In praise of Simon Danczuk

18th April, 2014 2:24 pm

Simon Danczuk has led the front pages this week with his explosive account of how an MP could hide a lifetime of abusing children.

The Westminster reaction to his Cyril Smith allegations? Embarrassed coughs.


Good on Simon for having the courage to speak his mind. Since his 2010 election, itself a feat of endurance, he’s demonstrated a forensic mind and a canny eye for a story. He represents a diminishing Westminster breed, a ‘character’ who speaks with an authentic voice and with conviction. In the bland world of party slogans and ‘lines to take,’ he stands out. I admire him.

And despite these qualities, maybe even because of them, I hope our colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party are rallying round to support Simon. Because he’s about to realise what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the liberal establishment at its most savage.

Our central concern should always be the survivors of sexual abuse.

Yet the daggers are already being sharpened in the salons of North London. ‘How can he serialise in the Mail?,’ ‘Why is he criticising Labour people?,’ and ‘He’s not a proper journalist’ are just three of the attacks I’ve heard whispered in the last few days.

This is an attempt to undermine the substance of his argument: that career child abuser Cyril Smith covered up his activities with the collaboration of colleagues in Westminster and beyond. Since then the fog of collective amnesia has enveloped his party and anyone ever associated Smith.

I’ve not yet read Simon’s book but I saw the report of television journalist Liz MacKean, who was one of the first to highlight that Special Branch intervened so that Cyril Smith died avoiding the justice which his victims deserved.

As Simon pointed out on Radio 4 yesterday, Smith is not the first MP to be named as a child abuser. Two former ministers have named Sir Peter Morrison as a ‘well-known pedarast’.

There are three things that need to happen in relation to these serious allegations.

First, all the child abuse inquires in local authorities, the NHS and other public institutions such as the BBC must be wrapped into one national independent review of historic abuse cases. In Australia, they’re having a Royal Commission. We could adopt the same practice. MPs of all parties have written to the PM urging him to make a decisive move in the right direction.

Secondly, let’s acknowledge what the police privately admit: investigating child abuse is hopelessly under-resourced. Worse, whistle-blowers in the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre tell me their work is being diluted as the National Crime Agency (NCA) absorbs them into the new organisation. Recent parliamentary questions have yielded obfuscated answers on how many dedicated specialist investigators with arrest powers are working full-time on abuse inquiries. One whistle-blower told me that a very senior director at the NCA said child abuse is ‘not their priority.’

What also needs to happen is for political parties to unite on child abuse. They need to work with campaign groups who wish to see the law changed so we have mandatory reporting of suspected abuse in regulated settings such as private boarding schools. There’s a remarkable man called Tom Perry who runs the organisation Mandate Now- he needs our support.

I’ve already documented my reasons for asking the Prime Minister about an historic case of child abuse in October 2012.

Since then, there have been numerous arrests and people are facing charges, so I have to be careful what I write.

But I can say there have been some shocking claims made, many of which police are investigating.

The source of my original question is a retired child protection officer who was working with the Met police on a major child abuse inquiry in the 1990s. Their inquiries began to focus on a theory that an MP was involved with a group of known child abusers. At this point, the investigation was, according to my source, shut down after “orders from on high.”

Others were given the courage to contact me after the press picked up my parliamentary question and police launched an investigation into the alleged crimes.

The former civil servant who told me how he raised concerns that taxpayers may have been asked to fund the Paedophile Information Exchange has co-operated with the police but we await the results of the internal inquiry at the Home Office, set up last November.

The official also shared an interesting anecdote. The civil servant at the Home Office in charge of the budget that may have funded PIE was called to a crisis meeting at the Reform Club on the day the scandal involving Jeremy Thorpe broke in the newspapers.

In an interview at the time, Cyril Smith showed how he had some decision over the fate of his leader saying “Mr Thorpe had advised me that if I went to him and said that in my view he should resign then he would resign. I’ve not been to him and said that and I have no intention of going to him and saying that and so Mr Thorpe has not offered his resignation.”

Thorpe did eventually resign and was replaced by David Steel in July 1976, who made Smith the party’s Social Services spokesman, despite their relationship according to Smith being “not frigid but not at a high temperature”.

Even accounting for the times, Smith’s approach to his brief was distinctly illiberal. In a letter of complaint to the editor of Social Work Today in May 1977 he said “You describe myself as a ‘political buffoon’. All this is apparently because…in my view on occasions a juvenile offender was a case for a good hiding rather than a child psychiatrist”

Then there’s the matter of child abuser Peter Righton. I’m working with a number of courageous and dedicated former child protection workers who are concerned that Righton, after his conviction, retired to a cottage on the estate of Lord Henniker.

Henniker continued to allow his estate to be used by the Islington Suffolk project that gave holidays to vulnerable children from Islington. Many of the children were in the care system at a time when Islington was thought to have had a major problem with child abuse in its care homes. The retired social workers tell me that even despite the Chief Constable of Suffolk visiting personally to warn Henniker that Righton was a career paedophile, and would put the dozens of young boys who visited Thornham Magna at risk, he ignored this advice and Righton lived there until his death in 2008

My team have had two meetings with the woman who alleges rape by a man who went on to be a senior minister. It’s being investigated.

The child of a former MP came to see me alleging his father was an abuser. He claimed a teacher had told him his father had acted inappropriately with a child at a school and that it was covered up.

In a meeting in North Wales I met councillor who told me of police intimidation when he first raised concerns about child abuse in Bryn Alyn all those years ago.

All these people who’ve had misgivings are credible, honourable and decent. They believe that child abuse was covered up because powerful people wanted it to be so.

Yet there have also been a number of time-consuming false leads. The photograph of the cabinet minister at a ‘kings and queens’ party, as far as I can tell, does not exist. The story of the MP who abused his agent’s son is a myth. There are two vulnerable survivors who are undoubtedly the victims of abuse but it’s unlikely to have been carried out by a former minister as they claim, or at least their recollection of events is not good enough to stand up to detailed scrutiny.

Why do I reference these stories? Because they’re all scenarios that have been put to me as working theories by a number of journalists. Some journalists who called me have even investigated the claims, but not many. Those that do, embark on a complex trail that is yet to yield hard evidence.

Why is it important to know this? I say it because right now the Daily Mail is leading a campaign for deeper investigation into historic cases of abuse. Yet at any point in the future they are just as likely to do a ‘reverse ferret’ and claim that many allegations of sexual abuse involving politicians are sensationalised. Last year, after raising the question in Parliament, a columnist in the Mail described me as the ‘nonce finder general.’ They can’t make their mind up. But if you’re the Daily Mail, you don’t have to.

That’s why Simon Danczuk needs our support. There are many survivors of sexual abuse now depending on him, those who have never received justice and whose lives have been destroyed by the impact of child abuse.

As with Savile, the question we all have to ask ourselves is this: ‘How can an MP abuse kids and get away with it?’

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  • TimFootman

    As far as Cyril Smith goes, I’m sure some people knew what was going on and chose to ignore it or even actively cover it up. But many of the people who supposedly “knew” had in fact only heard rumours. Should they have acted on them? I’d heard rumours about Smith and Savile over 20 years ago. But then I also heard rumours back then about Alastair McAlpine – and we know how that all ended. And I’ve heard things about several other politicians who are still alive. How are we supposed to know whether these rumours are Smiths or McAlpines?

    • swatnan

      What the hell is Parliamentary Privelige for if you cant do the decent thing? Name them. Rochdale Councillors and Westminster MPs who knew are an utter disgrace.

      • MikeHomfray

        Its not for ‘naming’ people who you don’t actually know are guilty but you think rumours may be true. The courts are the place for trying people. Not parliament.

        • swatnan

          MPs will not raise issues of this nature and seriousness mischievously; they will have reason and evidence to do so. Once named, the alledged have the right to defend themselves in Court. Parliament is itself a ‘Court’, and this is the only way to reveal cover ups, otherwise nothing will ever be done.

    • treborc1

      You have to be sure of the names you throw around for one thing we have all learned the lessons of listening to romour, they are not facts.

  • JoeDM

    Has Harriet Harman commented on this yet?

    • Robert Laing


  • RAnjeh

    Simon Danczuk deserves a promotion for this… to the welfare team.

  • EricBC

    Paranoid Tabloid Tom quotes others saying: ‘How can he serialise in the Mail?,’ ‘Why is he criticising Labour people?,’ and ‘He’s not a proper journalist’, and then Paranoid Tom says, (These) ‘are just three of the attacks I’ve heard whispered in the last few days.’

    Calm down Tom! These are not ‘ATTACKS’. They are ‘comments’ or ‘remarks’ or ‘observations.’

  • FMcGonigal

    Politicians are rightly criticized for not speaking out at the time, but the same could be said about the press. If it was an open secret at Westminster, some journalists would almost certainly have known.

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  • Mariana

    Why does Watson say the rape allegations against a politician are being investigated when the Exaro website says the man was cleared?
    Why does Watson praise Danczuk to the skies while rubbishing the story about a cabinet minister that Danczuk is now enthusiastically promoting?

    Do any of these people have a clue what they’re talking about?

  • MonkeyBot5000

    How can he serialise in the Mail?

    That’s actually a fair question. If the Mail said the sky was blue, I’d have to look out the window to check and serialisation is a means to maximise sales rather than information distribution.

  • Jack Dees

    This is great work by Simon. What a shame that in his TV appearance with Owen Jones he came across as a blustering verbal bully.

  • FionaUK

    Over 20 years ago I went out with a man who was employed as a child care worker. He told me that he had been suspended from work for around a year, pending an investigation into a paedophile ring that had been abusing children in his children’s home. He mentioned a number of public figures but the only one I recognised at the time was Cyril Smith: If there was such an extensive investigation then both the Police and the Local Council must have been involved.
    What have the council said about it?

  • We are talking about the same man who has spent virtually all his time either attacking the Labour leadership or attacking his own local Labour Party since 2010. Who spends time writing right wing articles for right wing papers. Has the fifth highest expenses claim in parliament. Says benefits claimants should wait weeks more to get their first payment and visits tv studios to cheer lead Tory policy……I can think of other words rather than “character”.

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