1. Tom Watson Drops the Bombshell About Child Abuse Scandals
a. After many months of gossip amongst the chattering classes at Westminster, pertaining to links between under-age rent boys and names of prominent members of Parliament, the House of Lords and the Civil Service names began to surface and were met with the usual denials and threats from the establishment. Again, as in the past all went quiet for a time, silence ruled and life went on much as before.
b. Then Labour MP, Tom Watson dropped the bombshell about the scandalous abuse of expenses claims by MP’s. The fallout from the subsequent investigations was wide reaching and an eye opener for the electorate whose perception of MP’s changed remarkably. The public trust level of MP’s was severely damaged.
MP’s promised to clean up their act and behave more responsibly and, as usual the trusting UK public dropped their gaze and got on with life. Then another stink bomb was dropped by Tom Watson, this time bringing to the public attention the activities of a number of Tory MP’s and their inappropriate behavior with children.
c. From the beginning of 2014 there has been exposure after exposure yet here we are, at the tail end of the year and absolutely nothing has been done despite many assurances urgent investigations would be undertaken by the police and persons of high repute all with the purpose of establishing the truth or otherwise of the many damaging allegations of wrong doing being bandied about Westminster.
d. A judicial inquiry was promised, (conveniently to report to parliament AFTER the next general election) but after two failed attempts to identify a judge without links to persons mentioned in the various reports it appears the much vaunted inquiry is going nowhere fast. Is it a case of, “Delay is the most invidious form of denial”. Is it just a case of bad luck so far? or is someone orchestrating blocking tactics?
2. Noteworthy events 2014
25 February 2014: Labour MP Tom Watson claims the Tory Party tried to cover up the case of Sir Peter Hayman who was eventually jailed for sending child pornography in the post. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tom-watson-tories-must-apologise-3183049
6 July 2014: Former cabinet minister Leon Brittan has been questioned by police under caution in connection with an alleged rape. It is understood that the former Conservative Home Secretary has been accused of raping a 19-year-old student at his London flat in 1967 before he became an MP. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/exclusive-lord-brittan-questioned-by-police-over-rape-allegation-9587245.html
6 July 2014: Home Office, “child abuse cover-up”. Michael Gove rules out public inquiry into claims of pedophile politicians at Westminster. Asked if the, “toxic idea that politicians have been hiding this for a long time” meant a public inquiry was needed, Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that he disagreed. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/home-office-child-abuse-coverup-michael-gove-rules-out-public-inquiry-into-claims-of-paedophile-politicians-at-top-of-westminster-9587642.html
8 July 2014: Norman Tebbit admits he heard rumours top Tory was pedophile a decade before truth revealed. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/norman-tebbit-admits-heard-rumours-3826206
8 July 2014: Home Secretary, Theresa May announced a wide-ranging inquiry into historical sex abuse claims. Parliament, the police, schools, churches and the BBC will be among those subjected to the investigation, which will have the same legal status as the Hillsborough inquiry but will not report until after next year’s general election.
13 July 2014: Tory child abuse whistle blower, ‘Margaret Thatcher knew all about underage sex ring among ministers’ Former Tory activist Anthony Gilberthorpe says he sent Thatcher a 40-page dossier in 1989 accusing Cabinet members of abusing underage boys. Mr Gilberthorpe says he received no response from No10 – but was called to a meeting at a House of Lords tearoom with WILLIAM HAGUE, who had replaced ex-Home Secretary Leon Brittan as MP for Richmond in North Yorks. Mr Gilberthorpe, now 52, said: “I have no idea why William Hague was chosen to deal with my allegations. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tory-child-abuse-whistleblower-margaret-3849172
14 July 2014: Theresa May came under repeated fire over her failure to look in enough detail at the family background of Baroness Butler-Sloss, who today stepped down as chairman of a wide-ranging inquiry into child abuse claims. The former High Court judge’s dramatic resignation, six days after accepting the post, has severely embarrassed the Home Secretary. In fiery exchanges with MPs, Mrs May insisted she stood by the appointment of a woman of “absolute integrity” to head the government-commissioned panel of inquiry. However, the Home Secretary indicated she had been taken by surprise by allegations that the peer’s brother, the late Sir Michael Havers, attempted to thwart an attempt to expose pedophile activity. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/westminster-child-abuse-inquiry-theresa-may-under-fire-over-appointment-of-lady-butlersloss-9605847.html
19 Jul 2014: Former rent boy: ‘I was abused by top Tories then blackmailed to keep quiet’ http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/former-rent-boy-i-abused-3885690
22 July 2014: John O’Connor, once head of the elite Flying Squad and later in charge of special central London operations, confirmed there were rumours of a sex scandal and he had been on standby for a major investigation. His allegations come after the Sunday People last week revealed that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher allegedly covered up child abuse allegations against a senior minister in the 1980’s. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ex-scotland-yard-commander-were-ready-3894071
22 July 2014: First published in the Morning Star. After the resignation of the judge leading the government’s pedophile inquiry, it is clear that the Establishment is rattled. Steven Walker reports on the investigations that could bring high-level child abusers to justice. http://jillhavern.forumotion.net/t10086-westminster-child-abuse-scandal-how-long-can-they-keep-these-crimes-covered-up
26 Jul 2014: There are claims that Sir Keith Joseph, Education Secretary from 1981 to 1986, and Rhodes- Boyson, who was Minister of State for Social Security in 1983, indulged in sex parties with underage rent boys alongside Attorney General Sir Michael Havers. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/margaret-thatchers-cabinet-bigwigs-named-3919442
5 September 2014: The first female Lord Mayor of the City of London will replace Baroness Butler-Sloss as the head of an inquiry into historic child sex abuse in Westminster. Fiona Woolf has been named as the new head of the probe, which was announced in July to examine allegations that institutions including the Government and civil service covered up or failed to investigate abuse.
Fiona Woolf The first female Lord Mayor of the City of London
14 September 2014: The controversial new head of the Government’s inquiry into historic sex abuse is under growing pressure as more evidence emerged of her links to a key figure in the scandal. Fiona Woolf has connections going back at least a decade with Leon Brittain, who is accused of involvement in a cover-up when he was Home Secretary. Today we can reveal that the top commercial lawyer sat in the same magistrates’ court as Lord Brittan’s wife Diana for three years. Mrs Woolf was also a senior figure at the Law Society when it hosted a conference addressed by Lord Brittan. She missed the first meeting of the inquiry into alleged VIP pedophile rings on Friday because she was on a business trip to Africa, in her role as Lord Mayor of London. She will also escape a Commons debate on her role after a decision by Lord Brittan’s protege WILLIAM HAGUE. Last night campaigners accused Mrs Woolf of treating the investigation with contempt, and called on both her and the Home Office to explain how well she knows Lord Brittan. She has refused to say if she declared her potential conflicts of interest in advance, despite calls in Parliament. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2754998/Pressure-growing-abuse-inquiry-chief-Fiona-Woolf-new-links-Leon-Brittan.html
9 October 2014: Westminster child abuse exclusive: Geoffrey Dickens also gave copy of file to top prosecutor Sir Thomas Hetherington – so why did DPP also fail to act on evidence of pedophile ring? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/westminster-child-abuse-exclusive-geoffrey-dickens-also-gave-copy-of-file-to-top-prosecutor-sir-thomas-hetherington–so-why-did-dpp-also-fail-to-act-on-evidence-of-paedophile-ring-9588112.html
28 September 2014: Home Office child sex abuse inquiry – Complaint on Mrs Woolf to Solicitors Regulation Authority
I am a practising solicitor advocate. I am a specialist family lawyer, law writer and trainer and a one-time member of the Law Society’s children panel. I anticipate that I may be instructed by one or more of those involved as survivors in the above Home Office child sex abuse inquiry.I attach a letter which I sent to the above Mrs Woolf of CMS solicitors and at present also Lord Mayor of London. I am told that she has accepted the role of chair of an inquiry into child sex abuse set up by the Home Secretary; though I understand that over three weeks later she has not started work on the project. An earlier ‘open letter’ on the subject of ‘bias’ is also attached;
22 October 2014: Baroness Fiona Woolf, the second person appointed to lead the government’s inquiry into child abuse, is to be asked by a committee of MPs to clarify discrepancies over her account of meetings with the wife of Lord Brittan, who was home secretary when a dossier about alleged Westminster paedophiles went missing from his department.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, said the committee was “not totally satisfied” with Woolf’s answers to the committee after previously undisclosed details of her meetings with Lady Brittan emerged less than a day after her appearance before the MPs.
An early day motion has been tabled by Lib Dem MP John Leech, and supported so far by three other MPs, calling on government, “to find a new chair of the inquiry who has palpably demonstrated her inability to challenge all quarters of the establishment to ensure that it can achieve its aims of providing justice to the victims of historic child abuse”.
30 October 2014: Home Office helped rewrite child abuse probe boss’s letter 7 times over links to Brittan
The head of the Government’s child abuse inquiry re-wrote a letter to the Home Secretary seven times in order to play down her links to Leon Brittan, it was claimed yesterday. Fiona Woolf is already under pressure to resign because of her personal relationship to the Tory peer, who is at the centre of allegations of an Establishment cover-up of sex abuse claims in the 1980s.
It has now emerged that she made several changes to a formal letter she sent to Theresa May about possible conflicts of interest. With assistance from the Home Office, she made more than half a dozen alterations to the document to remove language that alluded to her closeness to the Conservative grandee. The different versions of the letter emerged yesterday two days after a Labour MP used parliamentary privilege to link Lord Brittan to ‘improper conduct with children’.
Victims described the latest revelations as ‘extraordinary’ and renewed their calls on City lawyer Mrs Woolf to step down. Former home secretary Leon Brittan strenuously denies accusations that he is at the centre of a cover-up over historic sex abuse claims. It is alleged that, while in charge of the Home Office, he ignored a document – which later went missing – that described a paedophile ring involving high-profile figures.
Mrs Woolf, who was appointed last month to lead the investigation, wrote a letter to current Home Secretary Mrs May to list her possible conflicts of interests. She lists five dinner parties among the contacts she has had with Lord Brittan and his wife, who live on the same street as her. As well as inviting the Brittans to dinner at her house three times, Mrs Woolf dined at theirs twice, met Lady Brittan for coffee, sat on a prize-giving panel with her, and sponsored her £50 for a fun run.
Yesterday the home affairs select committee published the seven drafts that showed the letter was repeatedly amended. Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP said the re-writes gave a sense of ‘detachment’ between Lord and Lady Brittan and Mrs Woolf. Saying the letter ‘raises more questions than it answers’, he said facts as well as words were altered. ‘It is extraordinary that Mrs Woolf did not even write the first draft of her letter, which was supposed to detail her own personal experiences. ‘The letter then underwent seven drafts with a multiplicity of editors. The final version gave a sense of greater detachment between Lord and Lady Brittan and Mrs Woolf than her previous attempts.’
Early versions of the letter detailing the dinner parties include language such as ‘I returned the compliment’ and ‘we engaged in another exchange of dinner parties’. But this was deleted in the final version. In one of the first drafts, she wrote: ‘I live on the same street as the Brittan’s (sic)’. But it was changed to ‘I have had a house in London as the same street as the Brittans’. Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz said the committee would decide next week if Mrs Woolf should be recalled to give further evidence.
He said lessons had not been learned since the appointment of the previous head of the inquiry, Baroness Butler-Sloss. She was forced to resign after it emerged her brother, Michael Havers, may have had to make legal decisions about abuse allegations in his role as attorney general in the 1980s.
In the letter, Mrs Woolf – who is the Lord Mayor of London – stated that she had no ‘social contact’ with Lord and Lady Brittan since April 23 last year. But a photo emerged of her chatting to Lady Brittan at a prize-giving last October. Yesterday she said she did not recall any ‘substantial interaction’ with Lady Brittan at the event.
Alison Millar, a solicitor representing around 50 alleged abuse victims, repeated her call for Mrs Woolf to be replaced. She said: ‘This response by Mrs Woolf will only cement in the minds of my clients that she is not the right person to head this inquiry.’
MP Jim Hood used parliamentary privilege in the Commons on Tuesday to say there were ‘reports about child abuse being linked with’ Lord Brittan, now 75.
A Home Office spokesman last night said: ‘We remain confident Fiona Woolf and the panel members can carry out their duties to the highest standards of impartiality and integrity.’
October 31 2014: Abuse inquiry: Fiona Woolf steps down as chairwoman
Fiona Woolf is to step down as the head of an inquiry into historic child sex abuse, she has told the BBC. She said it had been clear for some time that victims did not have confidence in her, adding that it was time to “get out of the way”. Victims’ groups earlier told government officials they were “unanimous” she should quit, citing her social links with ex-Home Secretary Lord Brittan.
Home Secretary Theresa May said she had accepted her decision “with regret”. “I believe she would have carried out her duties with integrity, impartiality and to the highest standard,” she said in a statement. Mrs May said she would make a further statement to Parliament about the inquiry on Monday. However, Labour said the home secretary had “serious questions to answer” over her handling of the inquiry. Prime Minister David Cameron had previously given Mrs Woolf his public backing.
Mrs Woolf’s resignation comes after the first person appointed to lead the inquiry – Baroness Butler-Sloss – stepped down in July when concerns were raised about the fact that her late brother was attorney general during the 1980s. The independent inquiry was set up to look at how public bodies dealt with historic allegations of child sex abuse, however, victims’ groups have called for a statutory inquiry. It follows claims over many years about paedophiles in powerful places and alleged establishment attempts to cover up their actions.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s John Pienaar, Mrs Woolf said she had told Mrs May she was already considering resigning this morning. She said she regretted “unsettling” victims, saying: “I’ve clearly destroyed their confidence in the inquiry with me leading it. These are the last people I had wanted to upset.” “I was determined that the inquiry got to the bottom of the issues and if I don’t command their confidence to run the panel fairly and impartially then I need to get out of the way.”
It had been “clear for some time victims didn’t have confidence” in her, Mrs Woolf added. “Ever since the issue first arose I have been worrying about the negative perceptions and there has been a lot of negative comment and innuendo and that has got in the way as well,” she said.
Right from the get-go, an inquiry chair is under massive scrutiny. They would be naive in the extreme not to realise that they run the risk of being accused of failing to get to the bottom of things or, worse, penning an official whitewash. And that’s why Fiona Woolf has quit: she realised that without the confidence of victims and survivors of abuse, the inquiry she had hoped to lead would not command the support of the very people she wanted to help.
Earlier this month Mrs Woolf, who is Lord Mayor of London, disclosed that she lived in the same street as Lord Brittan and had dinner with him five times between 2008 and 2012 – but said he was not a “close associate”.
Lord Brittan may be called to give evidence to the inquiry, which will look at whether public bodies and other institutions did enough to protect children from sexual abuse from 1970 to the present day. He denies any wrongdoing in the way the “dossier” on alleged high-profile paedophiles was handled in the 1980s.
It also comes after it emerged that a letter from Mrs Woolf about her links with Lord Brittan was re-written seven times. Asked about whether redrafting the letter with the help of the Home Office undermined how impartial she appeared, she said: “It does look like that.” And questioned about who should now lead the inquiry, she said: “It needs leadership – inclusive leadership – which I can’t command. “The victims don’t have confidence in me. You need someone with confidence from everyone.”
Fiona Woolf’s career, her social life and her connections to the establishment were scrutinised by the media and MPs. But as she conceded today, the survivors of abuse dictated her fate. As at the phone hacking inquiry, the voices of victims and their representatives were impossible to ignore. And now, more than three months after it was established, the child abuse enquiry has no leader and has completed no meaningful work. Her resignation will see the scrutiny switch to Home Secretary Theresa May. Labour leader Ed Miliband suggested today’s events were a direct consequence of the way that she had run the process.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper MP accused Mrs May of, “appalling incompetence”. “Theresa May has some serious questions to answer about how this could go so badly wrong,” she added.
BBC chief political correspondent John Pienaar said Mrs Woolf’s resignation had given Mrs May, “not so much a political headache, as a splitting migraine”.
Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said that given the concerns of victims, Mrs Woolf’s decision to stand down was, “the right thing to do”. “This has been chaotic, look at the way in which this matter has been dealt with, it has been so badly put together,” he told the BBC.
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), said the meeting between victims’ groups and Home Office officials, which took place in London earlier today, should have been held “months ago”. “The government has got to get a grip and they have to talk to us about the way forward,” Mr Saunders added.
Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at law firm Leigh Day, told the BBC there had been a “series of failures” by the Home Office over the inquiry.
November 1 2014: Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, suggested a that suitable candidate to chair the investigation should be found from outside the UK
The Government should look overseas to recruit an independent figure to lead the inquiry into historic child sex abuse, after a second chairman of the investigation resigned, a senior Conservative has said. Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, suggested a that suitable candidate to chair the investigation should be found from outside the UK, in order to restore public confidence in the process. His comments came as victims of sexual abuse called for the entire panel of investigators, appointed by the Government, to be sacked.
November 1 2014: MPs and VIPs ‘child abuse ring’ at luxury flats near Parliament investigated by detectives
A new police probe has been launched into allegations of historic child sex abuse by MPs and other VIPs at a complex of luxury flats in the shadow of Westminster. Detectives are probing chilling claims of “abuse parties” at upmarket Dolphin Square, where many Members of Parliament had their London homes.
The fresh investigation follows startling allegations published in the Sunday People in July. And it comes as Home Secretary Theresa May’s inquiry into claims of a cover-up of Establishment child sex abuse faltered when its chairman quit.
Mrs May came under pressure from abuse victims as lawyer Fiona Woolf stepped down following a Home Office attempt to play down her links to Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary at the centre of whitewash claims. Information provision for those new to the matters of allegations of institutional child abuse. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mps-vips-child-abuse-ring-4551934
November 1 2014: Elm Guest House ‘boy brothel’ victim slams Theresa May’s bungled abuse inquiry
A victim of the notorious “boy brothel” used by VIPs has told of his dismay at the latest resignation in Theresa May’s bungled child sex abuse inquiry. The man, who was molested at the age of 13 at the infamous Elm Guest House, spoke out after Fiona Woolf quit as chairman because of her links to ex-Home Secretary Leon Brittan.
Now in his 40s, the victim said fellow sufferers must be involved in the search for a new chief to lead the investigation into cover-up claims. The man, whose identity we are protecting, said: “Woolf quitting has been the latest development in what has been an absolute shambles. I’ve got no faith whatsoever in Theresa May’s inquiry.”
He added: “Woolf was a totally unsuitable appointment. She was far too close to the establishment to properly look into all this. “The only way they can move forward now is to get the victims involved properly.” http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/elm-guest-house-boy-brothel-4552028
November 1 2014: Child abuse inquiry: Ed Miliband tells Theresa May she must act quickly to restore credibility
Theresa May was tonight urged by Ed Miliband to get on with gathering evidence for the Commons child abuse inquiry after two “botched” bids to find a chief. The Labour leader said the Home Secretary must act quickly in the wake of Fiona Woolf’s resignation. He said: “The right thing to do is to consult with victims before names are put forward and once you have done that, it is right to appoint a head of the inquiry.”
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper backed him saying there was a “strong case for the inquiry getting going even without a chair”, without naming a choice of candidate. Former attorney general Dominic Grieve suggested looking abroad to find a suitable candidate.
A spokesman for Children’s charity the NSPCC said: “Those wanting to kick awkward questions into the long grass must not be allowed to derail justice.” http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/child-abuse-inquiry-ed-miliband-4551977
Mrs Woolf, the Lord Mayor of London, tonight insisted her links to Lord Brittan were not the problem. But she accepted once she lost the support of victims’ groups the writing was on the wall. The wealthy lawyer said: “Ultimately what turned the tide was less putting up with the innuendo and negative comment, and more about the victims themselves. “I’m obviously sad that people are not confident in my ability to chair what is a hugely important inquiry impartially.” Mrs May stood by claims she made last week that Mrs Woolf would still have done a good job of chairing the inquiry, despite her friendship with Lord and Lady Brittan. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fiona-woolf-resigns-theresa-david-4545161
November 1 2014: Are the vile paedophile allegations against Leon Brittan a sinister MI5 smear plot?
During a drinks reception at the Home Office in the summer of 1984, political journalist Chris Moncrieff felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning round, he saw it was a civil servant, who said: ‘Follow me. I’m taking you to meet the Home Secretary. He’s got something very important to tell you.’ To the visible envy of fellow journalists, Moncrieff, political editor of the influential Press Association news agency, drained his glass and followed the official out of the function room. A few minutes later, he found himself standing in the private office of Home Secretary Leon Brittan.
Moncrieff recalls this week: ‘Very forcefully, Brittan looked me in the eye and said: “It’s all lies!”. Then he produced a copy of an article from the latest edition of Private Eye and told me to read it.’ Private Eye claimed that staff at the spy agency MI5 had targeted Brittan because they were upset about reports that he was planning a ‘big shake-up’ of their operations.
The article in the satirical magazine described the so-called Cabinet Minister Scandal, which had been mentioned repeatedly in the Press and involved Westminster gossip that an unnamed senior member of the Thatcher government had pursued sexual relationships with two teenage boys. One boy, based in the North-East, had been abused before the minister was appointed, it was alleged. Another was still at school and his alleged abuse had been more recent.
Speculation about what some newspapers were calling ‘the most damaging government sex scandal of the century’ had grown to fever pitch after an explosive Downing Street lobby briefing on June 19. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, Bernard Ingham, had been asked if No 10 believed there was ‘substance’ to the rumours that one of the government’s most senior ministers was a predatory paedophile.
Not surprisingly, Ingham had hit the roof. Not only were the child sex allegations untrue, he stormed, but ‘anyone publishing a word of them would receive a libel writ on the instant’. Nevertheless, several newspapers kept the controversy going by running stories which said that talk of an ‘alleged sex scandal’ at the heart of government had been angrily ‘dismissed’ by Downing Street.
As the tone of such coverage grew increasingly hysterical, The Times noted: ‘The Commons tearoom, the hub of Westminster gossip, has been informed that the story is going to “break” this weekend.’ It was against this feverish background that Leon Brittan handed Chris Moncrieff the Private Eye article, which had yet to be on widespread sale.
The magazine had broken ranks and named the Cabinet minister at the centre of this alleged paedophile scandal. It was none other than Leon Brittan. However, the article stressed that all the child sex allegations being levelled against the Home Secretary were false.
It explained that untrue rumours about Brittan had been circulating ‘around in Fleet Street’ for some time. But after lengthy investigations, several newspapers, including the News of the World, had concluded that there was absolutely ‘nothing’ in them.
The Elm Guest House in Barnes, is alleged to have been the scene of paedophile activity and sex parties attended by politicians and other prominent figures in the 1970s and 1980s. It went on to say that there was a cynical motivation for such a smear.
Private Eye claimed that staff at the spy agency MI5 had targeted Brittan because they were upset about reports that he was planning a ‘big shake-up’ of their operations following failures in the lead-up to the fatal shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy in central London.
There was also poisonous prejudice against Brittan because he was Jewish, the magazine suggested. Rogue officials, therefore, had decided to work up a paedophile scandal in an attempt to force Brittan from office. ‘The MI5 spooks and loonies who object to having a Jewish Home Secretary … [have] retaliated by resurrecting the Brittan smear and spreading it around the Street of Shame.
‘On June 19 the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Bernard Ingham, “briefed” the lobby hacks, threatening “slander” writs if anything was published.
In the meantime, newspaper editors were phoned by the Home Office press officer, and Downing Street, and warned not to publish anything. ‘All this only created an atmosphere of hysteria which has not helped in any way to kill the smear.’
Having read the Private Eye article in Brittan’s presence, Moncrieff says the two men discussed its contents, Brittan saying he was very pleased that the magazine had come to his defence and clearly wanting its contents given a wider audience. The Home Secretary had obviously been deeply troubled by the rumours that he was guilty of child sex abuse.
But he felt the Private Eye report had not only scotched those rumours but given a credible explanation of why they were a smear. ‘Brittan told me that if Private Eye was saying this, then the allegations must be a load of codswallop,’ recalls Moncrieff, who is now 83. ‘He was as pleased as punch that a magazine which would never normally side with the Establishment was choosing to do so on this occasion. ‘He then said something along the lines of “These awful allegations have always been totally false, and now people will finally stop making them”.’ Moncrieff duly filed a full report of their meeting, which was carried in most of the next day’s national newspapers. They all claimed that the Home Secretary had been ‘smeared’ by members of the security services.
And there the great Cabinet Minister Scandal of 1984 ended. Save, that is, for a brief hoo-hah a couple of days later when the Labour MP Harry Cohen attempted to refer to the Private Eye article in Parliament during a (seemingly unrelated) debate about the Representation of the People Act.
He said “It has been suggested that MI5 smeared Leon Brittan because he wanted to ‘shake up’ operations by the spy network after the fatal shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy.” His blundering intervention was described as ‘reprehensible’ by the Commons Speaker, Bernard Weatherill, and within a few months the affair had been widely forgotten. Barely a whiff of it has appeared in the mainstream media in the 30 years that have passed since. But now the story has shot back to the top of the political agenda — for two main reasons.
First, Labour MP Jim Hood, in the same way that Harry Cohen did 30 years ago, used Commons privilege to try to link 75-year old Brittan — now a peer — to allegations of child abuse. During a completely unrelated parliamentary debate about the miners’ strike in the 1980s, he suddenly alleged that Brittan was suspected of ‘improper conduct with children’.
He claimed that during the early 1980s: ‘Miners were saying in the dock, in all the magistrates’ courts throughout the strike, that they objected to the instructions coming from the Home Secretary when there were reports of child abuse linked with that same Home Secretary.’
Hood was quickly asked by the Commons Deputy Speaker to ‘be very careful about what we say’, but the MP unrepentantly declared: ‘I am just repeating what I read in the papers.’
The outburst met with an angry response from Conservatives. Lord Tebbit, a former Cabinet colleague of Brittan’s, said this week: ‘If somebody wants to make these allegations, they should do it outside the Chamber where they can be tested — if necessary in a court of law … if this gentleman has some evidence which causes him to believe this, why not make these comments outside?’
In any case, Mr Hood’s comment that he was ‘just repeating what I read in the papers’ isn’t exactly right, since no newspaper has ever reported that Brittan was guilty of ‘improper conduct with children’. Quite the reverse, in fact.
There does not appear to be any documented case in the archives of a miner, taken to court during the strike, using that opportunity to accuse the Home Secretary of such crimes. That is not to say that scurrilous stories don’t exist.
In the unregulated Wild West of cyberspace, Brittan’s name has, over the years, been repeatedly and recklessly linked to a string of alleged sex scandals which would be laughable if the allegations weren’t so serious. To cite one example, it is alleged that, while a Cabinet minister, Brittan was arrested by customs officials for smuggling child pornography in his luggage. The crime, it is further alleged, was covered up by the authorities.
You can look in vain for a shred of credible evidence to support this outrageous charge. Or, indeed, for any explanation of how, in an era when crime reporters had close contacts with immigration agencies, such a big story might have been kept out of the newspapers. Many websites, invariably without proper evidence, wrongly link Brittan to a range of scandals.
These include the story that detectives seized a list of names of high-profile alleged visitors to the Elm Guest House in Barnes, South-West London — a gay-friendly establishment.
The list included the names of several senior MPs, a high-ranking policeman, a leading tycoon, figures from the National Front and Sinn Fein, an official of the Royal Household, an MI5 officer, two pop stars and the traitorous Soviet spy Anthony Blunt.
Cyril Smith, the late Liberal MP, was named as a regular at the guest house, where he allegedly met teenage rent boys when the homosexual age of consent was 21. The guest house has also been linked to a now-defunct Tory fringe group that promoted homosexual rights.
But none of the websites that claim Brittan was on such a list of visitors has produced on-the-record testimony from a single victim who will support their serious charges. Late Liberal MP Cyril Smith has been named as a regular at the Elm Guest House, where he is alleged to have met teenage rent boys who were under the age of consent.
In fact, a close reading of some of them suggests they are motivated by an unpleasant anti-Semitism which Brittan, whose parents were of Lithuanian-Jewish descent, faced throughout his career.
For example, when Brittan was forced to leave the Cabinet during the Westland affair — when ministers were divided over how best to rescue a troubled helicopter firm — the Right-wing Tory backbencher John Stokes crudely said Brittan should be replaced by a ‘red-blooded, red-faced Englishman, preferably from landed interests’.
The second reason why Brittan is back in the headlines is because he was Home Secretary during the time-period that is central to the major official inquiry set up by the Government into historic child abuse across all sections of society.
It has been alleged, in particular, that the Home Office was responsible for a cover-up of sexual abuse allegations. The former Home Secretary himself, it is alleged, failed to act properly on a dossier about VIP paedophiles handed to him by the Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1983.
Brittan initially claimed never to have received such a dossier, but is later said to have asked Home Office officials to ‘look carefully’ at it.
And then, of course, there are Brittan’s links with the woman chosen to head the Government’s sex abuse inquiry, Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf. Mrs Woolf was forced to resign yesterday because she had been seen to be too compromised, living in the same street as Brittan and being a friend of his wife.
Mrs Woolf had to quit after it was revealed that a letter between her and Home Secretary Theresa May, aiming to play down Mrs Woolf’s links with Brittan, was rewritten seven times with Home Office assistance.
‘Whatever the rights and wrongs of Woolf’s appointment, this has left Brittan in an awful position,’ says a family friend. ‘The public will understandably think it’s all a stitch-up.’ It doesn’t help, either, that there is widespread concern that the Establishment does not really want to address claims of historic child abuse because its complicity might be exposed.
For the Home Office has a shabby record in the 1970s and 1980s, as exposed by the Mail, of tolerating and even promoting the paedophile agenda — not to mention covering it up.
Personally, Lord Brittan and his wife Diana are clearly deeply upset by what is happening. ‘He’s now an old man,’ said the source close to the family. ‘He isn’t well. He hasn’t spoken in the House of Lords since the end of 2013 and has been in hospital this week. He can’t easily deal with these allegations.’
Labour MP Jim Hood linked Leon Brittan to sex abuse allegations in a House of Commons debate this week. One parliamentary colleague added: ‘We are supposed to have a system where you are innocent unless proven guilty. So isn’t it incumbent on those making allegations of this sort against Leon Brittan to prove they are true, not for him to prove they are untrue?’ Indeed, friends have compared his ordeal with that of former Tory party treasurer Lord McAlpine, who was wrongly accused of paedophilia after a BBC programme on the subject, without any evidence.
They have also highlighted a major flaw in many of the wilder allegations against Brittan: like any senior minister, he had Special Branch protection from the time of his appointment until he left the Cabinet in 1986. ‘Is it really credible that he could regularly slip his security cordon and carry out child sex abuse?’ one friend asks. ‘Is it really credible that Special Branch would drive him to a brothel in West London, wait outside, then drive him home again? Are we seriously to believe this?’
Meanwhile, key figures in the ‘Cabinet Minister Scandal’ of 1984 said this week that they continue to believe Leon Brittan was a victim of MI5 smears. Sir Bernard Ingham, now 82, told me that lobby reporters who, in 1984, put allegations to him about an unnamed minister being involved in child sex abuse were simply ‘on a fishing trip, trying to get me to slip up, which is the sort of thing that was happening all the time’.
Richard Ingrams, then the editor of Private Eye, told me this week that his magazine’s report about the case, which Brittan seized on as evidence of his innocence, was written by Paul Foot, the late Left-wing investigative reporter who had written extensively about Secret Service attempts to undermine other frontbench politicians. ‘This rumour about Leon Brittan was very widespread,’ Ingrams said. ‘We went to great lengths to try to stand the story up, but there appeared to be no evidence to support it at all.
Paul concluded that it was being put about to discredit him.’ Foot had earlier exposed how, in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, the security service mounted an operation called Clockwork Orange to persuade the Press to report spurious claims that politicians such as Harold Wilson were being paid by the IRA. This was part of an attempt by Right-wing elements in the security services to stage a coup d’etat to force Wilson’s Labour government out of office.
To complicate matters, Leon Brittan has since been dragged into another unsavoury story. In 2012, a woman went to the police claiming that 45 years previously, when she was a 19-year-old student, she had been raped by Brittan in his London home. At the time, he was in his late 20s and a rising Tory star.
Detectives duly interviewed Brittan about the allegation under caution, and the story was eventually leaked to the Independent on Sunday by a Labour MP in July of this year. Brittan released a statement strenuously denying the allegation, which he called ‘wholly without foundation’. For its part, the Crown Prosecution Service is said to have concluded that there were ‘gaping holes’ in the woman’s account and no action has been taken.
Whatever the truth, 30 years after horrible rumours first emerged about his alleged links with child sex abuse, Lord Brittan must wish that he could have the opportunity at last to be exonerated — but fears he is in a position where he simply cannot win. One thing is sure: the fiasco over Fiona Woolf certainly hasn’t helped him