here we go - daily telegraph, sat July 12....n.b. this 1 day before, i believe, Gilberthorpe (?) comes out saying he provided boys and drugs (i think, havent got round to him yet) :-
Here are some things we do not know about the “historic” child abuse accusations that are causing such concern.
We do not know who was accused by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP. We do not know for certain if anyone Dickens accused in private was a public figure. Except in the case of the named accusations he made in the House of Commons under parliamentary privilege, we do not know what he accused anyone of. We do not know whether the accusations he made were already known to police by other means, and therefore added nothing. Nor do we know what happened to whatever he passed to Leon Brittan and subsequent Home Secretaries in the 1980s.
That seems quite a lot not to know. What do we know? We know that no one can find the various bits of paper (not a single “dossier”) that Dickens handed over. We know, from a Home Office investigation into itself last year, that it has found 573 files (out of a paper mountain of almost 750,000 files) that make reference to child abuse matters in some form (not related to Dickens). We also know, by the same internal title check that found the 573 files, that the Home Office could not find 114 possibly relevant files. These were probably destroyed, we learn, under the rather sloppy procedures that govern all files.
We also know that Geoffrey Dickens was not always accurate. As the Labour MP, Paul Flynn, pointed out to the Home Affairs Select Committee this week, Dickens made claims about the satanic and occult that were, to put it politely, far-fetched. In 1986, Dickens also named in the House a consultant anaesthetist who, he said, had raped an eight-year-old girl. The Director of Public Prosecutions had already decided that no prosecution of this case could succeed, because of the lack of evidence. But after Dickens had named the consultant, the Sun newspaper paid for him to be prosecuted privately. The anaesthetist was acquitted. This innocent man says today that Dickens never spoke to him or sought any evidence from him before making his false accusation: it was “an awful period of my life”.
Having been a journalist in Parliament in the Eighties, I remember Geoffrey Dickens. He was a “rentaquote” – a man who could be relied on to say something noisy on almost any subject and thus boost one’s rather feeble stories. He was also the sort who would say controversial things in Parliament if prompted with “information” from our trade. We therefore treated him without our usual harsh censure when he admitted his first mistress, with whom he attended thés dansants, and when his second mistress was subsequently revealed. The late, great Frank Johnson, parliamentary sketch-writer for this paper, described him as “the second most famous Dickens in English comedy”. Dickens was not an expert on child abuse. Indeed, he was so unused to the word “paedophile” that he said “fidopile” in his speeches. Without wanting to be unkind, I would say he did not know very much about very much.
On this balance of what we know and don’t know, and on the record of Geoffrey Dickens, does it make sense to have two new inquiries (on top of an earlier one)? Is there any earthly reason why – with no new evidence of what they actually were – we should start hunting for the Dickens claims again? For how many years does the government have to look for the needle in the (partly destroyed) haystack when we have no factual reason for thinking that the needle may be worth finding?
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, who announced the inquiries this week, speaks of the need for the “complete confidence” of the public. But, by caving in to demands for more inquiries without clear reason, she reveals her own, infectious lack of confidence. She has brought in the head of the NSPCC – a body no more impartial in these matters than is the RSPCA about farming – to interrogate her own people.
Then there is Mrs May’s wider-ranging inquiry into just about everything that public and non-state bodies have ever done about child abuse accusations. No sooner had she appointed Lady Butler-Sloss as its chairman on Wednesday than there were howls that this would mean a cover-up of a cover-up.
Lady Butler-Sloss has every sort of relevant qualification. She chaired the inquiry into the false diagnoses of child abuse made by doctors in Cleveland in the late Eighties, for example. But it was “revealed” that she is also the sister of the late Sir Michael Havers, who was Attorney-General in the Eighties. According to the MP Simon Danczuk, one of activists in the field, “She’s part of the establishment and that raises concerns.” So reverential are we made to feel towards those who campaign in the name of abused children that no one pointed out that Lady Butler-Sloss is not chairing the Dickens/1980s inquiry and so this charge against her is irrelevant as well as silly. No one ventured to say that her “establishment” knowledge of how public bodies actually work might be an advantage when investigating them.
The essential message behind Mrs May’s decision is, “Help! I’m frightened.” There is such a mood got up about child abuse that no one in authority dare question any complaint. On Radio 4 news on Wednesday evening, I heard the BBC reporter solemnly intone that “one man who alleged he was the victim of abuse in a care home says the appointment [of Lady Butler-Sloss] shows a complete lack of empathy”. This man was not named, nor was the care home; his claim of abuse was not described or proved; his opinion of Lady B-S may be of no value. And yet, in this climate, who dares resist? Perhaps Mrs May congratulates herself on having escaped censure this time. But her critics will be back: they can smell her fear.
So what is all this about? I do not believe that it is really about child abuse, although shocking institutional failures to prevent or catch abusers in schools, hospitals, children’s homes, the BBC and so on certainly make things worse.
First, and less important, it is about the coming general election. It should not escape notice that Mr Danczuk is a Labour MP whose particular skill is beating Liberals. Tom Watson, one of the great self-appointed commanders in the children’s crusade, is a well-known Labour attack-dog against the Tories. Labour love a narrative of an evil past in which Margaret Thatcher “tore the heart out of communities” and “threw millions on the scrapheap”. If they can persuade people that her cronies were a gang of sex criminals, they will be able to terrify David Cameron’s Conservatives away from policies that made her win all the elections she contested. Paedophile accusations give them good cover because they do not sound party political.
The second, much more important reason why we are plunged into yet more inquiries is a wider breakdown of trust in those who govern us. (This is just as much a problem for Labour as for the other two main parties.) It relates to disillusionment because of the credit crunch, the expenses scandal, and the shift of power to the European Union. We think we hate what we call a powerful elite, but what we really despise is a weak one. Once trust is lost, a naive cynicism sets in. Anyone in authority is automatically disbelieved. The desperate official reaction is to create inquiry after inquiry, and even inquiries into inquiries, babbling about “transparency” and praying that the news cycle will shift to something else.
Cumulatively, such a process means that government becomes impossible. We are not far from that point.