Now we are truly ‘all in it together’

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At least they aren’t calling it the gay plague, the way they did with AIDS, or God forbid the paedo plague – they blame us kind folk for everything else, though, so why not the corona virus disease (Covid-19) first identified last December in China?

But stigmatisation of some sort follows closely on the heels of every pathogen, as was observed recently in the authoritative New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). At first the finger was pointed, quite rightly, at Chinese “wet markets”, but this quickly morphed online into generalised anti-Asian racism. Within the last week, though, the demonization has moved closer to home: escaping into the open countryside to enjoy the fresh Spring air and sunshine is suddenly seen as selfish and anti-social. How weird is that?

Not so weird as to be completely irrational, apparently. The logic of ordering us all to stay at home is questionable but this is not a time for mutiny. That is because in this crisis we really are “all in it together”: we are affected not just as kinds, or MAPs, but simply as people. This thing is menacing everyone. It is time remind ourselves that although we at Heretic TOC are an awkward bunch of political heretics and sexual “deviants”, we are first and foremost humans; we need to make common cause with our fellows and acquit ourselves well.

Just to keep things in perspective: latest official statistics (ONS) weekly deaths data (to w/e 13 March) shows death numbers remain a bit lower than usual so far this year. In the year to date there have been 4% fewer deaths than the five-year average, as was pointed out in a recent tweet by a certain Stuart McDonald. It is presumably more than coincidental that there is a leading actuary of this name at Lloyds Banking Group.

So I will be doing my best to stick to the tough new rules for at least as long as I can be persuaded they are roughly in line with the best medical and scientific advice available to government. For Heretic TOC readers in the US, of course, that emphatically will not mean taking President Trump’s word for anything. In the UK, too, the prime minister may be blown off course by political winds. For the moment, though, to be blunt about it, this a time for obeying orders.

As the PM’s broadcast to the nation in the UK this week made clear, that means staying at home for everything except shopping for food and other basic needs, taking very limited exercise close to home, and working away from home only for those in “essential” occupations. These tough restrictions appear to have been imposed reluctantly by Boris Johnson who, we are told, is by instinct a social liberal rather than an authoritarian. All the more reassuring, then, that if even he feels draconian measures are required then there is good reason to believe they are necessary.

That said, this blog does not carry the responsibility that governments must take for their emergency laws and guidance advice. It is no part of the new rules nor of HTOC’s stated mission that this blog must stay “on message”. On the contrary, in common with the media at large, it could almost be said we have a duty to keep our critical faculties alert and challenge government policy if it doesn’t seem to make sense. A couple of commentators at HTOC have already begun to express unease over the opportunity the crisis presents for the illegitimate extension of state control in our lives. I am not going to focus on this danger but neither will I make light of it. Instead I will just urge everyone here, even if you visit none of my other links today, to read Anne Appelbaum’s chillingly informative article in The Atlantic on how a number of governments in Europe and elsewhere are already abusing the situation big-time.

While sexual ethics and behaviour might seem less important right now than hand-washing and social distancing, they do point to a serious shortcoming in any public health strategy that relies on stopping people doing what they really, really want to do, for months on end, or longer. As the NEJM article linked above notes, “Syphilis, one of the great scourges of the early 20th century, could have been ended, in theory, had everyone adhered to a strict regimen of abstinence or monogamy. But as one U.S. Army medical officer complained in 1943, ‘The sex act cannot be made unpopular.’” Likewise, even AIDS failed to eliminate risky unprotected sexual behaviour; it took the advent of antiretroviral therapy to stop that pandemic in its tracks. Getting out and chatting in bars and restaurants, taking part in sport or gathering in huge stadiums to watch it, going to clubs and concerts and a myriad other social activities are all acts which, just like sex “cannot be made unpopular”. Socialising, and simply getting outdoors, are human needs that cannot be suppressed for long.

And you know what, despite Donald Trump being wrong most of the time, he actually had a point this week when he said the cure could be worse than the disease when it comes to shutting down the economy to enforce social isolation. Sure, he only made that claim out of naked self-interest based on “it’s the economy, stupid”. He had been pinning his re-election hopes on a roaring stock market bull run, strong economic growth and full employment, all of which are now well down the toilet, especially on the vital jobs front, with over three million laid off in the US in a single week.

Trump was talking out of his ass and lying through his teeth, as usual, but his “thinking” is in line with the findings of a new study by Philip Thomas, professor of risk management at Bristol University.

If the coronavirus lockdown leads to a fall in GDP of more than 6.4% more years of life will be lost due to recession than will be gained through beating the virus, the study suggests. As reported in The Times, Thomas tells us that keeping the economy going in the next year will be crucial, otherwise the measures would “do more harm than good”. His own full report is all equations, graphs and figures, but the nature of the connection between recession and mortality was spelt out elsewhere in an IMF research paper, The Human Cost of Recessions, that appeared in 2010, after the Great Recession of 2007–09. This showed that in the short run layoffs are associated with higher risk of heart attacks and other stress-related illnesses. Anxiety, depression and an elevated suicide rate form the psychological background to this bleak picture. Even in the long term, the mortality rate of laid-off workers stays at a raised level and can persist for decades. What’s worse, the suffering is passed down to the next generation: children are hurt:

… children of laid-off parents also suffer: in the short-run, parental job loss tends to reduce the schooling achievement of their children….parental job loss increases the probability that a child repeats a grade in school by nearly 15 percent… In the long-run, a father’s income loss also reduces the earnings prospects of his sons… children whose fathers were displaced have annual earnings about 9% lower than similar children whose fathers did not experience an employment shock.

What we do not yet have figures for is the human cost of cooping people up in their homes. But we know what is bound to happen. We know that modern family life typically lacks the social support available to the extended families of old. The less well off, especially, confined to cramped houses and flats without even a decent garden for the kids to run about in, are at high risk of getting on each other’s nerves. Violent domestic abuse is rife even in the best of times and is bound to be a sharply ramped up danger when parents can no longer go out to work and their offspring cannot go to school either. This is a nuclear family under immense pressure, primed for explosion.

Bearing in mind the immense social costs of bringing the economy and ordinary life to a juddering halt  – to say nothing of the trillions of dollars needed to support all those who have been suddenly deprived of a livelihood in the lockdown countries – we really do need to question whether the whole strategy is truly necessary. The Netherlands doesn’t think so. Neither does Sweden. The UK, too, initially appeared to favour – on scientific advice – a policy of keeping ordinary life going for as long as possible consistent with keeping hospital cases down to a level that would not overwhelm health services and incur excessive danger to medical staffs. Making the call as to how long a lockdown could be reasonably avoided was always going to be a very sophisticated and difficult one, drawing on epidemiological models that inevitably include dubious assumptions – it could hardly be otherwise given the unknown properties of  the novel virus causing Covid-19, known as SARS-CoV-2.

But it was arguably an increasingly well established property of SARS-CoV-2 that must have been giving policy makers the biggest headache – a property with a moral dimension and huge political ramifications. I mean, of course, the fact that fatalities are almost entirely confined to those who already have very serious health problems, especially those who are very old and who even in normal times would not be expected to live much longer.

Statistics guru David Spiegelhalter tells us COVID-19 very roughly contributes a year’s worth of risk of dying. Every year around 600,000 people die in the UK. It has been estimated that if the virus went completely unchallenged, around 80% of people would be infected and there would be around 510,000 deaths. So getting COVID-19 is like packing a year’s worth of risk into a week or two. Which is why it is important to spread out the infections to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed. The graph compares Covid-19 mortality and ‘normal’ annual mortality. It shows the dramatic increase with age, and the small excess risk from Covid-19 for people in their 60s and 70s.

The unspeakable elephant in the room here is whether wrecking the economy at astronomic financial and devastating social cost is a good idea just to secure a bit of extra time on earth for clapped out old codgers, many of whom are bound to be rotting away miserably in old folks homes wishing they were dead anyway. Admittedly this is a sentiment a callous young neo-Nazi might heartily endorse but I speak as an old codger myself – no “underlying conditions” as yet, but I am in my mid-seventies, hence in the officially “vulnerable” age range. I value my own life, but I also feel it is reasonable to balance my hopes and expectations for my (probably quite short) future against the disasters that lockdown could bring, as we have seen.

This balancing act is no different, really, from the kind of utilitarian calculation being made every day by health service agencies such as Britain’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). NICE routinely provides evidence-based evaluations of cost effectiveness in relation to drugs being considered for use by the NHS. Often it has to take the not-at-all-nice but very necessary view that a life-saving drug is simply too expensive. Some patients will die as a result of the NHS not buying and providing it. But the judgement is that the money could be better spent elsewhere in the NHS, with the potential to save more lives than would be lost by refusing to approve a very expensive drug.

If you are still in doubt about the need for brutal utilitarian calculations of this sort, and if you cleave to the view that all lives are equally valuable, just try the following thought experiment. What if, instead of killing only old or sick people, SARS-CoV-2 was instead killing only children? Would you seriously insist that this was not a more serious problem? If such a disease had a high rate of mortality, it could even threaten the survival of our species, making the actual SARS-CoV-2 look quite a benign little beast by comparison. Short of that apocalypse, though, the main point surely is that any disease that kills children is one that deprives them of many years – decades even – of expected life ahead of them. So the “brutal” calculation is not a matter of disrespect for the elderly and infirm. If we think in terms of saving not “lives” but “expected years of life”, then saving children would still be heavily favoured over saving the elderly – if harsh reality forces us to choose – while according equal value to everyone’s future life.

And for ourselves, let’s be honest. Much as we might love our grandparents or (in my case) old pals of my own age, our delight in children is such that their loss would be devastating far beyond that of any other medical calamity. Nor are we alone in that feeling: “our” delight is not a feeling confined those of us who find kids especially exciting: it extends to ordinary parents and many other adults who are lucky enough to appreciate their charms.

I’d better leave it there, I think. There is so much more to discuss on what has rapidly become a news story with a thousand angles – I would love, for instance, to get into why the UK and other European governments were so ill-prepared compared to many of those in Asia, why experts were talking about “herd immunity”, and what Boris Johnson was trying to get across with his colourful “squashing the sombrero” metaphor. Basically, the latter was about delaying infections as much as possible so that cases occur over a long period and health systems aren’t suddenly inundated: slowly building herd immunity without killing a shielded vulnerable minority has been seen as a useful by-product of that strategy. It is complicated though. Anyway, there will be time to thrash things out in comments if y’all are up for it. In lieu of getting deeply into these angles at the moment myself, I would just recommend an article by Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet medical journal, in The Guardian on all the practical delay and policy confusion.

 

DO AS WE SAY, NOT AS WE DO

Rumours that a cart has been trundled along Downing Street by a refuse disposal officer crying “Bring out your dead!” may be apocryphal, but the news yesterday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty had all gone down with corona virus at the same time is a powerful indication that the plague has struck hard at the heart and (cough, cough!) lungs of government.

Even more than the rest of us, the governing elite are showing themselves to be all in it together, united in their evident unwillingness or inability to follow the precautions they have urged upon the rest of us. Scenes from parliament quite recently, for instance, showed MPs crowding around the Speaker’s chair, blithely ignoring the two-metre social distancing rule. Hardly surprising, then, that Westminster as well as Whitehall has emerged as the UK’s outbreak epicentre, our very own wet market, teeming with slimy, slippery specimens. Among those who have been stricken, along with his girlfriend, Spectator writer Isabel Hardman, is my treacherous former (Labour) MP John Woodcock. One of his lesser crimes was to get me kicked out of the Labour Party. His most heinous offence, though, was at the last election, when he advised his former constituents to vote Tory. In all honestly, I am not exactly shedding tears over his affliction. Like the pestilential visitations of old, it is obviously in his case a sign of God’s displeasure!

One final recommendation, if you have a moment: Tom Peck, political sketch writer for The Independent, takes a butcher’s at “what happens when you ignore your own advice”. It’s a satirical gem on the current hand-washing-with-soap opera. Come to think of it, how about a new TV soap: Corona-nation Street, perhaps, or Westminster Deadenders? Nah, the real political scene is much more entertaining!

Welcome to the joys of Springer!

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The publication of yet another dry, difficult, boring article in an obscure academic journal may seem no big deal, but I hope heretics will be persuaded that one specific recent addition to “the literature” really is major news for us.

Some readers will have noticed straws in the wind – a hint or two from me in the comments section, even the actual news being leaked at a couple of Kind chat forums – and now the time has finally arrived when I am ready to spill the beans with an official announcement.

Official, that is, because the article is my very own. I like to think the really special thing about it is the content – what it actually says in its 15,000-words – but the most immediate aspect to crow about is that this is the first piece of mine accepted as a work of serious scholarship after going through the process known as peer review i.e. after being read and critiqued in detail by other scholars, who tend typically to be professors and other senior academics.

This in itself would be of no great interest to anyone but me, but when the article in question claims that consensual child-adult sexual relationships could be ethical, or even represent the embodiment of an ideal in human relationships, it does become a bit special. And when that article is written by an activist without so much as a doctorate to his name, much less a chair in moral philosophy, it becomes unique. Even more securely unique, indeed, given that my formal introduction to ethics was acquired while studying an Open University course in philosophy from a cell in Her Majesty’s Prison, Wandsworth.

“Unique”, as it happens, was an epithet used by one of the three anonymous (so they can criticise without inhibition) peer reviewers, who wrote: “The article is unique, interesting, important, and nicely argued. It will be an important contribution to the literature.” Another reviewer called it “stimulating and polemical” while the third said it was “…a great article. Very well researched… Well written and well argued throughout.”

Enough with the fanfare! The title of the paper is “Childhood ‘Innocence’ is Not Ideal: Virtue Ethics and Child–Adult Sex”. It was published online by the journal Sexuality & Culture on 20 April. The print edition will probably come out later this year, from which point it will grace the shelves of university libraries.

Wannabe readers will not need to hunt it down in the groves of academe, though, nor will they need to pay through the nose for it or seek a pirated download (somewhat harder to find now, following a lawsuit last year). No, all they need in order to read the full text free of charge online, or to get a free PDF download, is this link to the article’s page on the Sexuality & Culture website provided by Springer Nature, a gigantic academic publishing corporation.

And thereby hangs an important tale. Springer didn’t get big and profitable by being generous. It may look as though you are being offered a free lunch but it won’t be the publisher picking up the tab. Most of their articles are paid for in the traditional way: the reader has to buy them, just like going into a bookstore and buying a book. That tends to be very expensive for the reader, at £35 or more (around $50 U.S.) for an article of typically only 15-20 pages, unless they are able to borrow a copy from a library. This has been getting increasingly difficult in recent years because the libraries themselves in the UK and elsewhere have been finding it harder to come up with the money for their subscriptions to the journals. This means there is an increasing danger that only a small elite have much chance of discovering the latest scholarship and research.

Determined to reach the widest possible readership for my own pro-Kind paper, I decided this was not good enough. I could have done the same as most authors, which is to transfer the copyright to the publishers, so they can charge for the “intellectual property” (the article) and keep all the money that comes in. Doing it that way means there is no cost to the author. But I decided to put my money where my mouth is by forking out far more than I can sensibly afford in order to retain the copyright and exercise my choice to make the paper free to all readers under a scheme known as Open Access.

I paid Springer’s standard charge. Including VAT this came to a whopping £2,311, or over 3,000 American dollars. The first sign that this was money well spent is shown by the figures: in the first three weeks there have been over 300 downloads from the publisher’s link and more via ResearchGate, which is a networking site for scientists and researchers. This might seem small potatoes compared to the million a minute or whatever it is for cute cat clips going viral on YouTube but it is extremely good for a scholarly site – and unlike the cat clips a good article can have a long-lasting influence on people who are themselves seriously influential – such as public intellectuals (those high-profile profs who tend to be on the telly a lot), or leading bloggers and journalists.

With the help of a single generous sponsor I also made an earlier Springer publication of mine Open Access. This was a book review (which did not itself need to be peer reviewed) titled “Arthur P. Wolf: Incest Avoidance and the Incest Taboos, Two Aspects of Human Nature”. Without me making any significant effort towards publicising this review, it has gained 2,100 downloads since going online in November 2015. I confidently expect my present paper to get much bigger figures, not least because I intend to trumpet it far and wide.

The fact that I put my own money upfront this time around was an expression of my passionate belief in “Childhood ‘Innocence’ is Not Ideal”. It was also an act of faith in heretics here that you will wish to play your part by supporting my endeavours. I trust you will be willing to make whatever donation you can, not just to ensure that I can pay my next electricity bill now that I have taken a big hit to the wallet, but that I can also keep Heretic TOC and other projects going on a flourishing basis. My only income these days is a state pension. Thanks to serial career-busting activism over the years I have never been able to generate more than a sliver of a pittance from company pensions or anything of that sort.

That was my choice of life-style. I do not complain. But looking forward to the next few years I will be unable to keep on giving my time so freely unless I can cover my costs . I might be forced to give up Heretic TOC entirely, along with any further scholarship, in order to supplement my meagre income by devoting my time to commercial work instead – editorial consultancy and research such as I used to do after being recruited by Gordon Wills in the 1980s, in the field of marketing, and in more recent years Bill Percy, assisting with his history writing and research projects. The earnings in both cases were good, and the work was interesting, so it is tempting to go in that direction again.

I would far rather stick with what I am doing now, though, as I feel it is more important. But for that I need your help, your contribution. That is why, as you will see, I have added a Donate button to Heretic TOC. You will see it on the right hand side of the page. It is the last item, after the Follow button. The system uses PayPal, which is a very easy way of paying from accounts in any major currency, either using a credit card or your own PayPal account.

Nominally, your contributions will go to Dangerous Books Ltd, which is the name of the company I set up principally as the vehicle for promoting and selling my book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons (authored under the penname “Carl Toms”) some years ago. My PayPal account just happens to be in this name but it is not actually a company account. So your contributions will go to me personally and be entirely at my disposal.

I see no reason why the donation system should not work smoothly, but if there are any teething problems with it do let me know.

In making this appeal I am acutely aware that many heretics have faced career disasters and consequent financial limitations comparable to my own, so may not have much to give; others will have been so traumatised by unkindness to the Kind that they have found it tough just to hold off depressive inertia and keep themselves going sufficiently to make a modest living. To these I say, give what you can and you will be doing yourself a favour as well as me: you will feel good for having contributed. It’ll cheer you up a bit!

There are also those who have been resilient; they include skilful, talented people who have done well in life, being wisely alert to pitfalls and how to avoid them. Among them are those who generously came to my aid a couple of years ago when my need was far more desperate than it is now. When it looked as though I would need an expensive legal team to keep me out of prison, this gallant band of stalwarts rose to the challenge stupendously, some pledging four-figure sums. Fortunately, in the end I needed only a tenth of what had been offered and accepted that amount with relief and gratitude.

To these heroes, and to others who are at least modestly prospering, I would now say I have no need for a four-figure sum from any single individual (but of course it would be nice if any millionaire heretics happen to be feeling bountiful!) I would urge you, though, to think seriously about a three-figure one: without a number of donations at this level I could be struggling.

Enough with the funding!

A word may be needed about the paper itself. It is not an easy read, especially the first sections. One of my main targets in this early part is the stance taken by the eminent British conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton. Heretics who are into philosophy might enjoy what I hope is a successful demolition job on his enthusiasm for denouncing “perversion” and “obscenity”.

It is in the later part, though, that I feel I really get motoring. This is where, having ditched the negative approach to sexual “virtue” espoused by Scruton and his supporter Agustin Malón, I develop my own, positive, approach.

I might add that I have met Malón a couple of times and downed a few beers with him. He is a very nice guy; so our differences are ideological rather than personal. A Spanish scholar, he is a professor of education, and has written a number of papers pertinent to our concerns that are far more humane and sympathetic than anything I have seen from Scruton.

 

THE BITER BIT: WHAT A HYPOCRITE!

Would you Adam and Eve it! John Woodcock MP, the man who had me kicked out of the Labour Party could be shown the door himself, after being suspended at the end of last month over – wait for it – alleged sexual harassment! It is claimed “he sent inappropriate messages to a former female member of staff”.

In an even more delicious irony, the first thing Woodcock did to undermine my position in the party two years ago, after the police alerted him to my background as a Kind activist, was to go blabbing to the press. And guess what he is complaining about now?

Yes, you’ve guessed it: he is upset that his detractors have gone blabbing to the press! The BBC quoted him as denying the truth of the allegations, and as saying:

“The decision… to place details of my case in the press and then suspend me places a serious question mark over the integrity of the process….”

Oddly enough, he didn’t seem so concerned about “the integrity of the process” in my case, which I blogged about in An Open Letter to the Labour Party.

Can’t say I feel a lot of sympathy for him. As he appears to have made it his life’s mission to undermine Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, at every opportunity, the party would do well to see the back of him.

 

HOT CONTRABAND IN PRISON

Email received this morning from a correspondent in the U.S.:

“I talked with a fellow tonight who was recently released from prison. He told me that someone smuggled a copy of your book on Michael Jackson in by having it mailed to an inmate who was not there on a sex crime, so his mail is less scrutinized and it got through. Then, to allow the sex-crime inmates to read it, someone took the cover from a book by Isaac Asimov that was about the same size, and replaced your cover with that so the guys could read it without the guards knowing what they were reading.”

So, never mind drugs, mobile phones and the rest, it seems the cool item to smuggle into prison now is Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons. Way to go, dudes!

An Open Letter to the Labour Party

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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
  • decency
  • 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

Fury as paedophile campaigner is allowed to join Labour party

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”.

Paedophile campaigner who joined Labour to back Jeremy Corbyn knocked doors in a by-election campaign

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.

Notorious paedophile’s night in the pub with Barrow MP

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.

Yet more paedophile questions for Labour

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?”

Former chairman of the Paedophile Information Exchange has Labour Party membership suspended

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.

Tom O’Carroll: Labour suspends convicted paedophile and pro-child sex campaigner who joined party

The Independent: Followed by some interesting comments, notably from Leonard Mann and Liberationista.

Labour Suspends Pie/Hacked Off campaigner

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.”

Paedo Tom O’Carroll’s plan to emulate Corbyn

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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