Wednesday, 26 February 2020

The Establishment prevented investigation into paedophilia

A report of the long-running investigation into child sexual abuse (IICSA) finds that there is no evidence of a paedophile ring operating in Westminster in the last quarter of the last century. However, there was a resistance to investigation of accusations of illegal sexual behaviour on the part of MPs. Both fellow MPs and senior police officers were part of this implicit conspiracy.

Media interest centres on Cyril Smith and the failure of David Steel and other senior party people to resist his rise within the party.

However, the report is equally damning of those who could have reported the Conservative MP for Chester Peter Morrison for his dubious actions towards young men and teenagers. Sir Peter held a range of government positions and clearly wielded some power. It appears there was even a pact between local Labour and Conservative activists not to use Sir Peter's predilections in political campaigning. This meeting in a back street in Chester mirrored what must have been an understanding at Westminster level - expose our paedophiles and we will expose yours.

What I was not aware of, and leaders of the Liberal Party at the time should have been, was that Smith appears to have progressed from mere fondling of boys in his Rochdale days, to availing himself of the services of "rent boys" after he reached Westminster. Not all the police evidence quoted in the report is corroborated, but there is enough there to suggest that at least one senior officer knew that Smith bought illegal sexual services but quashed any investigation by junior officers. (There is in the report a table of MPs about whom allegations were made but not followed up. There are most of the usual suspects, including Labour's Tom Driberg, but surprisingly not Robert Boothby.)

Others who got away with it were those on Rochdale council who were at least privy to Smith's misuse of his position. These included a Conservative councillor as well as those in the ruling Labour group to which Smith belonged at the time. All are now dead, so cannot be held to account.

Journalists are trained to personalise their reports, so naturally an individual is singled out for blame. But it is clear from even a rapid reading of the evidence that there was a climate of cover-up in Westminster, not only from fellow MPs and party managers but also the police and probably the security services. One wonders how many otherwise respected parliamentarians were protected.

Lord Steel's admitted dereliction apart, today's Liberal Democrats come out of this report reasonably well.

5.2. At the time of the hearing in this investigation, some political parties had no specific safeguarding and child protection policies at all, and relied instead on member codes of conduct and disciplinary procedures (the Conservative and Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, the Co-operative Party, Plaid Cymru and the United Kingdom Independence Party). Insofar as the Co-operative Party, the Democratic Unionist Party and Plaid Cymru are concerned, in their evidence to the Inquiry they stated that they were each reviewing the requirement for a safeguarding and child protection policy.

By contrast, other parties (the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrat Party, the Scottish National Party and the Ulster Unionist Party) had detailed policies and procedures, some of which had undergone detailed review recently, and which had elements of best practice endorsed by Professor Thoburn.

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