Peter Righton – His Activities up until the early 1980s

[Updated: I am immensely grateful to Peter McKelvie, Liz Davies, Martin Walkerdine and @Snowfaked (on Twitter) for providing extra information which has helped to fill in gaps in my earlier account]

I do intend at some point to publish a comprehensive account of all that can be ascertained about the life and activities of the sinister figure of Peter Righton, perhaps the most important of all figures in terms of the abuse scandals soon to be investigated by the national inquiry, and believed to have been a serial abuser himself with a great many victims. Both demands of time and also legal constraints do not permit this at present, but for now I wanted to publish some information and sources on Righton’s activities up until the early 1980s. 

Righton was born in June 1926 as Paul Pelham Righton, in Kensington . He grew up in Kent , and attended Ardingly College, West Sussex from 1940 to 1944, where he was a ‘favourite’ for history master and A dormitory housemaster, Denis Henry d’Abedhil Williams. From 1944 to 1948, Righton served in the Royal Artillery, based initially for his six week’s primary training at barracks in Lincoln from April 1944 (Righton, ‘Working with the ‘misfits”, Social Work Today, May 6th, 1985); no further details are known at present other than that his rank upon demobilisation was Lieutenant. By 1948, aged 22, Righton was living in 19 Garway Road, in the Paddington area of London (my thanks to Martin Walkerdine for this information). That year, Righton went to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics, graduating in 1951 (with a second class degree), and receiving his MA in 1955 .

Following graduation, Righton undertook training in the probation service from 1951 to 1952, and served as a Probation Officer in Gray’s, Essex from 1952 to 1955, where he also ran a project to develop reading skills for children with learning difficulties. In January 1956 he began teaching at Gaveston Hall, near Horsham in West Sussex, but was only in this position until July of that year. In Righton’s diaries, he lists boys he abused whilst at Gaveston Hall. The circumstances of his departure are unclear; after leaving he retreated for six months to the Society of Saint Francis, a closed order (all information courtesy of Peter McKelvie).

Righton re-emerged in January 1957 to teach at Cuddesdon College near Oxford. Soon afterwards (in the same year), however he moved to teach English at Redhill, a school for disturbed boys in Maidstone, Kent. Righton had taken a range of vulnerable pupils under his wing, and Mark Thewliss claims he was abused by Righton there from the age of 12. Righton’s diaries list boys he abused at both Cuddesdon and Redhill (source Peter McKelvie; see the Inside Story documentary below for more accounts of Righton’s activities at Redhill). He left Redhill discreetly on April 8th, 1963, resigning his position (source Peter McKelvie) (not 1964 as mistakenly mentioned before). In July 1963, a police investigation began into complaints against Righton of abuse; around time he wrote several potential suicide notes admitting having done harm to boys. However, Righton was able to get the investigation dropped after having lunch with a police inspector (Source McKelvie).

After leaving Redhill Righton worked for two years (1963-65) as a tutor and organiser for the Workers’ Educational Association in Wiltshire; his address was given as North Flat, Marden Grange, Marden, Devizes, Wiltshire.

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From 1965 onwards, Righton established his influence within the world of social work and child care. He became a tutor in charge of a two-year course for child care officers at Keele University from 1965-68 (see Inside Story below); how and when exactly he had become qualified in this field, are who were his referees, are questions the answer to which remains unclear.
then as. From 1968 to 1971 he was a Senior Lecturer at the National Institute of Social Work, a government-funded educational and research centre. On October 11th 1968, as Paul Pelham Righton, he gave a talk at Shotton Hall, Peterlee, entitled ‘A New Deal for Children: Thoughts on the White Paper ‘Children in Trouble” (Paul Pelham Righton, A new deal for children Reflections on the White Paper ‘Children in trouble’ a paper given at Shotton Hall on 11th October 1968 (Shrewsbury: Shotton Hall Publications, 1968); he also published an article entitled ‘The Need for Training’, F.G. Lennhoff and J.C. Lampen (eds), Learning to Live: A Sketchbook of Residential Work with Children (Shrewsbury: Shotton Hall, 1968), pp. 13-16, which is reproduced on the Online Journal of the International Child and Youth Care Network, Issue 95 (December 2006). In 1969, Righton published an article entitled ‘Social work and scientific concepts’ in Social Work, Vol. 26, p. 3. . He also at some point in the late 1960s started working at North London Polytechnic (now London Metropolitan University), based at Ladbroke House, Highbury Grove, leaving the institution in 1970 (source Liz Davies).

The report by Tom Bateman for the BBC Radio 4 Today earlier this week made clear that as early as 1970, Righton was already credited as giving ‘considerable assistance’ to a Home Office report (Advisory Council on Child Care: Research and Development Committee; Community Homes Project, Second Report (London: Home Office Children’s Department, April 1970). The relevant chapter is printed below.

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Between 1971 and 1974, Righton was a development officer at National Children’s Bureau and head of two-person Children’s Centre (‘The National Children’s Bureau’, Evening Standard, May 12th, 1993)

In October 1971, here listed as a ‘lecturer in residential care’ for the National Institute for Social Work, and ‘director-designate of the centre to be established by the National Children’s Bureau later this year’, Righton addressed a social services conference organized by the County Councils Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations, arguing for integration of social workers with residential home staff, and against too-frequent placing of those with social, physical and mental handicaps in residential homes. He also thought children ‘could be greatly helped in a residential unit’.

Times 291071 - Homes for handicapped become scapegoat for guilt of society (Righton)

In 1972, Righton published ‘Parental and other roles in residential care’, in The Parental Role: Conference Papers (London: National Children’s Bureau, 1972), pp. 13-17 (Peter Righton – Parental and Other Roles in Residential Care). Here he wrote about the  shift during last 25 years away from ‘total substitute care’ towards ‘planned alternative provision’, with child placed in open community with frequent access to their own parents. Righton argued that many still believed that substitute parenting is central role of residential worker, and that the family is good model for a residential unit. He questioned this – saying that it is impossible to provide ‘a relationship of the desirable uniqueness, continuity and intensity in a residential setting’, mentioning that the majority of children in care still have their own parents and maintain some sort of relationship with them. Righton argued that it would cause conflict by having ‘two competing sets of adults’ trying to outdo each other. He preferred to see residential care as ‘alternative caring ‘sui generis’ rather than as substitute family care’. It has been suggested to me by some experts in child care that the substitute parent model helped children feel safe from abuse and mistreatment in care; Righton’s concern to move away from this model may well have been another strategy to facilitate the ability of himself and others to sexually exploit children in residential care.

This same year, Righton also had a letter published in The Listener (June 29th, 1972), in which he expressed his fierce objection to Lord Hailsham’s views on homosexuality (my profound thanks to Daniel de Simone for locating this); Righton would use claims of homophobia more widely to silence critics of his relatively overt exploitation of young boys.

Righton on Lord Hailsham, The Listener 1972

Also in 1972, Righton took part in a published debate with Antony Grey (of the Sexual Law Reform Society and Albany Trust, who would later fund PIE – see articles here and here), and Kevin O’Dowd over the role of therapy. At another time during this year, Righton shared a platform (New Society, Vol. 21 (1972), p. 60) with Keith Joseph, then Secretary of State for Social Services, and who has himself been named as an abuser according to at least one source (Matthew Drake, ‘Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet bigwigs named in Leon Brittan paedo files’, Sunday Mirror, July 24th, 2014)

In January 1973, together with Ronald Bennett, QC, Righton was called to conduct an independent inquiry into allegations of violence by staff against boys in Larchgrove Assessment Centre on the outskirts of Glasgow; the report found that 13 out of 30 allegations were proved and was highly critical of the corporation for allowing conditions inducive to violence to occur; later reports found that John Porteus, a houseparent, had sexually abused boys at Larchgrove in the late 1960s, and others testified to sexual abuse during this time. Righton and Bennett’s report did not deal with sexual abuse, and it was possible for a convicted abuser, Robert William Henderson, to gain a position towards the end of 1973, where he formed ‘an indecent association with a 13-year-old boy’. Glasgow City Council are currently looking for any documentation connected with the case, whilst the council and Scottish government have called upon anyone who suffered abuse there to contact the police; it has been revealed that there are claims that staff of both genders were involved in the abuse of boys at the home (see ‘Notorious paedophile headed Scottish care home inquiry’, Sunday Herald, August 24th, 2014).

Also in 1973, Righton gave the Barnardo’s Annual Lecture (Edward Pilkington, ‘Shadow of the Attic’, The Guardian, June 1st, 1994); the title was ‘A Continuum of Care’, which was published the following year (Peter Righton, A Continuum of Care: The Link between Field and Residential Work (London: Barnardo’s, 1974)). This year, he also published Counselling Homosexuals: A Study (London: Bedford Square Press, 1973).

On March 8th, 1973, Righton gave a talk on ‘Co-operation in child care’, for the British Association of Social Workers Conference at St. Williams’ College, York (Residential Social Work, Vol. 13 (1973), p. 63). In September 1973, he argued that children’s homes were like ‘ghettos’ which ‘stigmatize’, because they are deprived of being part of a normal family. As a remedy of this, Righton believed such homes ‘should be made as open as possible to people in the immediate neighbourhood, and to the families and friends of the children living there’; and ‘Staff and children should be encouraged to go out to meet people and residential schools should take both children needing special substitute care and those needing boarding education’, all of which (not, of course, said by Righton) would ease the access of paedophile predators to them.

 

Times 180973 - Children's homes 'ghettos that stigmatize'

From 1974 to 1982, Righton was Director of Education for the National Council of Social Work (‘In Residence’, Social Work Today, February 4th, 1985)

In 1974, Righton visited Algeria in April, and published ‘Child Care in Algeria’, International Social Work, Vol. 17, No. 4 (October 1974), pp. 51-53. (Peter Righton – Child Care in Algeria). He also gave the David Willis Lecture for the Planned Environment Therapy Trust, at New Barns School, Toddington, Gloucestershire (where he would later become a governor, and which was closed down following a police raid in 1992), published as ‘Planned environment therapy: a reappraisal’, in Association of Workers with Maladjusted Children Journal (1975) (see James S. Atherton, Review of Perspectives on Training for Residential WorkBritish Journal of Social Work, Vol. 8, No. 2 (1988), pp. 227-229). From 1974 to 1982, his address was listed as 48 Barbican Road, Greenford (near Ealing, West London) (source Ealing Local History through Martin Walkerdine). This also became in 1975 the address of the organisation London Friend, which had been founded in 1971 (one of the co-founders was Mike Launder, a social worker activist; another was the well-known writer Jack Babuscio (1937-90), though it is not clear whether Babuscio did not resign before Righton’s involvement) as the counselling wing of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Rosemary Auchmuty, ‘London’, in George E. Haggerty, John Beynon and Douglas Eisner (eds), Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1 (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000) , p. 477), but split from CHE that year 1975 (London Friend, ‘LGB&T milestones – a timeline’)

In October of that year, the Paedophile Information Exchange was founded in Edinburgh by Ian Campbell Dunn and Michael Hanson (Marcello Mega, ‘Paedophile list set up by gay rights leader’, Sunday Times, July 6th, 1997); the group would soon afterwards relocate from Edinburgh to London, and Keith Hose would take over as chair. Righton was part of the group (member number 51, and a member of the Executive Committee, by mid-1976 at the latest (‘It’s the Magnificent Six’, Understanding Paedophilia, Vol. 1, No. 2 (June-July 1976), p. 7), serving as ‘Organiser of prison-hospital visits/general correspondence/PIE befriending’; in May 1977, he stepped down from the committee (at the same time as Hose stepped down), by which time his position was listed as ‘Community Liaison Officer’ (‘Stop Press – Stop Press’, Understanding Paedophilia, Vol. 1, No. 4 (1977), p. 12).

In October 1975, Righton became chair of a working group for the mental health association MIND, with the assistance of the King’s Fund Centre; this led to the publication of Assessment of Children and Their Families: A Report Produced by a MIND Working Party Under the Chairmanship of P. Righton (London; MIND, 1975). MIND also organised for Keith Hose to speak at an event called Mind Out in 1975 (Annette Rawstrone, ‘Paul Farmer of Mind apologises after report that pro-paedophile leader spoke at 1975 event’, Third Sector, July 23rd, 2014). In 1977, London Friend’s sister organisation Cardiff Friend, and the MIND Office in Wales, organised a day seminar entitled ‘New approaches to homosexuality’; speakers were Righton, Michael Launder, and Rachel Beck, co-founder of the then recently established service Lesbian Line (‘Seminar on homosexuality’, Social Work Today, Vol. 9, No. 11 (November 1st, 1977)).

From 1976 to 1985, and especially from 1976 to 1979, Righton published regular articles in Social Work Today, which are all collected here. Of particular note is his article ‘Sex and the residential social worker’, Social Work Today, February 15th, 1977, thus written during Righton’s period on the PIE Executive Committee. Citing a 1975 article by then Lecturer in Social Work at Brunel University Leonard F. Davis seeking to legitimise sexualised touching of children in care (Leonard F. Davis – Touch, Sexuality and Power in Residential SettingsBritish Journal of Social Work, Vol. 5, No. 4 (1975), pp. 397-411 – Davis himself acknowledged Righton’s advice in the preparation of the paper; he is listed as having ‘recently completed the Course in Educational Studies at the National Institute for Social Work’, so may have been one of Righton’s students), Righton argued ‘‘Provided there is no question of exploitation, sexual relationships freely entered into by residents – including adolescents – should not be a matter for automatic inquiry’. Amazingly, several responses to this were essentially sympathetic to Righton’s position (see letters from March 15th and 22nd, 1977; another by an A. Whitaker, published on April 12th, 1977, was sharply critical, but the editor added a note at the end disputing whether this letter accurately represented Righton’s views). 

In the mid-1970s, fellow social worker Ann Goldie was present at a dinner party with Righton, who confided to her that he had engaged in sexual relations with eight or nine boys in residential care homes. Knowing that Goldie was a lesbian, Righton (rightly) trusted a group loyalty when giving this information. Daphne Statham had first encountered Righton in 1966 and frequently thereafter, and admitted that she had had suspicions (especially when Righton mentioned about a ‘motorbike club’), but didn’t enquire further, something she later came to bitterly regret (Pilkington, ‘Shadow of the Attic‘). A similar story was related by Stewart Payne and Eileen Fairweather, of Righton’s being able to be quite blatant about his activities in the knowledge that some other fellow lesbians or gays, or feminists, would not break ranks (Payne and Fairweather, ‘Silence that cloaked child sex conspiracy’, Evening Standard, May 27th, 1994).

As well as the Social Work Today pieces, Righton would in 1976 co-edit a volume with Sonia Morgan, Child Care; Concerns and Conflicts (London: Hodder Education, 1976), and publish an article ‘Sexual minorities and social work’, Health and Social Services Journal, February 28th, 1976, pp. 392-393. At some point prior to 1977, Righton also sat on the Central Council for Education in Training and Social Work (Peter Righton, ‘Positive and Negative Aspects in Residential Care’, Social Work Today Vol. 8, No. 37 (June 28th, 1977), cited in Lucy Robinson, Gay Men and the Left in Post-War Britain: How the Personal got Political (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011)); he also spoke at a conference in Doncaster in June 1977 jointly organised by Doncaster metropolitan borough and Yorkshire region of the Residential Care Association, called ‘Residential care – resource or last resort?’, where anotehr speaker was Janie Thomas (‘Residental care – resource or last resort?’, Social Work Today, Vol. 8, No. 37 (June 28th, 1977), p. 8). On October 16th, 1978, Righton gave a talk to the Camden and Islington branch of the British Association of Social Workers on ‘Links, conflict and relationships between residential and fieldwork’, in the Royal Free Hospital in London (Social Work Today, October 10th, 1978); on 20th March, 1979, he spoke to the Croydon and East Surrey branch of BASW on whether ‘The farmer and the cowboy can be friends?’ at Rees House, Croydon (Social Work Today, March 20th, 1979)

In 1979, he would further co-edit a volume with Margaret Richards entitled Social Work Education in Conflict (London: National Institute for Social Work, 1979), in which he published articles ‘Knowledge About Teaching and Learning in Social Work Education’, pp. 1-18 (Peter Righton – Knowledge about Teaching and Learning in Social Work Education), and ‘Four Approaches to Curriculum Design’, pp. 62-80 (Peter Righton – Four Approaches to Curriculum Design), and edited a further book on Studies in Environment Therapy (London: Planned Environment Therapy Trust, 1979). 

In 1977, Righton also participated in the London Medical Group’s annual conference, on this occasion the subject being ‘Human Sexuality’, speaking alongside agony aunt Claire Rayner amongst others (M. Papouchado, ‘Annual Conference of the LMG: Human Sexuality’, Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 3 (1977), pp. 153-154).

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In 1979, Righton sat on a steering committee to establish a course for training staff to work with disturbed young people, together with John Rea Price, director of Islington Social Services, 1972-92, subsequently the Director of the National Children’s Bureau. Other’s on the committee included G Godfrey Isaacs, chairman of Peper Harow, Mary Joynsons, director of child care for Barnardos, Janet Mattinson, Tavistock Centre, and Nick Stacey (see Social Work Today, April 3rd, 1979 (see links above), and the advert below, from The Guardian, March 28th, 1979).

Guardian 280379

 

The ‘Barclay Report’ of 1980, Social Workers : Their Role & Tasks : the report of a working party set up in October 1980 at the request of the Secretary of State for Social Services by the National Institute for Social Work ; under the chairmanship of Peter M. Barclay (London : National Institute by Bedford Square Press, 1981/1982 [printing]), included the following text: ‘We pay tribute to the work of our Secretary, Mr Bob King, of Mr Peter Righton, formerly Director of Education at the National Institute, who has shouldered a considerable drafting burden and of Miss Carol Whitwill, their personal secretary and helper’.

 

Peter Righton Social Work 2 Peter Righton Social Work

 

And then in 1981, Righton published his most blatant article to date, ‘The adult’, in Brian Taylor (ed), Perspectives on Paedophilia (London: Batsford, 1981), pp. 24-40. Drawing upon an unholy canon of paedophile writers, Righton made the case for sex with children being unharmful, in his characteristically elegant manner. No-one who read this could have been in any doubt about Righton’s inclinations (or the nature of the volume in general). 

One might have thought that one so flagrantly brandishing their sexual interest in children, speaking about it shamelessly to various others, publishing two articles making this clear, and also having been publicly identified as on the Executive Committee of the Paedophile Information Exchange, would have had difficulty being accepted as an expert on child care and child sexuality. But not at all; in 1984, he was one of the major speakers at a conference on Child Sexual Abuse (alongside fellow PIE member and academic Ken Plummer). Righton’s career continued to flourish through the 1980s, and in 1991 he was invited to give evidence to the Pindown inquiry into sexual and physical abuse in Staffordshire (‘Britain’s top kiddies home expert is evil child-sex perv’, The Sun, September 17th, 1992). He helped with translation and editing of some writings on music produced by Donald Mitchell, a major figure involved with the estate of Benjamin Britten and the Britten-Pears Foundation (having been Britten’s publisher); later he would be a co-translator of the volume Truus de Leur and Henriette Straub (ed) Keep these Letters, Please! A Written portrait of the Concertgebouw Orchestra 1904-1921, translated Ian Borthwick, Nicholas Pretzel and Peter Righton (Amsterdam: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, c. 1998).

At the time of his arrest  for importation of child abuse images in 1992, Righton was also a senior tutor with the Open University (previously the employer of PIE chair Tom O’Carroll, and who had published Righton’s volume Working with Children and Young People in 1990), working on a project to do with residential children (Peter Burden and Peter Rose, .’Porn Squad quiz Child Care Expert’, Daily Mail, May 28th, 1992); James Golden, ‘Hoard of filth in childcare expert’s home’, Daily Mail, September 17th, 1992). Chris Andrews, of BASW, described Righton at the time of his arrest as follows: He [Righton] is a highly respected figure within the residential field, particularly working with highly disturbed children. He is very much concerned with therapeutic work in child care’ (cited in Burden and Rose, ‘Porn Squad quiz Child Care Expert’).

The Department of Health and then-Health-Secretary Virginia Bottomley were told in 1993 about an influential network involving Righton. but appear to have done nothing. Nor does there appear to have been much action following the disturbing Inside Story documentary on Righton broadcast the following year, with various testimonies of Righton’s victims . After Righton was convicted, receiving a £900 fine, in September 1992, he was able to relocate on the estate of Lord Henniker in 1993, and continue to have contact with children in care, many of who (not least from Islington) were regularly brought to the estate (Stewart Payne and Eileen Fairweather, ‘Country house hideaway of disgraced care chief’, Evening Standard, May 6th, 1993).

From 1996 to 2002, he had an address of 1 Wheatfields, Rickinghall, Diss IP22 1EN, but also in 1998, he appears to have lived at an 8 Badsey Road, together with another person called Wendy C. Hall-Barnes (source Martin Walkerdine). He would move to Hamworthy, Poole, Dorset, in 2003, where he would die on October 12th, 2007.

Politicians, social workers, civil servants and many others have huge questions to answer about how a figure like Righton could manage to operate with apparent impunity for such a long period of time when his real nature was far from hidden, preying upon the most disturbed and vulnerable boys, and manipulating child care policy towards his own exploitative ends. Righton has been linked to major scandals in Islington, Calderdale, Suffolk, Rochdale (also said by one survivor to have been friendly with Cyril Smith – Keir Mudie, ‘New victim links notorious paedophile Peter Righton to VIP child abuse network’, Sunday People, April 6th, 2013), North Wales (where MP Peter Morrison, Margaret Thatcher’s PPS, has alleged to have abused boys), Haute de la Garenne (Jersey), a series of public schools, networks in Sweden, Malta, Denmark and Holland, and more, and may be one of the worst offenders ever known in the UK, certainly one of the most influential in facilitating others. The existence of diaries kept by Righton on his ‘conquests’, as seen by Peter McKelvie at the time of his earlier investigation, was the impetus for Tom Watson’s October 2012 intervention in Parliament, which more than anything else set in motion the process which has led to the inquiry which has now been announced.

Police collected a whole seven boxes of evidence during the raid on Righton’s home. It is imperative that the full extent of his activities (and also those of the equally sinister and highly-connected Morris Fraser), and the many lessons to be learned, are central to the inquiry.

 

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Call for inquiry into organised abuse – negative response from Andrew Lansley

Today (Thursday June 19th) the Conservative MP and former Children’s Commissioner Tim Loughton asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley, about the growing movement amongst MPs calling for a national inquiry into organised child abuse. The exchange was as follows (taken from Hansard):

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con):
The Leader of the House may be aware that together with our hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and five other colleagues across the Chamber, I have written to the Home Secretary to ask for an independent inquiry into historic child abuse. That call has already been taken up by more than 70 hon. Members from across the House. Given that new stories emerge almost daily of grotesque abuse of children going back to the ’60s, does the Leader of the House agree that it is time that such an inquiry was held, and will he give time for a debate in the House to set the scene for it?

Mr Andrew Lansley (Leader of the House of Commons):
My hon. Friend has done important work on tackling those issues. He will be aware of the range of inquiries that have taken place, some of which, I hope, are approaching a conclusion. As the Prime Minister has said and recently reiterated to the House, we have not been persuaded of the case for an overarching inquiry; indeed, we feel that there is a significant risk that such an inquiry might impede and delay the resolution of some of the issues in the separate inquiries that are taking place. As the Prime Minister rightly said, however, he will continue actively to keep the question under review.



The following exchange also took place at the House of Commons on June 11th, 2014:

Mr Duncan Hames (Liberal Democrat, Chippenham)
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister will have heard calls from Honourable Members on all sides of this House for an independent inquiry on the Hillsborough model into organised child sexual abuse in this country. Can he truly be satisfied that current police investigations are sufficient for the public to have confidence that we are both willing and able to get to the truth?

The Right Hon David Cameron (Prime Minister)
I think my Honourable Friend makes a very important point and I have looked at this carefully with Ministerial colleagues, because of course we have a series of inquiries taking place into what happened in various hospitals and care homes and indeed media organisations, and I think it’s very important that Government keeps a clear view about how these are being co-ordinated and how the lessons are being learned. If there is a need for any more over-arching process to be put in place, I’m very happy to look at that, but at the moment, I think led by the Home Secretary and her colleagues, we do have a proper view of what’s happening at all these organisations.



In amongst these mealy-mouthed evasive answers, I would remind people of the original letter sent to Home Secretary Teresa May by the original seven MPs (Zac Goldsmith, Loughton, John Hemming, Tessa Munt, Tom Watson, Simon Danczuk and Caroline Lucas):

Dear Home Secretary,

We are writing to ask you to set up a full, properly resourced investigation into the failure of the Police to follow the evidence in a number of historical cases of child sexual abuse.

We would ask you to set up an independent panel, similar to the Inquiry you established into the Hillsborough tragedy, with powers to demand the release of all and any material from every agency involved.

We would like such a panel to work with the many victims of child sexual abuse from local authority care, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches and schools, including public schools, to uncover the facts in cases including the following:

a. Operation Fernbridge – Richmond: Elm Guest House and Grafton Close Children’s Home, Norbiton, Weybridge & Petersham
b. Operation Orchid – Hackney and Islington
c. The Geoffrey Dickens’ dossiers – and Monkton Street home for Mentally Handicapped Children, Lambeth
d. Sir Cyril Smith – Rochdale, including Knowl View Special School
e. HM Customs & Excise – Russell Tricker videos
f. Trafficking involving British businessmen in Amsterdam
g. Warwick Spinks – Amsterdam & Prague
h. “Jane” alleged rape by a man who went on to become a Cabinet minister

We would ask that the panel examines:

i. why detailed dossiers – such as the documents submitted to the Home Office by the late Geoffrey Dickens – have disappeared
ii. why Police surveillance videos – said to be of prominent people who have been involved in paedophile rings – have gone missing
iii. why child pornography videos seized by HM Customs & Excise have been lost or destroyed
iv. why investigations appear repeatedly to have been stalled or abandoned over the last thirty years

We look forward to an early response

Amongst the most important issues they raise is to do with the unsatisfactory nature of existing police investigations.

The Prime Minister and the Government must not, and should not be allowed to, sweep this under the carpet – there are extremely serious questions to be answered.


New Cross-Party Group of MPs calling for Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse

[Since first publishing this article online a number of further MPs have indicated their support for a national inquiry in line with the express wishes of the original seven. For details of this, and how to write to your MP to ask them to support, please see this post]

The pioneering news organisation Exaro have published two important articles today by David Hencke relating to a cross-party group of seven MPs who have written jointly to Home Secretary Theresa May called for a proper inquiry into child abuse, citing the Hillsborough inquiry as a model (see Hencke, ‘Police keep failing ‘to follow evidence’ in abuse cases, say MPs: Call for wide inquiry into ‘schools, churches, children’s homes, politicians and celebrities’, 3/6/14, and ‘MPs call on Theresa May to set inquiry into child sex abuse: Tim Loughton and Zac Goldsmith in cross-party group that highlights failures by police’, 3/6/14; see also Jason Beattie, ‘MPs demand inquiry into historic claims of child sex abuse by Cabinet Ministers’, Daily Mirror, 4/6/14).

The seven MPs in question (who Hencke has elsewhere called the ‘Magnificent Seven’) are:

Conservatives:
Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, whose constituency contains Elm Guest House, Grafton Close Children’s Home, and Colet Court and St Paul’s Schools (Twitter @ZacGoldsmith ).
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and former Children’s Commissioner, who spoke powerfully in the House of Commons in September 2013 about many ongoing revelations of abuse (Website here; Twitter @timloughton ).

Liberal Democrats:
John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley, who made representations on behalf of financial journalist Leah McGrath Goodman on the grounds of her being banned from the UK following investigation into child abuse at Haut de la Garenne, Jersey, but has also been critical of UK family courts when dealing with allegations of abuse against parents. (Website here; Twitter @johnhemmingmp )
Tessa Munt, MP for Wells, who as a member of the Education Select Committee has taken a special interest in child safeguarding, and whose constituency contains Wells Cathedral School, one of the five specialist music schools, all of which have been connected to abuse (Website here; Twitter @tessamunt )

Labour:
Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, who has been indefatigable in his commitment to this issue ever since raising in Westminster in October 2012 the issues of a high-level paedophile ring (see Watson’s blog and articles here and many other places online; Twitter @tom_watson ).
Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale, co-author with Matthew Baker of Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback, 2014), who has written of how Smith was connected to Peter Righton and also a wider paedophile ring including prominent politicians (see this article by Watson in praise of Danczuk) (Website here, Twitter @simondanczuk )

Green:
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion. (Website here; Twitter @carolinelucas ).

These seven MPs are concerned about how important files, surveillance videos and other material have gone missing, lack of charges brought as a result of Operation Fernbridge, and in general an apparent reluctance on the part of the police and others to pursue cases of serious abuse. Watson has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions naming a former cabinet minister alleged to have raped a woman going by the name of ‘Jane’ (see also the detailed five-part account linked to at the bottom of this article and the video interview with ‘Jane’); this is the same senior cabinet minister who has been linked to the VIP paedophile ring related to Elm Guest House (as confirmed by Mark Watts on Twitter on 18/5/14). The Metropolitan Police have chosen not to pursue Jane’s allegations further, nor even interview the alleged perpetrator, raising serious questions about whether proper procedure has been followed; Exaro have also claimed that there was a shocking concerted police smear campaign aimed at discrediting ‘Jane’. Furthermore, there are serious questions about the whereabouts of a series of documents submitted to the Home Office by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP (see here, here and here), one of the few MPs who continued to pursue this issue in the 1980s. Loughton has spoken of his alarm at consistent ‘reluctance, or more worryingly, the seeming complicity of police and other agencies to investigate the allegations seriously, and pursue the perpetrators rigorously’, and how ‘Documents go missing and investigations are curtailed with a chilling frequency, and that now threatens a serious undermining of the public’s confidence in our current child-protection system despite all the progress that has undoubtedly been made in recent years’.

The range of areas of public life in which there have been major allegations of abuse is frighteningly large: these include children’s homes in Islington (see also here and this article by whistleblower Liz Davies), Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Haute de la Garenne in Jersey, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk, Staffordshire (the ‘Pindown’ scandal) Birmingham, Leicestershire, North Wales, South Wales, Cheshire, Leeds, Sunderland, Northumberland, Lothian, Renfrewshire, Isle of Lewis, the Kincora Boy’s Home in Belfast, Stockgrove Park School, Buckinghamshire, Stanbridge Earls School near Romsey, Hampshire, New Barns School, Gloucestershire, Castle Hill School, Shropshire, St George’s School, Suffolk, Knowl View School in Rochdale, in Cleveland, many of the leading public schools (see also the range of articles here), the Catholic Church, not least in Scottish abbeys, the Church of England, the entertainment industry (not least involving Jimmy Savile), grooming gangs in the North West and Oxford, music education, a ring around Piccadilly Circus, major networks trading images of child abuse, and more. Some of these cases have been investigated, with some prosecutions, but there is good reason to believe some of these investigations have been half-hearted, whilst other cases have simply been ignored. There are many individuals linked to multiple networks (not least the sinister figure of Peter Righton), continuing talk of the VIP paedophile ring connected to Elm Guest House and elsewhere, major information concerning late MPs Cyril Smith and Peter Morrison and serious allegations about others who are living (not least the severe claim that a Blair era cabinet minister was being investigated for abusing children in a home in Lambeth, leading to a detective being taken off the case, and even that a council official looking to expose a ring involving the minister was murdered). The activities of members of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), about whom I have blogged in detail, remain shady, and there are many suggestions that this organisation might be linked to a great number of cases of abuse. Furthermore, it is now clear that PIE had deep links to the Home Office, receiving large amounts of money from the organisation, with at least three members working on its premises (with a phone line there), its magazine printed there, and some civil servants receiving images of child abuse delivered to the building!

It is heartening to see such a diverse cross-party group of MPs coming together on this issue. Yet it is more than a little disappointing that there are not more, and that the most senior politicians in all the major parties do not appear to be taking seriously what can only be called an epidemic (if even less than half of the allegations were true). I would urge everyone reading this to write to their own MP and implore them to support the seven courageous figures above (any of whom I would gladly vote for). I have earlier blogged on the need for Ed Miliband, the leader of the party to which I belong (Labour), to put all of his weight behind calls for a proper inquiry, but also how there is near-silence from the upper echelons of Labour, perhaps related to the fact that senior Labour politicians are under investigation and also that the current Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, has been linked to PIE during her time as Legal Officer at the NCCL, during which period NCCL took out an advert in PIE’s journal Magpie and also their policy on images of children reflects aspects of PIE thinking. But this should not be stopping Miliband, nor should worries about the former Thatcher era cabinet minister, and Peter Morrison and others, be stopping David Cameron (and in light of revelations about Cyril Smith, Nick Clegg should be firmly behind this).

Leading experts, researchers and campaigners on child abuse Peter McKelvie and Liz Davies met recently with Home Office minister Norman Baker. They were granted a mere ten minutes of time, despite having built up huge bodies of evidence about child abuse, but it was made clear that there was no intention to undertake either a national police investigation (absolutely necessary because so many complex cases are interlinked) nor a public inquiry. I would urge people to read the account above. Nonetheless, I have been informed that both individuals spoke very highly of Zac Goldsmith’s commitment to the issues in particular.

The media have reported much about the relatively small number of cases coming to court as a result of Operation Yewtree. But these are just a tiny fraction of the wider allegations of serious and sustained abuse (and non-sexual abuse should not be treated any less seriously). All credit to these seven MPs, but as for the others – if our MPs do not care about protecting children in the most vulnerable situations, what do they care about?


Ed Miliband should be leading the calls for a wide-ranging abuse inquiry

Many different stories involving alleged organised or institutionalised abuse of children have been prominent in the press during since February: about the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), and their links to the National Council of Civil Liberties, about abuse in a range of top private schools (especially Colet Court and St Paul’s), about the hideous range of abuse carried out by late Liberal MP Cyril Smith and then further in special schools in Rochdale, trials (with both convictions and acquittals) of celebrities as a result of Operation Yewtree, further information concerning the shocking abuse cases in children’s homes run by Islington Council, and new stories relating to abuse in Lambeth, with suggestions that a detective was taken off the case after a cabinet minister from the Blair era became a suspect (see also here, here, here and here, whilst the inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland (the largest inquiry of its type in the UK) opened at the beginning of the year. Other investigations continue, most notably Operations Fairbank, Fernbridge and Cayacos, resulting from the questions put to the House of Commons by Tom Watson MP in October 2012, and dealing in particular with suggestions of a VIP paedophile ring, involving senior politicians from various parties, and centered upon the terrible abuse scandal at the Elm Guest House in Barnes (see also the various links here), and the possibility that children may have even been trafficked to this place from a children’s home in Grafton Close in nearby Richmond to service VIP guests. Cyril Smith and the late Sir Anthony Blunt, former Master of the Queen’s Pictures and Soviet spy, have been named as visitors to Elm Guest House.


The courage of a few good politicians

The Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, co-author with Matthew Baker of the excellent Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback Publishing, 2014) has reiterated the claims that Smith was not working alone, and was part of a wider VIP ring; indeed Danczuk has gone so far as to argue that if charges had been brought against Smith, he would have named others and the resulting scandal could have toppled a government. Certainly the same possibility would have applied for the Blair government if a serving minister there had been charged with the abuse of children.

Danczuk has indicated that he is considering using Parliamentary Privilege to name one especially prominent former cabinet minister who was part of a ring with Smith and involved at Elm Guest House. This is almost certainly a figure from the Thatcher era whose identity is well-known on the internet, but has not been otherwise made public in the mainstream media in this context, though he was named when such allegations were dismissed thirty years ago. Various reports from Exaro News and The People newspaper (see links above) have indicated that a former cabinet minister was involved, with stories of videos and the possibility of some survivors being able to identify this figure . I hope that if Danczuk is secure in his conviction here that he will indeed name this figure, as unfortunately there is reason (on the basis of precedent) to have doubts as to the possibility of full investigations being able to proceed without external interference. This name, if made public, may cause shockwaves both in the UK and wider afield, and in such a context it would be very hard to resist the call for a proper public inquiry (and, perhaps more importantly, it would be harder for darker forces to try and prevent the police investigating this figure properly).

Danczuk and Watson are heroic politicians for our time, both risking huge amounts of approbrium and antipathy from colleagues and others (as Watson has detailed in his tribute to Danczuk). As a campaigner and independent researcher into abuse in musical education and also into PIE (about which numerous earlier blog posts give primary source information) I have had the pleasure to meet with Watson. No words can praise highly enough his complete dedication to these issues, as demostrated earlier with the allegations about the media and phone hacking. A few other MPs have shown courage and determination with these issues: Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, has continued to pursue the issue of abuse in music education and safeguarding (with Chetham’s and the Royal Northern College of Music both lying within her constituency), whilst Conservative MP Tim Loughton, former Children’s Minister, also speaking out about the scale of organised abuse as can be read in a speech he made to Parliament last September detailed here in Hansard.

But these politicians (and a few others) are relatively few and far between. Others have tried to fudge or ignore the issues, perhaps knowing of the fact that a full inquiry could uncover information deeply unsettling for all the three major British political parties (and maybe several others as well). As the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens found, pursuing the issue of organised child abuse involving prominent individuals is a lonely cause. When Dickens claimed that children were being abused on a council estate in Islington, the Labour MP for Islington North (my own MP), Jeremy Corbyn, claimed that Dickens was ‘getting cheap publicity at the expense of innocent children’ (see here for more on this story). When Dickens tried in 1984 to introduce a bill proscribing organisations like PIE, Labour MP Clare Short claimed the reason for the bill was ‘publicity for the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens)’ and spoke of ‘cheap publicity stunts’.


The left, paedophile organisations, and organised abuse

During this period, as has been amply chronicled recently, there were sections of the left, even the far left. Investigation of pro-paedophile literature (which I have done extensively, finding an alarming amount of this in mainstream publications, including scholarly literature, which I will document at a later date) shows no shortage of individuals (even including several prominent feminists) who sought to link the issue of paedophilia to supposedly progressive attitudes towards gender and sexuality. NCCL were affiliated to PIE for an extended period, and took out advertisements in PIE publications Understanding Paedophilia and Magpie, whilst their 1976 evidence to the Criminal Law Revision Committee (some of which reads almost exactly in the manner of a good deal of pro-paedophile literature) included the astonishing claim that ‘Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage’. It is clear that for a period NCCL (and also various gay rights organisations) were influenced, possibly even infiltrated, by paedophile campaigners, a process Christian Wolmar has traced (drawing in part upon first-hand experience of encountering paedophile groups) over a range of leftist organisations in the 1970s (this is also documented in Lucy Robinson’s book Gay Men and the Left in Post-War Britain: How the Personal got Political (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011)).

Current Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman MP was Legal Officer for the NCCL from 1978 to 1982; she joined the organisation two years after the Criminal Law Revision Committee submission, but no evidence has yet been provided of her – or her husband, Jack Dromey (who was on the committee of NCCL from 1970 to 1979, and has claimed to have opposed PIE but given no evidence for this) opposing the influence of PIE at the organisation.

How has Harman responded to the latest flurry of press attention? After the story was re-hashed in the Daily Mail in mid-February (having appeared sporadically for several years previously); it had become clearer how deeply PIE were involved with a wide range of abuse scandals, an involvement which has become even clearer in the subsequent months. In particular, the sinister figure of the late Peter Righton (files relating to whom provided the impetus for the police investigations which opened in 2012 – see also this 1994 documentary), who weaned his way to influential positions in the social work profession, was a high-up member of PIE, and has been linked to a network of abusers in public schools and to a range of cases of abuse in children’s homes; one victim has linked Righton to Cyril Smith (Smith may have met Righton when he was Liberal spokesperson on social services from 1976 to 1977). The journalist Eileen Fairweather, who broke the story of widespread abuse in Islington children’s homes for the Evening Standard, wrote of how one woman recalled being told openly by Righton at a social function in the 1970s how he enjoyed having sex with boys in children’s homes; Righton apparently assumed that as a lesbian she ‘wouldn’t break ranks’, and the woman went along with what she called ‘a typical gay man’s excuse – that he didn’t use force’ (she later gave a statement to the investigators) (cited in Christian Wolmar, Forgotten Children: The Secret Abuse Scandal in Children’s Homes (London: Vision Paperbacks, 2000)). Righton also wrote an endorsement which was used on the cover of Tom O’Carroll’s book Paedophilia: The Radical Case (ibid). Elsewhere, Fairweather has written of the deep links between Islington Council and PIE.

Harman’s first response was completely defensive: in a statement which was printed in the Mail on February 24th, she referred to the allegations as a ‘smear campaign’, and denied any connection with NCCL policy on lowering the age of consent to ten, or opposing the law on incest, as in the 1976 submission, pointing out that she did not work for NCCL until two years later, and denying that her involvement with NCCL implied any further support for PIE. However, as the paper pointed out, the 1976 submissions remained policy in 1978, when Harman joined, and she does not appear to have raised any objections then; furthermore, the affiliation continued throughout her time as Legal Officer. In a statement published together with Harman’s, Dromey argued that he was ‘at the forefront of repeated public condemnations of PIE and their despicable views’

As the media response grew louder, Harman appears to have realised that this would not be enough, and gave an interview with Laura Kuenssberg for Newsnight, again denying this amounted to anything more than a smear. She pointed out that PIE were one of a thousand organisations affiliated to NCCL, and that any organisation could affiliate. Ed Miliband (in what appears to have been his only statement on the whole controversy) backed Harman absolutely on the same day, reiterating her claim that the story amounted purely to a smear (Sam Coates, ‘Miliband backs Harman over ‘paedophile smears’, The Times, February 25th, 2014). It was later revealed that Harman and Dromey may not have been so confident about what journalists might find, and they trawled the NCCL archives in Hull themselves (their names can be found in the ledgers) on February 24th, five days after the story broke, and on the same day as the Newsnight interview. The Mail responded by pointing out that in the year when Harman joined the organisation, PIE was listed in the book The NCCL Guide to Your Rights as one of eighteen organisations which ‘may be helpful’ to readers, alongside the likes of the Family Planning Association and Rape Crisis Centre, and also that by 1982, the constitution of an affiliated institution had to be ‘approved by the Committee’ (PIE continued to be affiliated for a further year). The Telegraph also viewed other internal documents that cast serious doubts upon Harman’s claims that PIE had been ‘pushed to the margins’ back in 1976, before she went to NCCL, revealing that NCCL gay-rights spokesperson Nettie Pollard (probably the key link between NCCL and PIE, who has elsewhere herself been named as a member (#70) of PIE) had sat on a fourteen-strong NCCL gay rights committee with PIE chairman Tom O’Carroll (O’Carroll later thanked Pollard for her help in the foreword to his 1980 book Paedophilia: The Radical Case), and printed a letter from Harman forwarding a query from Pollard as to how to table amendments to the Protection of Children Bill in the Lords in 1978; this story was also pursued briefly in The Guardian. At this stage a spokesman for Harman had to concede that Pollard had promoted paedophilia and exploited the gay rights committee. Most damningly, the Mail printed a copy of the NCCL advert taken out in PIE journal Magpie in 1979 (which I had earlier revealed, though omitted at this stage to mention the earlier 1977 advert in Understanding Paedophilia).

Various of these articles drew attention in particular to how Harman herself urged changes to the 1978 Protection of Children Bill by saying that ‘images of children should only be considered pornographic if it could be proven the subject suffered’; this is perhaps the most crucial piece of information, and which comes dangerously close to PIE-style thinking, by positing that something only becomes pornographic if the child considers it as such (rather than in a statutory fashion). Though Harman protested that this was to stop parents being criminalised for taking beach or bathing pictures of their children (which would in itself be fair), these proposed amendments went further than that, as a lawyer would surely know.

As the furore continued, Patricia Hewitt made a reasonably decent and measured statement (after a period when she was uncontactable), claiming that NCCL was ‘naive and wrong to accept PIE’s claim to be a ‘campaigning and counselling organisation’ that ‘does not promote unlawful acts’, accepting responsibility and apologising, saying she ‘should have urged the executive committee to take stronger measures to protect NCCL’s integrity from the activities of PIE members and sympathisers’, though disclaiming any part in the ‘proposal to reduce the age of consent’, and saying nothing about the 1976 Criminal Law Revision Committee submission. Hewitt’s retirement from her position as a non-executive director of BT was also announced a few weeks later, though it is not clear whether this was related.

But there was no such humility from Harman, whose public school haughtiness deserves consideration just as does that of David Cameron or George Osborne; in an interview for The Times in early March, she adopted a contemptuous tone, continuing to refuse to apologise, talked about intending to be Deputy Prime Minister, and even talking about how she was ‘spending a lot of money on my hair, which is the same colour as when I was 33 [….] I’m not quite sufficiently politically correct to be able to stop it’, giving the impression that this mattered more than the ongoing stories about abuse (Sam Coates, ‘I want to be deputy PM, says Harman as she stands firm over paedophiles’, The Times, March 8th, 2014).

Former Head of the Obscene Publications Squad Michael Hames (author of The Dirty Squad (The Inside Story of the Obscene Publications Squad)) argued that ‘the NCCL legitimised the Paedophile Information Exchange’, and that Harman, Dromey and Hewitt ‘made a huge mistake. At the very least they should acknowledge, publicly, that they got it wrong’. But this would not be forthcoming from either Harman or Dromey. The current director of Liberty (the renamed NCCL), said that past paedophile infiltration of the organisation was a matter of ‘continuing disgust and horror’, statement endorsed by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

A civil liberties organisation should defend the civil liberties of all people, including those whose views they might otherwise despise and reject. The American Civil Liberties Union has defended the right to free speech of the Klu Klux Klan; in my view, they are absolutely right to do so, for using fascistic techniques of censorship is no way to combat fascist ideology and organisations. Paedophiles have rights and civil liberties as well (and I have no interest in debating with those people who would deny that they do); were the NCCL simply to be defending these, or indeed fighting against the rather archaic law of ‘Conspiracy to Corrupt Public Morals’, then their actions should be applauded. Furthermore, it would be rash to censor even a debate on the precise age of consent, which varies slightly between different Western countries.

But NCCL’s support for PIE went further than this. I do not believe Harman, Dromey or Hewitt to have been active supporters of the abuse of children themselves; however, at a time when PIE was at its height, they were all intimately involved with an organisation which not only allowed PIE to affiliate (would Harman have been so happy with a group which advocated that a man can beat his wife if she is disobedient, or a fundamentalist Christian anti-gay organisation?), but also advertised in its own deeply unpleasant publications (see the ample amount of material I have published on this blog here, here and here) and appear to have been influenced by aspects of PIE thinking in their policy, as well as having PIE members on their own committees. No clear evidence has been provided for any of these three figures having opposed this, unlike with Peter Hain, say. PIE’s strategy was to infiltrate and influence mainstream gay rights and civil liberties organisations towards their own ends; Harman, Dromey and Hewitt stand as appearing culpable in allowing this to happen, and in the process adding a degree of respectability to that very paedophile movement which looks to have been involved in the worst cases of organised abuse.

As further investigations into the latter continue, it would be a miracle if the involvement of leading PIE members is not evoked on many future occasions, and many more questions asked about just how this organisation and the ideologies it espoused came to win a degree of acceptance especially on the liberal left (two very thoughtful articles on this question have recently been published by Eileen Fairweather and Christian Wolmar). However, all figures associated with the Labour leadership appear to have treated this as an issue primarily of the reputations of Harman and Dromey (Hewitt is less active in politics today and no longer in Parliament). Harman’s own self-centered attitudes and absolute refusal to concede that this might be about more than her, has precluded the leadership from really commenting at all on the many other stories which have been further illuminated, an intolerable state of affairs. I would personally have difficulty campaigning for Labour if this situation continues.


The need for a decisive lead from Labour and Ed Miliband

The potential situation for Labour is grave: senior figures such as Harman, Dromey or Margaret Hodge (in charge of Islington Council during the period when paedophiles manage to infiltrate their children’s homes, and who tried to dismiss newspaper reports claiming this – but amazingly went on to become Children’s Minister under Tony Blair) stand likely to be found to have been at least complacent if not complicit in a situation which enabled PIE, and as a result widespread abuse, to flourish. If coupled with revelations about a Blairite cabinet minister, this could cast an unremovable shadow over the whole Blair era. Danczuk has written of how ‘it seemed that a fair few on the Left, including some who have subsequently become key figures in the Labour Party were fooled into giving this hideous group [PIE] shelter’, part of the situation which enabled Cyril Smith to act with relative impunity – he does not name the figures in question, but there is little question that he is referring to Hewitt, Harman and Dromey. The dismissive statements of Corbyn and Short, at a time when Dickens was fighting practically a one-man campaign against PIE, look like a form of petty tribalism which in this context could be dangerous; more ominously, some other Labour names have been mooted in terms of visitors to the Elm Guest House. Eileen Fairweather has described the type of Stalinist thinking to be encountered on the left when there are abuse allegations involving gay men, whilst some researchers into abuse committed by women, such as Michelle Elliott or Jackie Turton, have encountered similar resistance to any investigation of the subject. It would seem as if for some on the left, child abuse only matters when it can be exploited to serve a particular type of gender/sexuality politics; when the perpetrators are women or gay men, some might prefer that the abuse go unchecked*.

All of this remains at the level of allegations, for sure, but it seems unlikely that an investigation would not do damage to the Labour Party. But this is equally true for the Liberal Democrats because of Cyril Smith, and very much so for the Conservative Party, with a serious of prominent figures also having been mooted as Elm Guest House visitors (one of them still in the House of Commons today), not to mention the as yet far-from-clarified situation involving the late Peter Morrison, about whom I have blogged at length, involving allegations (based upon accounts by Conservative politicians) of cover-up and even bribery, and that Morrison was linked to the North Wales abuse scandals.

I am a member of the Labour Party; I was unable to stay supporting them following the Iraq War, but rejoined after Tony Blair left the leadership and have had high hopes of Ed Miliband, who I voted for as leader. I look to the Labour Party to protect the interests of ordinary citizens against powerful forms of exploitation, and can hardly imagine an issue Labour should be opposing and attacking more strongly than the existence of networks of VIPs using their position to exploit and abuse children sexually, protected through friends in high places. Miliband showed great resolve over the issue of Murdoch and hacking; now he needs to do the same of the issue of organised and institutional abuse. His silence (and that of most other senior Labour politicians) to date on the issue, save to defend Harman as mentioned earlier, is no response befitting of a Prime-Minister- and government-in-waiting; as with other party leaders, the impression given is of one more concerned about protecting the reputation of a few of his colleagues than in investigating extremely serious allegations of abuse (just as has been seen in numerous other institutions facing abuse or cover-up allegations relating to some of their members).

This should not be a partisan issue, and attempts by all sides to exploit it for party political advantage are crass in the extreme. Ed Miliband has the opportunity to change this and call for an all-purpose public inquiry with which he and his party will fully co-operate, which would put real pressure on the other parties to do the same, as he should also demand. This would require a similar level of commitment from his senior colleagues; if some are not prepared to give this commitment, then Miliband must make clear that he is no longer in a position to lend them support.

[*As for example in the case of the American feminist Kate Millett, who when asked in an interview (originally published in Loving Boys (New York: Semiotext(e), 1980), pp. 80-83) ‘Do you think that a tender loving erotic relationship can exist between a boy and a man?’ she replied ‘Of course, or between a female child and an older woman’ and also said that ‘ part of a free society would be that you could choose whomever you fancied, and children should be able to freely choose as well’. Millett’s book Sexual Politics (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1969) remains a standard feminist text, but I believe on the basis of this interview anything she says about sexual politics should be considered suspect. ]