NCCL paedophilia scandal: Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey will have to resign

04/03/2014 10:56

Press release issued by the NCCL in 1976

I still can’t quite believe it. But here’s the evidence in black and white. In 1976, the NCCL put out a press release proposing that the age of consent be lowered to 14 “with special provisions for situations where the partners are close in age, or where consent of a child over ten can be proved”. So let me get this straight. If the NCCL had had its way, a paedophile could induce a 10-year-old child to have sex with him and, provided he could "prove" he or she had consented, that child's parents would have no legal redress?

As a father of a 10-year-old girl, that fills me with horror. Even if the NCCL had no links with the Paedophile Information Exchange, that would have been morally repugnant. The very idea that a 10-year-old is in a position to "consent" is absurd – blatantly and transparently absurd. But it's worse, far worse than that, because we now know that the NCCL was taking this line, at least in part, at the behest of a group of notorious paedophiles. In 1975, Patricia Hewitt, the general secretary of the NCCL, wrote to the chairman of PIE to thank him for a letter he had written her arguing that the age of consent should be lowered. "We have found your evidence… most helpful and I think it has certainly been taken into account by the people preparing our evidence," she wrote. Sure enough, the following year, the NCCL began lobbying Parliament to have the age of consent lowered to 10. Not only was Patricia Hewitt the general secretary at that time, but Jack Dromey was on the executive committee and he was at the meeting where it was agreed that the NCCL would take this line.

In a statement issued yesterday, Dromey, who is Labour's shadow policing minister, said he was "a lifelong opponent of evil men who abuse children". If that's true, why did he approve the NCCL's decision to lobby for the age of consent to be lowered to 10? Didn't it occur to him that a change in the law along those lines would leave children more vulnerable to abuse by evil men – men in the group "affiliated" to the NCCL and who had been asking the NCCL to take this line? Incredibly, he still hasn't apologised for helping to run an organisation that was linked to a group of paedophiles and nor has his wife, Harriet Harman, the NCCL's legal officer from 1978 to 1982. Instead, they both continue to attack the Daily Mail.

Harman and Dromey's handling of this scandal has been an object lesson in how not to do it. If Harman had taken the opportunity to apologise when she was interviewed on Newsnight on Monday, this story would have gone away by now. Instead, the nation woke up to this headline on the front page of The Sun this morning:

For the Labour Party, that's an unmitigated disaster. Ed Miliband has to take his share of the blame for this because he decided to back Harman's disastrous decision not to apologise and blame the messenger instead. But it's Labour's deputy leader who is most culpable for this disaster – not merely for the numerous mistakes she made while helping to run the NCCL, some of which I listed in my Spectator column this week – but for compounding those errors by refusing to acknowledge they were mistakes. How could she be so idiotic? As I said in the Spectator, is it because she has a moral blind spot and cannot see the full horror of the group the NCCL was linked with? Maybe some part of her won’t allow her to see it because she knows her conscience wouldn’t be able to cope.

An alternative explanation is that she is simply too arrogant. This 1998 interview with Harman by Lynn Barber in The Observer is instructive in this regard. Here's the most telltale paragraph:

She knows she has a problem with interviews. She thinks it is because she is 'prickly' but a better epithet might be snotty. She can't really see why anyone has the right to ask, let alone know, any more than she chooses to tell them.

It's Harriet Harman's snottiness – her refusal to acknowledge that she owes the public an explanation about the NCCL's links with PIE – that has plunged her party into this full-blown PR disaster. No doubt there are more revelations to come, not just in tomorrow's papers but in the Sundays as well. At this point, I don't see what Harman – and Jack Dromey – can do to stop this tide of stories linking the Labour Party to paedophiles other than to resign. Will they be gone by Monday?

More on the NCCL scandal

Hewitt apology blows Harman’s defence out of the water
This scandal is a disaster of Labour's own making
Harriet Harman owes the British public a full explanation

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