The wheels of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse grind exceeding slow.
A few days ago — six years after it began its work — the IICSA disgorged the text of its first significant report.
This was an investigation into the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the care of Lambeth Council, starting in the 1970s and lasting for well over a decade.
The value of this report lies, in part, in its setting of the political context. The head of Lambeth Council from 1978 to 1986 was Ted Knight — universally known as ‘Red Ted’.
A few days ago — six years after it began its work — the IICSA disgorged the text of its first significant report. The value of this report lies, in part, in its setting of the political context. The head of Lambeth Council from 1978 to 1986 was Ted Knight (pictured) — universally known as ‘Red Ted’
As the report pointed out, he and his colleagues were so focused on their political opposition to the Thatcher government (which led them to refuse to set a council tax rate) that ‘children in care became pawns in a toxic power game’ within the council.
Although 33 Lambeth councillors were removed from their positions for refusing to set a rate, the real losers were the children under their statutory care (705 of them from three children’s homes are described as ‘known victims’).
The IICSA concluded that Lambeth council ‘treated children in their care as if they were worthless’ and showed ‘callous disregard’ by ‘putting vulnerable children in the path of sex offenders’ who infiltrated those institutions.
As the report noted: ‘Many councillors and staff purported to hold principled beliefs about tackling racism and promoting equality, but in reality they failed to apply these principles to children in their care.’
The former leader of Islington Council, Margaret Hodge (pictured), who dismissed the claims of one of those abused as coming from ‘an extremely disturbed person’ and who pressured the BBC not to report his accusations, was subsequently, with no sense of irony, made Minister for Children by Tony Blair
This was not unique within London councils dominated by the hard Left. There was also Islington, during the many years, it so happens, that Jeremy Corbyn was a councillor (he later became the local MP).
A whistle-blowing social worker, Liz Davies, had unavailingly attempted to persuade Corbyn and other councillors of the urgency of investigating the way in which children as young as 12 in Islington’s care had been targeted by what she described as paedophile gangs.
‘These children would be queuing up outside our offices at 9am for help,’ she told the Mail’s Guy Adams in 2015. ‘Most of them had obviously been out all night. We discovered that they were being driven around the country in vans.’
Guy Adams’ report for the Mail, building on investigations by the London Evening Standard and the Islington Gazette, described how ‘paedophiles had been able to systematically rape scores of vulnerable boys and girls in the borough in the 1970s and 1980s, infiltrating all 12 of its children’s homes.
One Labour MP did ‘weaponise’ the issue of child sex abuse: this was the then deputy leader of the party, Tom Watson (pictured)
‘The Labour-run council,’ he wrote, ‘had both facilitated the abuse by employing known paedophiles and brazenly attempted to cover it up, shredding crucial documents and dismissing subsequent media reports about the scandal as ‘gutter journalism’.’
The former leader of Islington Council, Margaret Hodge, who dismissed the claims of one of those abused as coming from ‘an extremely disturbed person’ and who pressured the BBC not to report his accusations, was subsequently, with no sense of irony, made Minister for Children by Tony Blair.
Hodge, by then, was no longer a Left-wing firebrand: and more recently, as a Labour peer, has been forthright in accusing her then party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, of a form of ideologically-based anti-Semitism.
But what was Corbyn’s performance over the Islington child abuse scandal?
As Liz Davies told Adams, despite the fact that she had given Corbyn a thorough briefing (backed up by other social workers) ‘after that meeting we never heard another thing . . . whenever I saw Jeremy afterwards, sometimes years later at Stop The War marches and events like that, I’d always go up to him and say: ‘This scandal is still going on, Jeremy.’
‘He’d be very polite, but never seemed to do anything.’
This might have had something to do with the fact that the Trade Unions, NALGO and UNISON, were ferocious in defending their members working in the children’s care homes.
This comes out in the IICSA report on Lambeth: there is a chapter entitled Trade Union Influence, which reports ‘the Trade Unions had too great a grip on Lambeth Council staff and councillors’.
Watson, in particular, swallowed whole the lies of Carl Beech (pictured left) — aka ‘Nick’ — whose fictitious claims to have been abused as a child by a whole gamut of then Conservative MPs, including Ted Heath, Leon Brittan and Harvey Proctor, eventually led to his jailing for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice
Also, as one disillusioned party member noted in the publication Labour Uncut, while Corbyn had always been assiduous in protesting for the rights of Palestinians, or of convicted IRA members, ‘It’s not about whether you’re a victim, but about who you are a victim of. The problem with child abuse, for someone like Corbyn, is that it doesn’t slot neatly into a hard-Left paradigm.’
Yet one Labour MP did ‘weaponise’ the issue of child sex abuse: this was the then deputy leader of the party, Tom Watson. He was tireless in linking it to the Conservatives, at the highest level.
In 2012, he told the House of Commons that there had been ‘a powerful paedophile network linked to Number 10’.
Pictured: Leon Brittan (accused of sex abuse by Chris Fay)
Two years later, the then Labour MP Jim Hood, a former member of the National Union of Mineworkers, using parliamentary privilege in a disgraceful fashion, followed up: ‘The rumours that Leon Brittan was involved with misconduct with children does not come as a surprise to miners who were striking in 1984.’
Brittan, as Home Secretary during the strike, was the NUM’s main foe after Thatcher herself. This was nothing less than the use of wicked false claims of child abuse as an act of political score-settling.
Watson, in particular, swallowed whole the lies of Carl Beech — aka ‘Nick’ — whose fictitious claims to have been abused as a child by a whole gamut of then Conservative MPs, including Ted Heath, Leon Brittan and Harvey Proctor, eventually led to his jailing for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
But that was not before the Metropolitan Police’s grotesquely mishandled Operation Midland investigation had put the late Lord Brittan and his widow Diana through something like Hell.
The Metropolitan Police’s grotesquely mishandled Operation Midland investigation put the late Lord Brittan (pictured) and his widow Diana through something like Hell
It is no exaggeration to say that the IICSA was set up partly in response to Watson’s campaign. And it has a ‘Westminster strand’, which will again bring up the allegations, to the further distress of Lady Brittan.
But what was the origin of the spurious claims against the blameless Brittan? It turns out to have been a concoction of a former London Labour councillor called Chris Fay, who also invented the hoax that child abuse by leading Tories took place at the Elm Guest House in South-West London.
This was as much of a hoax as the persistent claim that the late former treasurer of the Conservative Party, Alistair McAlpine, had been a child sex abuser. Lord McAlpine successfully sued the Labour-supporting wife of the then Commons Speaker, Sally Bercow, for libel, after she referred to it in a tweet.
Fay, who in 2011 was jailed for fraud after conning pensioners out of almost £300,000, admitted in 2015 that he had passed his allegations about Leon Brittan to Tom Watson. He also confessed he had been ‘a very Left-wing Labour councillor’ who enjoyed ‘on a political level’ the accusations of child abuse made against prominent Conservatives.
One of Brittan’s subsequent accusers told the BBC’s Panorama that Fay had encouraged him to name Lord Brittan: ‘The surname came out of Chris Fay’s mouth and I just went along with it.’
We can trace a direct line from this politically-motivated smear to Watson’s unforgivable statement, in the week that Brittan died of cancer in 2015 (still under suspicion), that the former Tory Home Secretary was ‘as close to evil as any human being could get’.
It is at least a blessing that Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation honours list proposal that his erstwhile deputy get a peerage has been blocked because of Watson’s appalling behaviour.
But, as I say, the IICSA’s ‘Westminster Strand’, and perhaps the inquiry as a whole, owe much to Watson’s highly political ‘child sex abuse’ campaign.
We have already witnessed the irony that another Labour supporter whose career was built on smearing Tory politicians, the late Max Clifford, was convicted in 2014 of eight counts of sexual assault on girls between the ages of 15 and 19.
It is a further twist that an inquiry partially inspired by Watson’s claims has now demonstrated that if any political party had indulged such behaviour on an institutional scale, it was Labour.