Pantomime villain for a Whitehall farce

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Not since the glory days of Whitehall farce has there been such a long-running theatrical success in London for unsophisticated comedy as we have been getting lately from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The  plays famously staged by actor-manager Brian Rix half a century ago had them rolling in the aisles with comedy based on the embarrassment of silly characters being caught with their pants down in compromising situations. Much like that, IICSA was been caught playing a very silly game of musical chairpersons, in which a chair was snatched from under the bottoms of three successive lady judges, leaving them humiliatingly dumped on their judicial posteriors and out of the proceedings. Oh, how we laughed! See Heretic TOC’s “review” of the “show”: “The chair is dead, long live the chair!”

And then there was the barrister who dropped his briefs. Allegedly. The QC appointed as counsel to the inquiry suddenly found himself suspended from his job after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a lift – not very elevating! He was later cleared in a separate inquiry of any wrongdoing but then – what a rib-tickler this was – yet another inquiry decided the earlier inquiry had failed to inquire sufficiently, or in the right way.

The big difference between those original Whitehall farces and IICSA’s comedy of errors, of course, is that the latter laughs are an entirely unintended aspect of what are supposed to be deeply serious proceedings.

But the worlds of London theatre in the 1950s and the public inquiry theatricals now in progress have another major feature in common apart from the laughs. Those Brian Rix plays were performed at the Whitehall Theatre, close to the old Palace of Whitehall and hence right at the heart of the UK’s government and political complex, as summed up in the words “Whitehall” and “Westminster” – parliament being housed, of course, in the nearby Palace of Westminster.

Which is where the pantomime villain of my headline makes his timely entry, just as the panto season is coming up. And who should that villain be but – wait for it – ME!

Boo! Hiss!

Let me explain. Among the dozen or so separate strands of investigation on IICSA’s packed agenda is the Westminster one, which is probing “child sexual abuse” (CSA) and exploitation “involving people of public prominence associated with Westminster”. This strand will look into “evidence of conspiracy, cover-up, interference or tolerance” of CSA  committed by Westminster V.I.P.s, and whether “governmental, political and law enforcement institutions were aware of and took appropriate  steps; and whether there are adequate safeguarding and child protection policies in place within political parties, government departments and agencies”.

About a month ago I received an official communication from IICSA’s chief solicitor requesting me to submit evidence to the inquiry specifically in relation to this Westminster strand. Why? To respond to utterly farcical, laughably ridiculous conspiracy theory allegations to the effect that back in the day, in the 1970s and 80s, the government was being run by a secret paedophile elite with links to the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), an organisation I led for a number of years.

Boo! Hiss!

Blimey, I thought, in my old-fashioned way, you’re  ’avin’ a laugh, gov, ain’t ya? What’s a small-time villain like me, an ’umble felon just like Fagin, hanging about with his little gang of boy pick-pockets,  gonna be doin’ a-mingling with proper gentlemen like that? We might nick their fancy silk handkerchiefs, if we’re lucky, but that’s as close as it gets.

But public inquiries do not Have A Laugh. Distinctly challenged in the sense of humour department, they tend to be In Deadly Earnest. So when IICSA solicitor Martin Smith posted me a list of 10 specific questions about PIE’s alleged Westminster connections, I knew it was not to be taken lightly.

I could have ignored the letter. It was only a request for a response, after all, not a command. There was no suggestion – not at this stage at least – that I might be subpoenaed to appear in person and interrogated under oath. Nor was I in any sort of trouble, having been jailed long ago for my supposed misdeeds: this time they had bigger fish to fry, or so the conspiracy theorists wildly imagined.

Anyway, I decided there would be no harm in addressing these questions soberly and seriously, just as IISCA must have hoped. At the same time, though, I decided, this was a fantastic opportunity to give the inquiry a piece of my mind. So, after a lot of hard work in recent weeks, some of it spent digging out old PIE documents and going through them, a few days ago I submitted 10,000 words of evidence. Roughly the first third was taken up with answering Mr Smith’s questions. The rest ranged more widely, attacking the absurdity of the conspiracy theorists’ wider allegations, especially as regards PIE, the insanity of the “believe the victims” dogma, the deranged narcissism of extremists within the victim lobby, the rising tide of toxic victim feminism over several decades and the appalling waste of time and money going into IICSA’s utterly bogus, vulgar, populist activities.

Have I missed anything? Probably, but you get the drift.

The key questions on PIE were on whether we had members who were MPs, lords, or other “persons of public prominence” associated with Westminster, and on whether the organisation ever received government funding.

My answers are very full and forthcoming. Names are named! Secrets are revealed! But if you think I am going to blurt it all out here and now you can think again. I shan’t do that because I feel it is more important here to focus not on the questions the inquiry were asking but on the ones they are desperate to avoid. Not to worry, though, because I have posted my entire evidence here. Enjoy!

So, what is IICSA trying to avoid? Essentially, yet more embarrassment. Or, rather, embarrassment of a selective kind. The inquiry is perfectly happy to expose past institutional shortcomings. That is at the heart of its declared purpose, and fulfilling that purpose is bound to embarrass those who were in charge at the time.

That’s the good embarrassment, if you will, but there is also a bad sort: IICSA doesn’t want to see itself become nothing more than a laughing stock; nor does it want to dwell on police chiefs, politicians and others who have become an embarrassment to its own aims lately – people who have made fools of themselves or worse either by taking the “believe the victims” credo too far, or by generating baseless conspiracy theories that have come unstuck.

For instance, IICSA has decided not to talk about the collapse of Operation Midland, set up by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in 2014 to investigate lurid and very far-fetched allegations of sexual assault, brutality and murder by paedophiles in high places. The operation was closed in 2016 when it was eventually concluded that the star witness, a supposed victim named publicly only as “Nick”, was just a fantasist who had led the police up the garden path.

One good reason for IICSA to avoid this issue at the moment is that it is presently before the courts: “Nick” has been charged with perverting the course of justice and is due to stand trial in March. But the inquiry could easily wait until after the trial. In its preliminary hearing on the Westminster strand IICSA gave other reasons, too, the decisive one being “that possible failings in these police investigations are remote from the central purpose of this inquiry”.

To me this sounds like an excuse. It enables IICSA to dodge the key issue – very much central to its inquiries – of the basis on which you decide that “victims” really are victims. At once time, and quite properly, accused persons were deemed innocent until proven guilty in court, and those making allegations of a crime against themselves were called “complainants” not “victims”, right up until the court verdict. This presumption of innocence was grievously undermined when the MPS proclaimed in a joint report with the NSPCC that those who had made complaints against the late TV star Jimmy Savile should be called victims rather than complainants even though no case had ever been brought to trial and Savile was no longer around to defend himself.

This “believe the victim” tendency reached it apogee when Supt Kenny McDonald, the head of Operation Midland, said the police believed the accuser “Nick” and declared that his claims were “credible and true”. They were neither. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could have seen that the claims were ridiculous. While it would have been wrong simply to laugh “Nick” out of the police station when he first made his complaint – some investigation was in order – the unforgiveable folly was to put dogma above evidence by declaring the claims to be true when that could only properly have been a matter for a court to decide.

It may also be significant – in terms of IICSA avoiding embarrassment – that missing from the 10 questions put to me by the inquiry was anything about the fanciful allegations trumpeted by tabloid journalist Don Hale, although these claims had been mentioned in the preliminary hearings.

Sunday Times journalist James Gillespie asked me about Hale’s claims in an interview I gave him by email in 2015. He wrote:

The journalist Don Hale, who claims [1970s politician] Barbara Castle gave him a “dossier” alleging a number of politicians were active supporters of PIE, says [former prime minister] Ted Heath regularly attended meetings. He also says that the late Tory MP Rhodes Boyson would distribute [PIE’s] Magpie magazine and organise speakers in support of PIE. Further, he claims that PIE had an office in Westminster staffed by two people. Is any of this true?

Most of it was so ridiculous that, as I replied to Gillespie, it hardly seemed to require any rebuttal from me. I added that “I will do my best to spell out why these claims are such nonsense, although the conspiracy addicts cannot be expected to listen.”

The only half-true bit is that my successor as chair of PIE, Steve Smith (now Freeman) did indeed have an office in Westminster, in the basement of the Home Office no less, where he worked with another PIE member! But it was most definitely the government’s office, not PIE’s, and the PIE members were not PIE staff: they were paid to do work there for the government. Yes, it sounds odd and so it was. Some heretics may recall that I blogged about it.

As regards the preposterous claim that Edward Heath, Conservative prime minister in the early 1970s, had attended PIE meetings, it ignored the fact that our leanings and contacts were clearly on the Left of British politics, far away from Ted’s Tories on the Right. The same flaw in Hale’s claims applies to an even greater extent in the case of Rhodes Boyson, who was a hard-liner on the Right of his party, a former headmaster who had been very keen on stern discipline and favoured caning as a punishment. In PIE we were utterly against that, as shown by a magazine we had that was devoted to children’s rights, where we took an explicit stance against such corporal punishment.

The fact that so many of the allegations made by the likes of Don Hale, “Nick” and others have remained unsubstantiated and have rightly been judged fake news, ought to be a massive embarrassment to IICSA. One would think so, given that the inquiry appears to be taking such “news” mighty seriously, rather than exercising healthy scepticism.

By the time the IICSA has digested my extensive witness statement, they may well conclude it would be unwise to call me to give evidence in person at the public hearing scheduled for March (fixture clash here with the trial of “Nick”!) on the Westminster strand precisely because I might give voice to unwelcome scepticism. In comments made here at Heretic TOC a few days ago (27 Nov @ 14:02), I mentioned the possibility of finding myself in “hand-to-hand combat” with Prof. Alexis Jay, who handled the famous inquiry into street grooming in Rotherham. She is now in charge of IICSA as the inquiry’s fourth chair, so we could certainly come face-to-face in the proceedings.

Once the barrister dealing with the Westminster strand, who appears to be Andrew O’Connor QC, has read my evidence, he will be aware that my scepticism extends to the work of Prof. Jay herself. In my submission I noted she had “conducted what became a very high-profile report on Rotherham, concluding that at least 1,400 children were subjected to sexual exploitation there between 1997 and 2013”. She won’t like what I said, including several paragraphs casting doubt on the claim that all of those 1,400 “victims” were really victims. Among them, I said, were those who, far from wanting to be rescued from their “abusers”, saw Prof. Jay’s work as an unwelcome interference with their private lives. Come to think of it, I can’t see anyone at IICSA’s theatre of fantastical abuse nightmares wanting me to turn up and get them “woke”.

Boo! Hiss!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prime Minister was my buddy – NOT!

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I thought I’d heard it all earlier this year when my kind, avuncular, friend the late Peter Righton was accused of a particularly brutal murder. The victim had allegedly been torn apart when roped by his wrists and ankles to a car and a pick-up truck that slowly reversed away from each other, one driven by Righton the other by “another man”.

The scenario is so Hollywood, like something from a Mafia movie or a racial murder in the Old Deep South, it might be thought a screenplay career beckons for the accuser, a guy named by Exaro News only as “Darren”, apparently a former rent boy. After all, Peter had been an outstanding senior social worker noted for his rapport with troubled kids, not a ruthless gangland capo or a white-robed redneck with a pointy hood.

Since then, though, the Exaro stable of suspiciously anonymous accusers appears to have been running their own version of World’s Biggest Liar, which is a great idea for a pub competition, but not such harmless fun when the rightful heirs to Baron Munchausen are let loose on the media.

Lately, Darren’s stablemate “Nick” has been making all the running. Early last month he upped the ante in sexual abuse allegations being made about the late Sir Edward Heath, Tory British prime minister from 1970 to 1974. This was after a Wiltshire police press conference, theatrically held outside Heath’s old home, included a call for anyone to come forward who “believes they may have been a victim” of the putatively pervy premier, who had been “named” as an abuser.

This was an open invitation to fantasists, and world-class liar Nick was never going to miss it. After all, the police only required the accuser to “believe” they “may have been” a victim, not to have actually or definitely been one. So Nick could fit the bill by recovering a memory during therapy, perhaps, or even by simply dreaming a dream that seemed really, really real.

Not that Nick needed even this excuse. He had been screaming True Blue Tory murder for months. According to Exaro, he went to the Metropolitan police, who started Operation Midland, the enquiry into “VIP paedophilia”, on the basis of claims they decided in their wisdom were “credible”.  But now, with the Wiltshire police going high profile, came his chance (and Exaro’s) to make the big-time: his extravagant allegations would far outdo the existing ones, which were themselves sensational enough but of a rather less extreme and more plausible nature. Heath had, after all, been a lifelong bachelor with no visible sex life or romantic interests whatever: in such circumstances, a secret interest in minors is by no means a long-shot. A former senior police officer had claimed that a criminal prosecution of a woman for running a brothel had not been pursued by Wiltshire Police in the 1990s after she had reportedly threatened to expose Heath as a child abuser. Also, the Daily Mirror ran a man’s claim that Heath had “raped” him in a Mayfair, London, flat in 1961, after he had run away from home. Actually, the story makes no suggestion the boy was sexually innocent at the time, nor that Heath forced him into anything. On the contrary, he said had been “on the game”, pimped by his own father, long before meeting Heath, and remained a rent boy throughout his adolescence.

Enter Nick, who told Exaro that Heath was one of a number of prominent men who abused him when he was a child, “raping” him many times at a variety of locations. Oh, yes, and another thing: three boys were murdered, two of them by Tory politicians. As with Darren’s claims, it is Nick’s florid allegations of brutality and murder that look well OTT, not the sexual ones. The Mirror’s witness credibly describes what seems to have been a pleasantly conversational night in Heath’s company, in additional to mutual masturbation and anal sex. I find myself wondering whether the Mirror’s rent boy is one and the same as Exaro’s Nick, his story for the Mirror being true (hence giving him well founded credibility with the police), while the rest was gilding the lily to make extra money from Exaro.

The next we hear of Nick is less than a couple of weeks ago, when former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor held a press conference, accusing police of a witch-hunt after disclosing that he had been questioned over the alleged murder of three boys supposedly linked to an “elite Westminster sex ring”. This turned out to be a reference to Nick’s allegations, and the Operation Midland investigation.

He added that he had been accused of being part of a child sexual abuse ring along with the late prime minister Edward Heath, ex-home secretary Leon Brittan and former heads of MI5 and MI6.

Proctor said he was “completely innocent” of accusations of murder, rape and torture of children and should either be charged with murder or his accuser should be stripped of his anonymity and charged with perverting the course of justice.

Nick was said to have claimed that during one alleged sexual assault Proctor had been going to cut off his (Nick’s) genitals with a penknife. Edward Heath was supposedly present at the “large townhouse in London” where this took place and only his intervention stopped the terrible deed. Proctor said he and Heath couldn’t stand each other, despite a shared party allegiance. So it was unbelievable he would have been invited to the former prime minister’s home to take part in a sex attack.

Proctor said Nick had accused him of stripping and strapping a child to a table, before stabbing him all over his body during a 40-minute attack. Also, after raping a boy, the former MP had allegedly strangled him until the boy’s body went limp. And for good measure he was accused of punching and kicking another boy to death.

Bearing in mind that no bodies were found, nor have there been any reported disappearances of boys matching the times and places in question, Nick was already pushing his lying to the limits of the believable, making him a shoo in for Worlds’ Biggest Liar. But no! Amazingly, he was about to be outdone, and not by stablemate Darren but by a dark horse coming through late on the rails. This new contender was going for the really big one, not just the world title but also the hugely coveted, rarely awarded, Munchausen Mendacity Medal, the MMM, which only ever goes to a truly incredible tall story, a tale so bizarre the only sane response is to fall about laughing.

And guess what: that story deeply implicates PIE! Whereas last year the hot news was all about PIE’s supposed connections with big beasts in the Labour Party, including the current acting leader Harriet Harman, this year the yarn is that we were in bed with Conservative Ted Heath! The media were asking me last year about PIE’s connections with Harman et al. through the National Council for Civil Liberties. Now, just a few days ago, a “quality” national newspaper has asked me what was PIE’s connection with prime minister Heath!

The interest arose, I was told, from claims made in the distinctly non-quality, downmarket tabloid the Sunday Mirror. It is one of their journalists, a guy called Don Hale, who has made a bold bid for the MMM. In a story published on 9 August Hale reported on another missing dossier on VIP “child sex abuse” to compete with the already fabled one supposedly compiled by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP. This time the dossier is one that nobody seems even to have heard of before, whereas the Dickens file was rumoured for years.

This takes us from Baron Munchausen to Baroness Castle. Barbara Castle was a leading Labour cabinet minister in the 1970s. Hale writes: “We can…reveal that Heath, under investigation by seven police forces over child abuse claims, was present at more than half a dozen Westminster meetings of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange.”

Further down, he continues:

“Baroness Castle showed Heath was present at Westminster meetings with paedophile rights campaigners from the PIE group. Heath is said to have attended at least a quarter of the 30 or so monthly or bi-weekly meetings. His name is said to have appeared on minutes of the private gatherings, also apparently attended by other MPs, along with scoutmasters and headteachers. But the Castle files have been missing since the mid 1980s.”

Ah, yes, Sailor Ted, my old good buddy! I remember him well from when I was Chair of PIE and he was sitting in on our meetings in our palatial Westminster suite of offices! What a laugh he was, what a riot, always regaling us with salty seadog stories about the marvellous sex parties he had aboard his famous yacht Morning Cloud, with young boys hired from that children’s home in Jersey. What was it called? Haute de something.. Haute de la Garenne, that’s it! Managed to get myself an invite to a couple of those sessions. Very good too. Fabulous kids, really hot, nothing but the best for Ted and his guests! Better not tell you about all that, though. Don’t want to incriminate myself, eh?

Only trouble was, once Ted got started on his stories in those meetings, there was no stopping him. If only we had been able to get him to stick to the agenda for the meeting we might have found his advice incredibly useful. What we really needed was a strategy for building up funds and connections across the media, business, the academic world, all the centres of political and cultural power and influence. Instead, the opportunities were somehow just frittered away, so we remained open to attack from the forces of law and order. And when the arrests started, wily old Ted just quietly slipped anchor and buggered off back to the safety of the high seas. Ah well, such is life!

As for that newspaper who approached me last week, I denied everything, natch. Me and Ted were pals? Come on, I said, you’re having a laugh, aren’t you?

In truth, I didn’t speak to the paper’s reporter directly. He said he’d be happy if I’d answer some questions by email. I was content to do that. Whether he’ll ever make use of my boringly negative answers is something we’ll just have to wait and see. For the moment, the paper must remain nameless, for reasons that may become apparent in due course.

 

SAD NEWS FROM CANADA

Sad news reaches Heretic TOC from Canada. I had an email on 30 August from Robin Sharpe’s daughter Katherine, informing me of her father’s death. She wrote: “It was as always on his own terms, in hospital on August 27th. He wanted you to know.”

Robin, who had been ill for a long time and on my calculations would have been 82 when he died, was a fine writer. In a Heretic TOC piece a year ago I focused on the wryly ironic black humour he brought to his fiction, which managed to be both satirical and erotic. His Pagunan Masks: An Ethnofiction, in particular was an all too unsung masterpiece – although even the Supreme Court of Canada found itself obliged to concede that the man had literary talent.

As for why such an august court of law would be making this judgement, I can do no better than refer readers to my earlier piece, which I think stands pretty well as an obituary: Hail to a hero of “transgressive expression”. I am glad Robin was able to read it as he closed in on his final year. I hope it will have been of some comfort in a life that saw not only official attempts to suppress his work but also censorship by even those bookshop owners and printers who had a reputation for sympathetic treatment of radical material.

Even until late last year I was hearing from him of his frustration in trying to deal with such people, who tended to take a hard line against his “child porn” – a term as ignorant as it was cruel: just as misplaced as denouncing a Renaissance painting of the “Madonna and Child” for depicting the genitals of Jesus. Yes, Robin’s writing was erotic, and even pornographic, but the best of it was so much more than that. He was a fine, brave, gifted, man, whose loss is a great one.

See also:

http://www.robinsharpe.ca/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R_v_Sharpe

https://www.boywiki.org/en/Robin_Sharpe

 

BOY’S NAKED SELFIE ‘WAS A CRIME’

No time to say much about this horror story featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, but listening is recommended. There were two separate pieces, both featuring excellent interviews by presenter Justin Webb. The first, at shortly after 7.30am, featured the boy and his mother. The second, just before 8.30am, featured a lawyer from the Criminal Bar Association and – more significantly – a senior police officer.

The latter interview, with Olivia Pinkney, the “National Police Chief Council’s lead on children and young people” is particularly revealing. She explained very well a series of “decision points” the police go through when dealing with such cases. It all sounded perfectly rational and reasonable until Webb gently asked what harm the boy had done. Suddenly cut adrift from her bureaucratic comfort zone she is all at sea, inadvertently admitting that the young “criminal” was the only victim of the “crime”.

Story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-3413638

Earlier interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p031fztz

Later interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068c7n8  (This is the entire programme. This interview starts at  8.21am, which is a little over 2 hours 20 minutes into the recording.)

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