MP Tom Watson publicly (and falsely) accused Lord Brittan of being a rapist and ‘as close to evil as any human being could get’.
In our desire to right the historic wrongs of child abuse we are contaminating the present. Labour's deputy leader is not to blame (but he bears a good portion of it - SoRo)...We have been living through a period of national psychosis.
By Dan Hodges
Tom Watson should apologise to the family of the late Leon Brittan. They may accept the apology, they may reject the apology. But that’s a matter for them, not Tom Watson. He publicly accused Leon Brittan of being a rapist. And Leon Brittan was not a rapist. The accusation may have been made in good faith, but it was an erroneous accusation, concerning a terrible crime. These are the things honourable men apologise for. And I believe Tom Watson is an honourable men. There is still time for him to do the decent thing, and he should do the decent thing.
I’ve been writing consistently about what I have described as a “witch-hunt” over so called “establishment paedophiles”. I have also been critical of those who have helped to keep this grotesque circus performing. But we are now in danger of moving from a paedophile witch-hunt to a Tom Watson witch-hunt. And this issue is too important for that.
We have been living through a period of national psychosis Yes, Tom Watson has made allegations about a Westminster child-sex abuse. So have a series of other MPs, across all parties. The initial allegations were made by the Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens. The Home Secretary Theresa May has talked of recent convictions and allegations being the “tip of the iceberg” in relation to abuse by figures in public life. The Prime Minister has authorised an inquiry into historic sex abuse that will span schools, hospitals, the judiciary, the police service, national government and local government. The inquiry could, we have been told, last until 2020. If its virtually open-ended remit and recent experience are anything to go by we can expect it to last for several years longer than that.
This madness is not the responsibility of one man. We have been living through a period of national psychosis. An almost textbook case study of moral panic. And if we are to snap out of it, running around screaming “it’s all Tom Watson’s fault” will not suffice.
There are a number of reasons why we have reached this point. The point where some of our nation’s most dedicated public servants – from former prime ministers down – have had their reputations ripped to shreds with the most vile and incredible accusations.
One is our self-destructive obsession with tearing down anyone and anything that is deemed to be part of “the establishment”. No accusation, no allegation, no matter how patently ludicrous or outlandish can now be justified so long as the target is the malign and shadowy “establishment”. A former Prime Minister abused children, murdered them, then threw them off his yacht, in full view of half a dozen crew members? OK, may sound a little far-fetched. But he was a senior member of “the establishment” wasn’t he? Must be right, then. Police helped cover up the activities of a murderous child torture gang that rampaged sadistically across Westminster throughout the Seventies and Eighties? Seems a bit implausible. But the police are part of “the establishment” too, aren’t they?
Another is our continued obsession with fame and celebrity. All we have heard over the past few years is the pious mantra “this is about the victims”. It’s not about the victims at all. It’s about the perpetrators. And the fact the perpetrators are famous. When was the last time the police marched the media down to the house of a deceased paedophile plumber to hold a press conference? Who was the last MP who rose in the House of Commons to condemn the failure to prosecute a paedophile electrician? When did we last awake to banner national headlines of “former milkman faces historic child abuse allegations”. Jimmy Savile’s fame masked his guilt. And now the fame of the those wrongly accused of historic sex crimes is masking their innocence.
There is a third factor. The modern phenomenon of the “political crime”. Rape is most obvious. As is any crime with a perceived racial motivation. And now child abuse, when perpetrated by a high-profile public figure.
Once we assessed innocence or guilt relatively dispassionately. Now we adopt stances – and increasingly find ourselves forced to adopt stances – based solely on the nature of the offence, rather than the facts of the case. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. If I see someone accused of a crime which has a racial component I immediately assume guilt. I have nothing to base that on but my own personal prejudice towards prejudice. My default stance – based primarily on my political world view – is that the accused is almost certainly guilty.
And this in turn has created the most dangerous component of this modern “historic child abuse” terror. We have now reached the point where there are crimes for which there is no defence. To attempt to refute an accusation against oneself – or to try do to do so on behalf of some one else – is to invite condemnation, or accusations that you yourself are complicit in the crime.
We have a name for it. We call it “victim blaming”. To even dare to suggest that someone is innocent is to engage in “victim blaming”. To claim that an accuser may be wrong, or mistaken, or themselves motivated by malign intent is to engage in “victim blaming”. To say “I don’t believe the accuser, I believe the accused” is to engage in “victim blaming”.
We have replaced the judicial process with trial by social media We have now got ourselves into a place where the fundamental principle underpinning our system of justice – the presumption of innocence until proof of guilt – has been turned on its head. With certain “political crimes” there is now a presumption of guilt until innocence can be proven. In fact, we’ve gone beyond that. This “victim blaming” culture is now reaching such a toxic critical mass that even to try to mount a defence against accusations of the vilest crime is of itself to bring accusations of committing a vile crime. “Don’t you understand? When you challenge the account of a 'survivor' you make it harder for other survivors to come forward. And that means you’re effectively letting the abusers go free. Which makes you almost as bad as the abusers yourself."
This is insanity. Almost literally.
In our desire to right historic wrongs we are contaminating the present. We have replaced the judicial process with trial by social media. We are tearing up basic principles that have underpinned our legal system for centuries, such as the presumption of innocence and the right to a defence. We have politicians acting like prosecutors, journalists acting like judges, prosecutors acting like policemen, and policemen acting like politicians.
This whole malevolent carnival is not the product of one man. Every single one of us has, in some part, participated in it. We are all complicit.
So yes, Tom Watson should apologise. But in truth, so should we all.