At last, a welcome return to some semblance of sanity as the “Westminster VIP paedophile ring” goes up in smoke – a smoke ring, as it were, or a stinking but otherwise insubstantial blast of gas from arse-talking fantasists and a few politicians on the make.

The most prominent of the politicians, Tom Watson MP, was recently elected deputy leader of the Labour Party but now finds his reputation slithering into the toilet faster than a dose of diarrhoea. Last night he faced criticism in parliament from prime minister David Cameron, no less. He made a spirited fight of it in his reply but will soon face tough scrutiny from his own party too.

The most colourful revelation in the last couple of days reached us from the Daily Mail, where we learned that Watson invited the police to his office in parliament to take a statement from a certain Mike Broad, said to be a notorious online gossip and conspiracy theorist. Talking about the Elm Guest House, long bruited as a house of horrors for the sexual abuse of children, Broad claimed “half the bloody Cabinet” went there, and said a neighbour told him “two transit vans took away children”. So, not just a few abused kids, oh no. Keeping those VIP loins a-thrusting required industrial scale deliveries and collections!

This all follows a landmark Panorama documentary on BBC TV, which exposed key  witnesses “Darren” and “David” as grievously unreliable figures. Darren, we heard, was a convicted bomb hoaxer; David backed off from his earlier claims of sexual abuse by the late Lord Brittan, saying at first they were a “joke” but he had been pressed into sticking with the allegations by an ex-social worker called Chris Fay, who has a conviction for fraud.

“Darren”, as Heretic TOC readers may recall, accused two of my friends, claiming Peter Righton was a brutal murderer and Charles Napier was a partner in crimes of violent sexual assault. Both of them had been members of PIE’s executive committee back in the 1970s when I was Chair. Darren had also corroborated yarns emanating from the most notorious of all these anonymous witnesses, “Nick”, who claimed to have witnessed three murders by VIP paedophiles and implicated former prime minister Edward Heath in a VIP sex abuse ring.

Nick alleged that for a decade he had been farmed out as a boy by his father to a paedophile ring including Ted Heath, former Home Secretary Leon (later Lord) Brittan and Harvey Proctor MP, as well as two generals and the former heads of the secret security and spying agencies, MI5 and MI6.

It was Nick’s outlandish allegations that a senior police officer incredibly described as credible and true, thereby setting up the police as judge and jury in the case.

Panorama focused on one of Nick’s claims,  namely that he witnessed a hit-and-run murder of a boy in Kingston, committed by his abusers to scare him into silence. A thorough investigation by the programme could find no report of any such incident in Kingston at the time alleged: there were no newspaper reports, no eye witnesses, no child reported missing. In other words, the claim was patently false.

In truth, Nick’s story was falling apart well before Panorama. Operation Midland has been launched by the police specifically to investigate Nick’s claims but had failed to come up with any solid evidence to support them. And a key figure against whom allegations had been made, Harvey Proctor MP, gave a feisty press conference in which he not only strenuously denied the claims (well, he would, wouldn’t he?) but also spelt out in detail their horrific nature, giving cogent reasons for their implausibility. He was no friend of Ted Heath, for instance, with whom he was supposed to have jointly committed offences.

Proctor would soon find heavyweight support from Lord Ken Macdonald QC, a former director of public prosecutions, who warned that detectives investigating historical child abuse allegations should not indulge “narcissists and fantasists”, saying they should conduct “impartial, objective investigations” and there was a danger concern for victims is “morphing into a medieval contempt for the accused”.

Even Mark Williams-Thomas joined the sceptics. This ex-police officer, the man who opened the floodgates to the Jimmy Savile scandal, warned that many of the allegations against political figures were unsubstantiated. Building up a crescendo of bad omens for the believe-any-allegation-unquestioningly lobby,  radio broadcaster Paul Gambaccini lashed out at Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for failing to apologise over their handling of discredited sexual abuse allegations he had faced. He criticised the police for publicly inviting more “victims” to make complaints against named individuals such as himself, smearing them without evidence and encouraging fantasists. Fellow radio star Sandi Toksvig said she had been approached by detectives, who invited her to make allegations against Gambaccini or others.

It would be interesting to know how all this is playing with the wider public. Tom Watson has long been building an image for himself as a fearless crusader against powerful vested interests, coming to national prominence for holding global media baron Rupert Murdoch to account when his News of the World tabloid was in trouble for phone hacking. This was a much more worthy endeavour than his squalid bullying of dying peer Lord Brittan, and was probably the main factor in his winning the Labour deputy leadership.

So many will see him as a noble figure who has at worst been naïve in believing the wrong people. Not his parliamentary colleagues though. They know him at close quarters and can see through his populist opportunism: he is neither loved nor respected.

The Anna Raccoon blog has got his number too, where industrious guest writer Petunia Winegum did a hilarious Billy Bunter parody of the portly Watson recently. Give yourself a treat and read this piece of sustained comic brilliance: it neatly exposes the Fat Owl’s dubious methods.

Most satisfying for me in all this was the exposure of an outrageous bluff by Watson. You might remember that a good while back he was the first MP to claim there was a “powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10”.  As the Daily Mail put it,  he “used the fact that an innocent Tory MP had a paedophile relative to bolster his claims”. He told the House of Commons in October 2012, without giving any names, that there was a child abuser who “boasted of his links to a senior aide of a former Prime Minister”.

We now know this “boast” was nothing whatever to do with an implied paedophile conspiracy. We have been told he had been referring to Charles Napier, whose half-brother is John Whittingdale, who was once Margaret Thatcher’s political secretary.

If there was a “boast”, it was not Napier’s but Watson’s – and an empty one at that. His boasted knowledge of a VIP conspiracy reaching right to the heart of government at No 10 Downing Street, was just a bluff, an attempt – a successful attempt – to hoodwink the nation, in the full, clear, knowledge that there was no merit in his claim.

Not that Whittingdale is quite as “innocent” at the Daily Mail claims. As Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the present government, he is currently doing his damnedest to preside over the destruction of the BBC, in an orgy of cultural vandalism that constitutes a far greater crime than anything his half-brother Charles has ever done. But sadly Charles is the one currently serving a 13-year prison sentence, not John.

As I say, we still have little idea of how Tom Watson’s come-uppance is going down with the public. Will he be discredited, or will he be seen as a victim of the Establishment? And will the Metropolitan Police get away with their disgraceful arrogance in the face of Panorama’s exposure of their foolish faith in Nick’s “credible and true” tripe? Instead of ’fessing up, and admitting the BBC had done a good job, they went into attack mode, furiously arguing that the programme “could compromise the evidential chain should a case ever proceed to court”. In other words, as Stephen Pollard pointed out in the Daily Telegraph, “no journalist should ever investigate anything, because any investigation by journalists upsets the police applecart. That is the nature of investigative journalism. That police statement is, in its own way, as idiotic and inappropriate as the earlier statement that Nick’s allegations are true.”

Refreshingly, for an opinion piece in such a right-wing paper as the Telegraph, Pollard praised the Panorama programme, saying it had been “…surely one of the most important programmes the BBC has ever broadcast.”

I would like to agree. It would be great to see it as a new beginning, a sign of the tide turning against the excesses of recent years, in which, as Pollard wrote, “Ever since the revelations about Jimmy Savile emerged, we have been engulfed in a form of mania about paedophilia.”

I would like to think we have passed the darkest hour, but we have been here before and seen false dawns. There were earlier panics, were there not? There was the mania over Satanic abuse; there was the “recovered memory” fad, and much more. These bubbles were pricked, their absurdity exposed, only to be replaced by new nonsense. A resurgence of similar alarmism in as yet unexpected guises can safely be predicted until such time as there is a deep underlying shift in the economic and social conditions that are driving them.

Still, there has to be some hope that the Goddard enquiry, the overarching mega-investigation into child sexual abuse in all its manifestations going back as far as living memory can stretch in the UK and perhaps further, will take on board the recent hiccups and steer a course away from permanent hysteria.