Heretic TOC is today sending an Open Letter to Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party. This follows the news, widely trumpeted in the British media last week, that your host here has been expelled from the Party. I was suspended on Tuesday, on the grounds that my conduct may have been “prejudicial” to the Party. Then, on Wednesday, I was expelled.
So, if I have understood the matter correctly, there will be no hearing at which I could mount a defence.
The first I heard of all this was through the media. Official confirmation reached me only somewhat later, on Friday, when I received two letters from the Party, dated the 16th and 17th and both postmarked the 17th. The first letter did not specify any particular allegedly “prejudicial” conduct, but my activism in relation to paedophilia was obviously the issue, as was made abundantly clear in the widespread media coverage. The second letter, though, was much more specific. It stated:
“The Labour Party has learned that in December last you were convicted at Caernarfon Crown Court of sexual offences involving two children and given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years…”
The letter went on to say that the Party’s National Executive Committee had decided to expel me immediately based on this being a serious criminal offence, as the NEC is empowered to do under section 2.1.4.D.3 of the Party’s rules.
It seems the Labour Party learned of the conviction from a Daily Mail report on Wednesday. I alluded to the case somewhat cryptically in Truth, reality and baby elephants at the end of last year. Now it is in the public domain and is being used as a handy stick to beat me with, I feel I should say something about the circumstances. But the story will take some telling, and I must put it on the back burner for today.
So, first things first. Heretic TOC is read globally, everywhere from Canada to Cambodia, and Austria to Australia, so I imagine many heretics beyond the purview of British party politics will be utterly perplexed and bemused at this point. All of you, and also UK-based readers who may have missed the news, are advised to read the links guide at the end, which will enable you to catch up fully if you wish.
Briefly, I joined the Labour Party last year, under my own name, under the £3 subscription scheme which enabled non-members of the Party to vote in the leadership election. I voted for Jeremy Corbyn. When he was elected leader, I joined the Party as a full member. I attended Party meetings, canvassed on doorsteps during a council by-election, and socialised with the local MP.
This was all abruptly ended soon after I made the mistake of telling the local police about my Labour Party membership and activities. This arose during one of their regular monitoring visits, conducted because I am on the Sex Offenders Register. They had been asking about whether I had taken up any positive activities that might be of benefit to the community. I thought my work for Labour could be put in that category. The police, however, homed in – as I should have realised they would – on the supposed danger to children involved in me doing door-to-door canvassing, because of the possibility that a child might open the door. Once they knew about this aspect, they decided they needed to notify the Labour Party about my background. This notification was supposed to be “confidential”, but was all over the media within days.
I hold out no hope of being readmitted to the Party but I nevertheless feel I should give them a piece of my mind over the decision to chuck me out. Accordingly, the following Open Letter is being sent to the General Secretary, with copies going to the Party leadership, my MP, some other leading members of the local Constituency Labour Party, and certain journalists.
Preamble almost over, the letter follows. You may feel it is too apologetic and that they are the ones who should be saying sorry, not me. There is a lot of truth in that, but bear with me. Anger has its place, but shouting at people is not the best way to get them listening. Anyway, here goes:
DEAR GENERAL SECRETARY…
I deeply regret that my membership of the Party has resulted in harmful publicity and I entirely accept the decision to expel me. Indeed, if anyone had thought to ask me, instead of blabbing instantly to the media, I would have been prepared to resign quietly.
This is because – although it might surprise you to hear it – I genuinely want the Party to win the next General Election. Note that when the story of my membership broke in The Times, my initial response was No Comment. I hope John Woodcock retains his seat in due course but I think he should take a leaf out of my book in knowing when to shut up, especially as regards his continuing and counterproductive sniping at Jeremy.
Disagree on Trident if you must, John; vote on Syria as your conscience dictates too. But get a grip on your gripes about the leader and take a tip from another unlikely advisor over your communication style: too many tweets make a twat, as “Call me Confucius” said.
John is a likeable young man and already a smart politician. When he grows up he might even move on from being a graduate of the febrile, rapid response, Thick Of It, school of political strategy, and develop a more mature style, less prone to knee-jerk sounding off.
Can’t blame him for his arrested development though. After all, he was groomed by the Labour Party right from when he was a kid in Sheffield. Once ensnared by the cult, he would have been easy game for brainwashing into thinking the Blair/Campbell political lifestyle is normal. Early abuse of this sort is inevitably traumatising and obviously what lies behind John’s problem with depression. He could sue for compo!
And before any professional offence-takers start screaming with outrage over mocking a man’s mental disorder (I’m not, actually), I would remind you that paedophilia is in the psychiatric textbooks as just that. More helpfully, it would be regarded as a sexual orientation parallel to hetero- and homosexuality, along with recognition of the right to be free from discrimination. Instead, paedophiles are routinely treated to hate-speech and face massive discrimination not just in political life but across the board, in housing, employment, you name it. Similar treatment for Jewish people, or gypsies, or Muslims or gays or blacks or women, would rightly be condemned as barbaric and worthy of the Nazis.
Yet even nice guy John Woodcock apparently feels it is acceptable to crank up fear and loathing where paedophilia is concerned.
Why? Because in this case I am a convicted paedophile? a criminal? I would remind you that is not so long ago that practising gays were also considered criminals. So, in his way, was Socrates. And Jesus. And countless ordinary people, too, have been condemned unjustly for their beliefs and even just for who they are. I hoped – still hope – that the Labour Party believes in free expression and even, on occasion, compassion for those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I need only name the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and there is no shortage of other examples.
Which brings me to the values – the Labour values – I hold dear and to why I joined the Labour Party.
I have been a Labour supporter since long before John Woodcock was born, converted at the age of 15 from my working class dad’s support for the Tories by a clever fellow pupil at my local comp who went on to study economics at the LSE. As a VIth former, I was already an activist, joining CND and taking part in one of the annual marches from Aldermaston to London to Ban the Bomb. When I went to Lancaster University in 1964 I was one of the founding members of the new university’s Labour Club. I canvassed for Stanley Henig at the 1966 general election, when he was returned as the MP for Lancaster. When I was a press officer for the Open University in the 1970s I canvassed for Labour there too, and later did the same in Yorkshire when I was a journalist with the Wakefield Express. I was on the million-strong London march in 2003 against Blair’s ill-fated decision to back the war in Iraq.
Not that I have ever been “hard left”. Absolutely in the mainstream Labour tradition, I have always supported democratic socialism, and I favoured Neil Kinnock over those to the left of him, including Tony Benn. Bearing in mind that there is said to be more of Methodism than Marx in the Labour tradition, I felt a great affinity for Benn’s Christian socialism, but always felt he flirted too much with undemocratic elements, not least in his sympathy for those who were seeking to unify Ireland through terrorism. Jeremy did likewise, but all is forgiven in view of the fact that peace in Ireland was eventually secured through negotiation. Credit to Tony as well over that, of course.
Why, then, it may be asked, did I never join the Party until 2015?
It is simply that I was never inspired to do so because the Wilson and Callaghan governments were a disappointment compared to the fantastic achievements of the Attlee years. As for the betrayal of democratic socialism under Blair, disappointment is too weak a word. The much brighter prospect of a Corbyn leadership was what finally persuaded me I really should join and get properly involved.
Right from the moment of joining, though, I always felt it would be only a matter of time before members would find out about my background and take exception to my presence. Then I would have to go. Until that time, I told myself, I would be content to help as best I could with such humble but vital tasks as stuffing envelopes and pushing leaflets through doors.
For me, it was all about the Party. Passionately as I believe in freedom of speech and radical thinking unimpeded by any perception of the “correct” line, I am not an indulgent individualist. I am a team player when allowed to be. I simply wanted to do my bit in a quiet and unassuming way.
Turning to my own “radical” thinking, I would note first that there was much hand-wringing last year over whether those joining the Party under the £3 scheme were true supporters of “Labour values”. That is not the easiest term to define. The Party’s website presently says the following, which is a bit motherhood and apple pie and open to wide interpretation:
…the values Labour stands for today are those which have guided it throughout its existence.
- social justice
- strong community and strong values
- reward for hard work
- rights matched by responsibilities
Some might feel my values fail on the “decency” score but I beg to differ based on Labour’s own history and traditions, and also on a broad view as to what the word means. I take it to be grounded in respect for others, rather than blind conformity to conventional mores. I might also mention that this official list of Labour values is too Blairite. It fails to spell out that “social justice” requires a more equable distribution of wealth. Also, does Labour not value liberty? Where is that word? Is freedom a value to be ceded to the right? Has Labour become just a party that hates pleasure, loves to restrict people’s lives, and seeks to ban things – including me?
I mentioned the importance of Methodism, or one might say non-conformist Christianity more generally, to the Labour tradition. But the non-conformity of Marxist studies on the family, and on the fundamental economic underpinnings of social and sexual life, have also contributed deeply to Labour thought. Engels’ book The Origins of the Family did not shy away from such big issues as the origins of the incest taboo, the rise of patriarchy, and the “bourgeois” family. Anthropology was in its infancy then: much theory was perched precariously on a sketchy foundation of traveller’s tales from far-flung outposts of empire; but a tradition of deep engagement with the origins of our social arrangements, and the ways in which they might be critiqued and developed for the better, has been an aspect of Labour intellectual life ever since the Party’s inception, if not always through the Party itself then through associated intellectual developments, notably the Fabian Society, the Workers’ Educational Association and the Left Book Club.
Early Fabians included the poet Edward Carpenter and sexologist Henry Havelock Ellis. Carpenter was an early LGBT activist, whose socialist vision saw sexual freedom, including free reign for consensual sexual relations between man and boy, not as the abuse of a powerless young person by a powerful older one but quite the opposite. As he proclaimed in his book The Intermediate Sex,
“Eros is a great leveller. Perhaps the true Democracy rests, more firmly than anywhere else, on a sentiment which easily passes the bounds of class and caste, and unites in the closest affection the most estranged ranks of society.”
Havelock Ellis, likewise, an esteemed figure in his day, described the sexual relations of homosexual males, including men with boys. He wrote objectively, as a scientist, without characterising such relations in terms of disease, or damning them as immoral, or criminal. He discovered through his studies that same-sex love transcends age taboos as well as those of gender.
Fast forwarding to more recent times, my own early recollections are of a Labour Party in the 1960s and 70s that actually achieved far more than I gave it credit for at the time. Looking back, I note in particular the great social and educational reforms under the leadership of Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, such as the abolishment of the death penalty and of theatre censorship, the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality and the creation of the Open University.
Roy was derided by the right as a “champagne socialist”. It seems to me he simply wanted a rich, enjoyable life for the many, not the few. Unlike today’s dour breed of censorious, mind-shrinking, PC authoritarians on the left, he was the patron saint of permission. May we do it? Yes, we may! The permissive society, he boldly declared, is the civilized society. He is even said to have been impressed by the Paedophile Information Exchange’s Evidence to the Home Office Criminal Law Revision Committee, which would effectively have led to an age of consent of 10 in most cases, plus a new system of civil law protection against relationships contrary to the best interests of the child. It may have been under PIE’s influence, indeed, that research was commissioned by the Home Office leading to an official report in which consenting underage children were described as “partners” rather than “victims” (Sexual Offenses, Consent and Sentencing, H.O. Research Study No. 54, 1979).
The big mistake of that era was not Labour’s “permissive” approach, which was always grounded in respect for others and for communal values. Nor was there anything wrong per se with the hippie mantra “make love not war”. On the contrary, there is substantial evidence from primate and human studies linking the encouragement of personal intimacy in infancy and childhood, including the unimpeded discovery of sexual expression, with peaceable, cooperative, pleasant attitudes in adult life: it’s the difference between the female-dominated bonobo world, where sex is permitted in all age and sex combinations and is actually used as a peace-making strategy, and the tough, kick-ass mentality we see exemplified in gun-loving America, where Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl, exposing a nipple, apparently counts as a bigger outrage than the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in which 20 children aged between six and seven years old, and six adult staff members, lost their lives to a crazy gunman.
What remains discredited from the days of Roy Jenkins, and rightly so, is selfish, individualistic, irresponsible hedonism – a philosophy that includes the relentless pursuit of personal greed and wealth accumulation, and which belongs to the right wing not the left.
I rest my case.
LINKS TO THE NEWS
Subscription access only. This was the story that broke the news on Tues 16 February. No indication here as to how reporter Nigel Bunyan was first on the scene, for The Times. Story gives background re Harriet Harman; Hacked Off; Heretic TOC blog, with quote from About: : “I have been at odds with ‘the dominant narrative’ of sexual morality over the last several decades”.
Very full account in Daily Mail on 17th. Story mentions my trial in Wales last year for “abusing brothers aged nine and ten”. Says “Labour today said O’Carroll had been ‘auto excluded’ from the party following his suspension yesterday and would not have the opportunity to resign.” Quotes one of the brothers, who: “…feared he had infiltrated Labour in a bid to continue his campaign to justify paedophilia.” Briefly, I had some sexual engagement with a 10-year-old boy in the 1970s. He said in court that he had been a willing participant and I treated him “respectfully”. His younger brother, who had been present at the time, took a dim view. He is the one who initiated the case.
Local paper in Barrow: Quote: “Looking back, the most disturbing thing about that meeting was how pleasant and articulate was the demeanour of this highly dangerous man – a million miles from the myth of the shifty paedophile who can be identified from his suspicious manner.” Also: “He also spent two hours debating Trident and Syria at a Christmas party at Cunningham’s, the former Furness Hotel, in Bath Street, Barrow.” Also: “The Barrow and Furness MP said: ‘The idea of him using Labour activities to get the opportunity to prey on children is sickening beyond words’.” Story says I will step down voluntarily as I do not wish to embarrass Corbyn.
Daily Mail editorial: “…the suspicion is that his membership was only suspended yesterday because the Press had found out about it.” Also: “Hacked Off, of course, is backed by Max Mosley – who has never forgiven the News of the World for revealing his spanking sessions with prostitutes. Is it so surprising that O’Carroll beat a path to its door?”
Daily Telegraph. Nice quote from my blog site About: “My aim here is to present a discourse of resistance. That probably sounds grim, but humour and cheerfulness are my weapons of choice, along with reason and research.” Also a Profile box with details of two books: Paedophilia: The Radical Case (1980); Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons (2010). Also some quotes from Radical Case.
The Independent: Followed by some interesting comments, notably from Leonard Mann and Liberationista.
Guido Fawkes, 16 Feb 2016: “Guido was in the room but failed to spot him among the crowd of weirdy-beardy grey-haired wrong ’uns with shared interests in shutting up the press.”
Guido Fawkes, 17 Feb 2016: “O’Carroll wrote a disturbing post praising Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, implying he wanted the paedophile movement to take inspiration from how a man with controversial views had won “respect” after decades of sticking to his principles.”