Men Loving Boys Loving Men’, by Gerald Hannon (BODY POLITIC, March/April, 1979).
6. It was Kenneth Clarke in CIVILISATION who said that ‘nearly all the upward steps in the history of civilisation have been internationalist steps.”
7. CAPITAL GAY (July 15th, 1983).
8. CONTACT! Which was edited by myself, was the internal bulletin of PIE.
9. PAEDOPHILIA: SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS (PIE, 1979).
10. EVIDENCE ON THE LAW RELATING TO, AND PENALTIES FOR, CERTAIN SEXUAL OFFENCES INVOLVING CHILDREN – FOR THE HOME OFFICE CRIMINAL LAW REVISION COMMITTEE, ed. by Keith R. Hose and Michael Burbidge (PIE, 1975).
11. THE LAW RELATING TO CONSENSUAL SEXUAL ACTS: A DISCUSSION PAPER (prepared by The CHE Law Reform Committee’, 1980).
12. Oxley was, at the time of writing, chairman of the right wing National Campaign for Law and Order, which incidentally supports hanging and corporal punishment, and deputy chairman of Mary Whitehouse’s Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association.
13. Even revelations that he was consorting with two other women, despite the fact that he was married, didn’t stop Dickens attacking PIE. Hypocrisy has no bounds, it seems. I often wonder what the dickens the man would do if it weren’t for paedophiles???
14. Well before the Hayman affair, another Establishment figure, Lord Bingham, had also been revealed as a PIE member.
[ADDENDUM: The ‘Lord Bingham’ in question here was Richard Maurice Clive Bigham, Viscount Mersey (1934-2006), who admitted PIE membership and contact with a 10-year old girl, who would remove her clothes when offered money and sweets by him; the girl’s mother went on trial in Manchester Crown Court in 1978 on charges of inciting one of her daughters to commit gross indecency with Bigham. See ‘Peer’s son in sex case ‘revolted”, Glasgow Herald, July 20th, 1978]