A post bound to make me even more unpopular.
Let's be clear about this then. If the same allegations that have been made against Edward Heath, given all the more publicity by the police, practically begging anyone to invent their own story of misery at the hands not just of the faceless establishment, but at a man that reached its very zenith, had been made against a living prime minister they would have been dismissed out of hand, and rightly so. John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, raping a 12-year-old, getting a case against a brothel keeper dismissed by mere virtue of their name being mentioned in connection, being involved in a previous over-hyped abuse scandal on the island of Jersey? Pull the other one, everyone would say. The police also would have looked at the allegations, quickly realised they were nonsense, and not publicised them for that very reason. Major might have sprayed salmonella all over Edwina Currie (or rather, did), Blair could possibly have banged Carole Caplin and Wendi Deng, and Brown might have, err, committed self-abuse somewhere he shouldn't have in Westminster, but anything more than that? Cobblers.
Heath wasn't an ordinary, regular, normal prime minister though, oh no. Sailor Heath. Grocer Heath. Unmarried Heath. Weirdo Heath, basically. At the time most assumed he was closeted, a possibly self-hating gay man at a time when to be openly gay and a politician, let alone prime minister, couldn't be countenanced. Ironically, Westminster itself was far more liberal in such matters. Good old Tom Driberg was tolerated after all, Churchill quipping that he gave sodomy a bad name. Indeed, it's most odd that Driberg's name hasn't been so much as mentioned in all of the allegations about establishment paedophiles, especially considering his penchant for men on the very cusp of the age of consent, and I mean what the age of consent is now rather than the 21 it was when homosexuality was first legalised.
The general consensus now, or at least was, that Heath was asexual, which makes him even odder in our eyes. Not interested in sex at all? Who could possibly believe that in our age, when sex and gender we're told are not binary but multifaceted, when transitioning is celebrated, at least if you're famous already? It just doesn't sound, or feel right. Far easier to imagine Bachelor Heath as suppressing his real sexual desires, or rather not.
What surprises me, and surprised me from the outset of this panic, as that is certainly what it's become, is that otherwise sensible, cynical, inquiring minds appear to have been taken in by allegations that have come from highly suspect or confused, unreliable sources. Oh, but the Heath story about the brothel, that's not from a survivor of abuse who is mistaken as a result of the damage and trauma they received and went through, or just a random loon, that's from a former inspector of Wiltshire police. Only, as it's now turned out, the keeper of the brothel denies making any such claim in a bid to evade prosecution. It raises the question of just what precisely Wiltshire police did investigate for those months before they passed it on to the IPCC. Did they so much as approach Myra Forde, or was the account of someone convicted of perverting the course of justice, despite supposedly making the allegation, thought unnecessary?
History seems to be repeating, except this has gone well beyond farce. Geoffrey Dickens at least had a legitimate target in the Paedophile Information Exchange, and his exposure of Peter Hayman was backed up by facts. Our latter day Dickens', our Danczuks, our Watsons, our Manns, they don't even have that. Simon Danczuk is repeatedly credited with exposing Cyril Smith, as though Private Eye and the Rochdale Alternative Paper didn't all those years ago, only they weren't listened to. Tom Watson piggybacked off Nick Davies' work on phone hacking, and being right once does not make you right all the time. John Mann meanwhile doesn't even have those feeble credentials; he's the archetypal loudmouth rent-a-gob MP, saying whatever he thinks will get him in the Daily Mail.
None of the three had any involvement with the Lord Janner case, beyond demanding that Alison Saunders resign for making the unpopular but reasonable decision that Janner's dementia meant it was not in the public interest to prosecute. As it is, expect even the trial of the facts to not take place, as Saunders clearly thought it wouldn't, again due to perfectly reasonable legal challenges from Janner based on his condition. All these investigations launched, all these operations, all these allegations, and what so far has been found in way of evidence other than against Janner, considering it was there about Smith if only anyone had bothered to look? Very little, to precisely nothing. The police believe the account of a man we know only as "Nick" about what went on at Dolphin Square, including murders, and yet they can't find any bodies, they don't have full names, they don't have exact locations, they have very little other than a couple of decades' worth of speculation, innuendo and rumour, since filtered through the internet conspiracy machine to the point where it's almost become accepted fact.
Ever since the Met and NSPCC mutually decided in the aftermath of the Savile revelations that accounts given to the police about historic child sexual abuse, so long as those accused are dead and so can't contest the claims, should be regarded as "not unproven allegations", or as you and I would call them, facts, the slow descent into the completely ludicrous has been all but inevitable. Almost all the claims about Savile's wider access to NHS hospitals and state properties were unsubstantiated or couldn't be proved, not that you would have known that from the media coverage. The reviews that have been conducted, like the Wanless and Whittam review, with the pair not altering their conclusions based on the new documents that were found afterwards, suggest there wasn't a cover-up. Their comment on a newly found letter from 1986 between the head of MI5 and the Cabinet Secretary discussing a Conservative MP alleged to have "a penchant for small boys", something the MP denied, that it just reinforced their finding that crimes against children were given far less serious consideration than they would be now, doesn't go anywhere near far enough for those convinced there's no smoke without fire.
And to be fair to them, the MI5 archives remain relatively untapped. If there's going to be evidence that child abusers within the establishment were known about and were tolerated, as to expose them would be more embarrassing to the government of the day than a genuine security concern, it's most likely in there. Which was all the more reason why the overarching inquiry into child abuse should have been allowed to get under way as soon as possible, rather than twice delayed while Danczuk and others demanded that Theresa May find someone without any "establishment" links whatsoever. Presuming the Goddard inquiry does get such access, it will still be years before any conclusions are reached. Goddard herself said she expects the inquiry to take five years; if she goes down the same Maxwellisation route taken by the Chilcot inquiry, as was discussed at length in the Slicker column in the last Private Eye, you can probably double that time frame.
This isn't of course to argue that allegations of historic child abuse should not be investigated. They should be. What should not be happening however is that they are either treated as fact regardless of the level of implausibility involved, or that the reputations of the dead should be besmirched before anything approaching evidence has been turned up. In the space of a few days Ted Heath has been slandered in a way that would be unconscionable and unthinkable were he still alive, only for the claims to almost immediately be called into question. Any lessons that should have been learned from the cases of either Lord McAlpine or Chris Jefferies to name but two have been thrown out the window or ignored on the basis of Heath not being around to defend himself. Moreover, just as with Jefferies and McAlpine, the reporting has been driven just as much by demand, by the echo chamber of social media, so many apparently wanting to believe the absolute worst about people who look weird, are weird, or were politicians and so deserve it.
Last night, meanwhile, the BBC ran a report on the head of Greater Manchester police saying tracing missing teenagers, many of whom abscond from care homes, was becoming "unsustainable". Considering the potential for such missing youngsters to be drawn into child sexual exploitation, it seems perverse that more attention and money is lavished on chasing what might well turn out to be phantoms than protecting those who could become victims today.