Harriet Harman Labour's top feminazi lawyer
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Many other members of Britain's ruling liberal elite held senior posts at the NCCL when it was closely linked to paedophiles.
What a tangled web Harriet Harman has woven in her attempt to escape her tainted past.
In recent days, this paper has exposed the damning links in the Seventies and early Eighties between the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), a sinister pressure group that campaigned to legalise child sex, and the radical Left-wing organisation the National Council of Civil Liberties (NCCL), for which Harman was the high-profile legal officer.
As public pressure mounted over the Mail’s revelations, Harman finally took to the airwaves to defend herself. Bristling with indignation in a BBC2 Newsnight interview, she refused to show a shred of remorse over the fact that the Paedophile Information Exchange was formally affiliated to the NCCL.
It was a remarkably disingenuous performance. I write that as someone who spent three years running her Parliamentary office, from 1989 to 1992 — an experience that led me to admire some of her qualities, such as her resilience, drive and energy. But on this issue, I am afraid she is being profoundly misleading.
For she has refused to acknowledge the disturbing reality that, in parts of the radical Left in Eighties Britain, there was a climate of opinion which held that paedophiles were an oppressed minority deserving support rather than condemnation.
That astonishing moral inversion was sickeningly illustrated by a Press release issued in March 1976 by the NCCL, which proposed that the official age of consent should by lowered to 14 and even be dropped to ten in cases where ‘the consent of the child’ could ‘be proved’.
Just as disturbingly, the NCCL wanted to decriminalise incest ‘when committed between mutually consenting persons’. Effectively, it wanted to legalise child abuse and depravity. In the dark world envisioned by this organisation, predators would have been able to act with impunity.
Patricia Hewitt, the former Labour Cabinet minister who was General Secretary of the NCCL at the time, has now admitted: ‘I got it wrong on PIE and I apologise for having done so.’
But her public contrition is in stark contrast to Harman, who has maintained all week that she has ‘nothing to apologise for’. Hewitt now says that she and her colleagues at the NCCL were ‘naive’, but this saga was driven by something far worse than mere naivety.
It reflected an extraordinary political outlook which was partly fuelled by other liberation campaigns of the time, with their emphasis on sexual rights and their contempt for the constraints of traditional morality.
Harriet Harman might try to deny it now, but there was undoubtedly an ideological movement within the Left towards a toleration of paedophilia.
This helped to foster a deep moral ambivalence about child abuse, which was not only exploited by perverts, but also ultimately led to a string of appalling scandals, perhaps most infamously at Islington Council in the early Nineties — which was at the time run by Harman’s close friend Margaret Hodge, now Labour MP for Barking.
The Left-wing roots of this movement can be seen in the creation of the Paedophile Information Exchange, which was founded in Edinburgh in October 1974 by two gay campaigners, Michael Hanson and Ian Campbell Dunn, both of them leading members of the Scottish Minorities Group, which later became the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group.
An outspoken, egocentric individual who worked as a town planner in Edinburgh, Campbell Dunn was a trade union official and Labour party activist. At one stage he was a local Labour council candidate, and, before his death, he had applied to become a candidate for the Scottish Parliament.
He publicly denied he was a paedophile, claiming he had become involved in PIE because he believed in supporting minorities. Yet he allowed his flat to be used as the mailbox for an insidious journal called Minor Problems, which billed itself as ‘a radical review for free inter-generational and child sexuality’.
When this was exposed in the Scottish press, Campbell Dunn threatened to sue, but he quietly dropped the legal action after a tape emerged of his boasting about having sex with a 14-year-old boy. At his funeral in 1998, one young man turned up with the bitter words: ‘I just came to make sure he was dead.’ Explaining his anger, he said that he had been raped by Campbell Dunn when he was 15.
After its Scottish beginnings, the Paedophile Information Exchange moved to London, where it rapidly expanded in size, going up from 100 members in November 1975 to more than 250 in 1977. At its peak in the late Seventies, it had 450 members.
Some of this expansion reflected its gradual takeover of the extremist outfit the Paedophile Action for Liberation (PAL), which lobbied for the abolition of the age of consent.
Instead of cowering in the face of justified public opprobrium, the increasingly self-confident Paedophile Information Exchange went on the offensive to promote its cause. Part of its strategy was to link up with other Left-wing campaign groups. So it infiltrated the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) and, more importantly, joined the National Council of Civil Liberties.
And what is so striking about the NCCL at the time of PIE’s affiliation is how many of its top officials went on to become major figures in the Labour Party or in civic life. As well as Harriet Harman’s husband Jack Dromey, who was chairman of the NCCL, the body’s General Secretary was Patricia Hewitt, later a Labour Cabinet Minister.
There was also Henry Hodge, a solicitor, Labour Parliamentary candidate, and Islington councillor, who was elected chairman of the NCCL in 1974.
The husband of the aforementioned Margaret Hodge (the future Islington leader and East London MP, and now the influential chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee), Henry Hodge later became Britain’s most senior immigration judge before his premature death in 2009.
Other key members of the NCCL in this period included its chairmen Bill Birtles (who married Patricia Hewitt and is now a High Court judge); barrister Peter Thornton (now Chief Coroner of England and Wales); Catherine Scorer (who worked as a trade union legal officer); and Larry Grant (who became an adjudicator at the Immigration Appelate Authority).
Executive members included: Tony Smythe (later head of the mental health charity MIND), Bernard Dix (a Marxist trade union leader), Anna Coote (subsequently a think-tank adviser), Jo Richardson (who became a Labour MP), Tess Gill (later a senior union officer and lawyer), the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson (who has since defended WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange), one-time Communist Sue Slipman (later a quango chief), Paul Boateng (who became a Labour Cabinet minister, then British Commissioner in South Africa and now a Labour peer), and there was legal officer Howard Levenson (now a judge of the Upper Tribunal — a senior judicial appeals body).
It is, in short, an astonishing list of the Left-wing great and good.
‘We thought we could manipulate the Establishment and find allies within it,’ said the former PIE chairman Tom O’Carroll. Through the NCCL, he achieved a degree of success in that aim, at least within the Left.
In her Newsnight interview this week, Harriet Harman downplayed the importance of the PIE affiliation in 1975, implying it was only a minor administrative matter, which the NCCL could do nothing to prevent.
Yet O’Carroll told Radio 4: ‘Harman and Hewitt couldn’t just kick us out, or they could but they didn’t try. The reason was their careers in the NCCL depended upon them not rocking the boat too much.’
And indeed, Stephen Green, the Christian campaigner and author who conducted extensive research in the NCCL archives in the mid-Eighties, says that the initiative for affiliation actually came from the NCCL itself. According to his research, the NCCL officer Nettie Pollard, who worked in the organisation until the late Nineties, ‘wrote a letter inviting the Paedophile Information Exchange to affiliate in 1975’.
Pollard, a militant lesbian and gay rights campaigner and a member of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality’s executive, was a powerful voice in support of a more relaxed approached to child sex.
In 1980, she even helped Tom O’Carroll with the writing of his proselytising book Paedophilia: The Radical Case. Such support reflected her own belief that children are sexual beings and that Britain ‘should eliminate harmful age of consent laws’.
The extreme nature of her views was highlighted in a 1993 feminist book to which she contributed a chapter. ‘Far from being innocent and becoming sexual at puberty, it is now indisputable that everyone is sexual even before birth,’ wrote Pollard. ‘Babies often react sexually when being held, or in other moments of physical pleasure.’
This is the mentality of the woman who worked at the NCCL alongside Harman, Dromey, Hewitt and Henry Hodge in the Seventies and early Eighties.
The assertion that child sex campaigners had absolutely no impact on NCCL is further undermined by the annual report of the Paedophile Information Exchange for 1975/76 — now held in the British Library — written by its chairman Keith Hose, the predecessor to Tom O’Carroll. In this incriminating document, Hose openly boasts about how his involvement with the gay rights sub-committee directly influenced NCCL policy.
As he put it: ‘Copies of our evidence were sent to the executive of the NCCL before their decision on their policy in this area was reached, and some of the proposals of the gay rights sub-committee were adopted.
‘The section on paedophilia in the report would undoubtedly not have been as positive had it not been for our lobbying. Our report therefore had some effect on the NCCL.’
Such words reflect the ideological madness that had infected sections of the Left, presenting abuse as childhood freedom or a lifestyle choice. What Hose called ‘positive’ would have been described by most people as monstrous.
Fascinatingly, one contributor to a website that criticises police action against child pornography made this recent statement. ‘I used to read Peace News (a pacifist journal) and I belonged to the NCCL. Many articles in Peace News and other libertarian/alternative journals were written in support of PIE’s aims and children’s rights.
‘I think it is extremely important to remind today’s fascistic Britain that things were very different then, and some people believed passionately in children’s sexual rights, lowering the age of consent, opposing corporal punishment in schools and liberalising child pornography. Sexual rights were part and parcel of the children’s rights movement.’
In this political culture, paedophiles were gaining a spurious form of credibility.
So Tom O’Carroll was invited to address an NCCL conference, and sat on an NCCL gay rights sub-committee alongside Nettie Pollard. When O’Carroll was finally arrested in 1981 — and later convicted — for conspiring to corrupt public morals, the NCCL expressed its outrage at the ‘deplorable nature of the conspiracy charge used by the prosecution’, to quote the words of Patricia Hewitt at the time.
In the group’s official publication, The NCCL Guide To Your Rights, an address was provided for the Paedophile Information Exchange at Elgin Avenue in West London. This was, in fact, the base of Release, an ultra-liberal drugs charity that received funding from the Home Office.
(The question of whether PIE itself received government funding was raised this week by the Labour MP Tom Watson.)
During her appearance on Newsnight this week, Harman claimed that PIE had been pushed out by the NCCL by the time she was appointed legal officer. But this is hardly the case. PIE remained affiliated until 1983, a year after Harman left her post on her election as Peckham’s MP. Indeed, her successor as legal officer, Marie Staunton, openly defended the affiliation in an astonishingly frank statement of September 1983, which reflected the continued hold of the sexual rights agenda.
‘Unless something is unlawful, people should not be prosecuted for the opinions they hold. The NCCL is campaigning to lower the age of consent to 14. An affiliate group like the Paedophile Information Exchange would agree with our policy. That does not mean it’s a mutual thing and we have to agree with theirs.’
Like so many others in this saga, Ms Staunton — now a CBE — has gone on to have an elevated public career, enjoying spells as the British director of Amnesty International and deputy director of Unicef in the UK, and head of the international charity Plan International. She is now chair of the overseas environmental charity Raleigh International.
Even though the Paedophile Information Exchange went into rapid decline from 1984, when two of its leading members were jailed, the propaganda in favour of child sex continued. Exploiting the language and dogma of the radical Left, supporters of paedophilic activity portrayed the law as an outmoded instrument of repression, similar to the institutionalised prejudices against women and gays.
That viewpoint was graphically illustrated in an extraordinary book entitled The Betrayal Of Youth: Radical Perspectives On Childhood Sexuality, published in 1986 and compiled by PIE activist Warren Middleton.
Among those thanked in the preface were, inevitably, Nettie Pollard of the NCCL, as well Dr Brian Taylor, a sociology lecturer of Sussex University and Dr Ken Plummer, of Essex University. Both these academics were involved in the drive for acceptance of paedophilia.
In fact, Plummer, the former head of the Sociology Department at Essex, where he worked for 30 years, openly stated that his aim with paedophilia was to ‘humanise it, normalise it and politicise it’.
Fortunately, in our post-Jimmy Savile times, we are far more aware of the consequences of paedophilia. Yet there are still some on the Left who are drawn to this dark world, as can be seen in the catalogue of cases of abuse in recent years by Labour councillors and activists.
For example, Stephen Carnell, a school governor and the agent to Labour MP Chris Bryant in the last general election, was jailed for three years after being caught with 12,000 indecent images and 450 films. And Peter Tuffley, a former aide to Labour Cabinet Minister Hazel Blears, was jailed in 2006 for grooming a 13-year-old on the internet.
There have, of course, been a large number of cases involving Tories and Liberal Democrats. But the two crucial differences are, first, that the Left likes to pretend that it has a monopoly on compassion and, second, that a pernicious creed of ‘children’s rights’ underpins much of this activity. It is a creed that has its origins in the period when Hewitt, Harman and Dromey were at the heart of the NCCL.