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Theresa May’s predictable grandstanding announcement last week of an inquiry into historic allegations of a paedophile ring operating within Parliament was a classic Establishment dodge.
It was a case study in media management as will be her appearance before the Home Affairs select committee today (Monday 14 July).
Perhaps there is some irony in that July 14 is Bastille Day, celebrated in republican France as the beginning of the end of absolute monarchy and preceding the publication of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen which enshrined the concept of free individuals protected equally by law.
Not exactly what we see being carried out in relation to the legal investigations into the vile abuse of children by MPs.
By widening the scope of the inevitable inquiry to include the BBC, the NHS, the churches and other unnamed public bodies, the Home Secretary has sown the seeds of a strategy designed deliberately to produce a huge amount of dust and smoke in which the truth will be hidden. Crucially she has succeeded in removing the spotlight from Parliament and close scrutiny of MPs.
She even admitted that the over-arching inquiry by the Establishment Peer Baroness Butler-Sloss, a former failed Tory parliamentary candidate and retired Family Division judge, would not be completed before the next general election.
So the public are being cheated of having details of parliamentary paedophiles revealed before deciding how to vote next year.
Butler-Sloss is the sister of the late Sir Michael Havers, who sat in the Thatcher Cabinet alongside Lord Brittan, who has admitted as Home Secretary he received the now “lost” dossier into allegations of a paedophile ring involving MPs.
Havers was the Attorney General under the Thatcher government when many of the allegations were made.
In the early 1980s, Havers was accused by campaigning MP Geoffrey Dickens of a cover-up when he refused to prosecute Sir Peter Hayman, a diplomat, former MI6 deputy director and member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, (PIE) a lobbying organisation for child abusers.
We now know that another PIE member has confirmed that he kept PIE files, records and membership details in the Home Office itself. Home Office advisers argued in 1979 that the age of consent be lowered from 16 to 14 and called for a reduction in the length of prison sentences for paedophiles.
The members’ hotline for the PIE rang inside the Home Office where Steven Smith, a convicted paedophile and chairman of PIE who worked in security in Whitehall, would tell callers where to go for the next meeting to discuss issues including decriminalising sex with children as young as four.
Butler-Sloss was forced to issue an apology in 2012 after making crucial errors in a previous inquiry into two paedophile priests.
The peer was put in charge of a “flawed” investigation into how the Church of England handled the cases of two ministers in Sussex who had sexually abused boys.
Eight months after her report was published Butler-Sloss, a devout Anglican, had to issue a six-page addendum in which she apologised for “inaccuracies” which, she admitted, arose from her failure to corroborate information which was given to her by senior Anglican figures as part of the inquiry.
The separate inquiry into the hundreds of missing Home Office files has now been fast tracked and is due to report in a few weeks time before the Parliamentary summer recess. In charge of that inquiry is Home Office permanent secretary Mark Sedwill, a career civil servant who was involved in the notorious Iraq War “dodgy dossier” used to illegally invade Iraq in 2003.
The evidence of former police officers suggests Home Office files based on the original Dickens dossier were snatched by MI5.
This report has already been discounted in advance and heavily spun by the governments’ media managers to downplay expectations. The files have gone and there are no records of why, how or who was involved in their disappearance or destruction.
There are also concerns about the appointment of NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless to assist with the overarching inquiry.
The NSPCC is well-connected within Parliament and its patrons include the Queen, Knights of the Realm, various members of the House of Lords, the Duke of Westminster and The Bishop of London.
It is a very wealthy charity but in recent years it has closed down direct services to support children at risk.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, a moral panic emerged over alleged ritual satanic abuse. The NSPCC provided a publication known as “Satanic’ Indicators” to social services around the country that has been blamed for some social workers panicking and making false accusations. In Rochdale, up to 20 children were removed from their parents for fear that they were being subject to satanic abuse. In the end the accusations turned out to be false.
So there we have it. A calculated response from the Home Secretary with a brief to play this scandal long, spend lots of money and appoint plausible individuals to conduct so-called independent investigations. Scratch below the glossy spin and we reveal an inquiry staffed by Establishment people with less than unblemished records in their professionalism and accuracy.
But they can be depended upon to stick to their brief which is to convey the appearance of conducting a thorough investigation while further muddying the waters and potentially wrecking several on-going police investigations that could bring alleged paedophiles to face justice in criminal trials for the most heinous offences against vulnerable children.
The award-winning journalist Philip Knightly coined the phrase “Truth: The First Casualty of War,” in his book of the same name about the way The Establishment managed information about the First World War debacle.
He said: “More deliberate lies were told than in any other period of history and the whole apparatus of the state went into action to suppress the truth.”
At the moment we are witnessing another example of The Establishment doing the same again — making sure that it protects its own and prevents the people from discovering the truth.
Steven Walker is a former child protection worker and writer on adolescent mental health
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