The loss of Zac Goldsmith and the Lib Dem revival

zac-goldsmith-now-former-mp-pic-credit-bbc

Zac Goldsmith: defeated at yesterday’s by-election by the Liberal Democrats Pic credit: BBC

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I have very mixed feelings about the defeat of Zac Goldsmith in the sensational by election victory for the :Liberal Democrats in Richmond Park.

I completely disagree with him over Brexit and I felt he had been seduced by Lynton Crosby’s dog whistle sub racist and Muslim terrorist smear campaign in the Mayor of London election. Anyone in the Tory Party with any sense should know that this would not work in multicultural and multiracial London from the 2015 General Election result- Labour actually gained seats in the capital. And whatever one thinks of Sadiq Khan he is not remotely a terrorist sympathiser.

But I think Zac should be praised  for a rare  quality in British politics. He is a real democrat who believes MPs should be accountable to the people who elect him.

His plan was to give 5 per cent of the electorate the right to start the process of  forcing an MP to stand down  if they misbehaved badly or were suspended from the Commons. He failed to get such a radical idea accepted in  full – but nevertheless an act was passed which could allow the triggering  of such a process.

He also was a man of his word. He asked approval of his voters to stand for Mayor of London as it would mean giving up his seat and he kept his word  by asking his electorate to approve his stance against Heathrow’s third runway.

This time he lost because  of his stance on Brexit.

It is also to his credit that he is a genuine environmentalist who campaigns on green issues – hence his opposition to Heathrow and his support for renewable energy. It is a bit ironic that the Greens contributed to his defeat as he would agree with a lot of their policies in this area.

He also took a brave  stance on child sexual abuse – particularly when it became clear that his constituency was a venue for historical  child sexual abuse in the 1980s. His stance was justified  when ,under Operation Fernbridge, Southwark Crown Court heard about the abuse of boys at Grafton Close children’s home and a Roman Catholic priest was sent to jail for his part in abusing kids with the now dead head of the home  John Stingemore.. Richmond Council under both the Tories and the Liberals had hidden this at the time.

He also was the driving force to get an all party initiative to set up a national independent inquiry into child sexual abuse because he thought it was such a serious issue. It is not his fault that it is at the moment facing serious disarray and needs to get its act together. He had good instincts and is really concerned about the plight of survivors.

Now why has he lost and what does this mean for the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party.

Political commentators should have seen this coming. The Liberal Democrats have won over 20 council seats since the General Election in by-elections – in some cases with increases in vote share of 30 per cent or more. They are winning in both pro Remain and pro Brexit  areas.There have been gains  in pro Brexit cities like Sheffield – when the Lib Dems leapt over second place UKIP to take a seat from Labour and only last night in Chichester  the Lib Dems took a seat from the Tories in a pro Brexit constituency. In Newcastle – wafer thin remain majority – it is the Lib Dems that are again challenging Labour for council seats not UKIP.

The reason I think is clear. Everyone knows where the Lib Dems stand on Brexit- it is a simple message – and it is getting through and people also remember some Lib Dems as  good conscientious local councillors.

For Labour it is not clear where exactly where they stand. In poor  areas – like central Carlisle and Hackney – where it is clear  that Labour stands for supporting those on the margins – their vote is going up. But in many marginal seats they are starting to lose to the Tories and the Lib Dems. This will not win them the next election and they can’t do it on just defending the NHS – because no party is going to be stupid enough to stand for abolishing the NHS. They are only to chip away at it.

So Labour needs as a matter of urgency to work out some simple messages that voters understand. Otherwise they will lose the plot.An army of  new members will not be enough if they have no simple message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child sexual abuse: Thank you survivors and Zac Goldsmith

Today I got  praised by Zac Goldsmith MP for the work  Exaro and I have been doing on investigating child sex abuse and helping to press for an overarching inquiry into the issue.

But I could not have done this without the help from survivors,contacts  and MPs who have passed vital information allowing me to investigate this scandal in the first place.

Also this is a team effort.  Exaro colleagues like Mark Conrad have uncovered amazing  leads and Mark Watts, editor of Exaro, has fearlessly put this whole investigation together.

There is much more to be done, much more to be exposed, but it is great to get some recognition from MPs like Zac.

I can assure everybody that Zac Goldsmith,Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk are very concerned to get to the real truth behind such a disturbing scandal that has remained hidden for decades. No one is going to be silenced very easily.

Child Sex Abuse: Failings in the Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam Review

Peter Wanless: Some failings in his inquiry PicCredit: www.thirdsector.co.uk

Peter Wanless: Some failings in his inquiry
Pic Credit: http://www.thirdsector.co.uk

Yesterday Theresa May, the home secretary was rightly called before Parliament by her shadow Yvette Cooper, to answer questions about the findings of the Wanless and Whittam Review into the missing dossier naming VIP paedophiles given to her predecessor, Leon Brittan by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP. If Yvette hadn’t done it, Tessa Munt, one of the” magnificent  seven” MPs who called for an overarching inquiry was already planning to do so.

The report with its 12 annexes was rushed out at 11.30 am leaving MPs of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee precious little time to digest it before questioning both authors in a session truncated because of the timing of May’s statement. No wonder Keith Vaz, its chairman, might have been a bit tetchy during May’s statement.

In conducting a meticulous search inside the Home Office  both  Wanless and Whittam did a thorough job – as far as they could – to try and find any references to  what appears to be a long destroyed document. They also exposed the chaotic state of the Home Office’s record keeping and if you look at the annexes to the report shed a little more light on other cases.

So far so good. They then seem to have asked other Whitehall organisations to conduct a search on their behalf but as Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond, quizzed her over the failure to find anything at the old Director of Public Prosecutions, where the dossier was sent, still left a question in this area whether the work had been thorough.

They also seem to have spent some time chasing officials who held documents at the time they have been destroyed in  the hope that they might get them. This is important – even though their report is sceptical about it – because in one of my investigations for Exaro  official documents have turned up because someone kept them in their attic.

They also questioned the Home Office whistleblower who came forward to Tom Watson MP with his fears that a senior civil servant,Clifford Hindley, may have been involved in the funding of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange.

But where they failed – and this was taken up by Steve McCabe, Labour’s shadow social services minister, – was in pursuing civil servants who were around at the time. The lame response from Theresa to appeal to people to come forward was not good enough.

Wanless and Whittam would have seen a lot of documents with civil servants’ names on them because of the way Whitehall has a distribution list for almost every document.Some may be dead, most will have retired.

But they missed an opportunity to be proactive and chase them up. For they must be accessible. They will all be on final salary pensions paid out by Whitehall. It would not be too difficult, to contact the semi privatised agency and get their names and addresses and ring them up. They might be a little outraged about their personal data being accessed – but this is an official inquiry to get to the facts. People do talk to each other – and also someone at the DPP at the time also got that dossier who may not want to disturb a pleasant retirement going on cruises and playing golf.

The result is that we have unsatisfactory verdict of ” not proven ” from this investigation which takes us little further than the Home Office’s original findings.

To get to the truth over child sexual abuse we are going to need a lot of lateral thinking and a sceptical investigative state of mind to prise out information. I hope the overarching child abuse inquiry takes this on board and treats the Wanless review with some forensic scepticism.

Child sexual abuse inquiry:Butler- Sloss quits after Exaro reveals Havers Kincora inquiry connection

Baroness Butler-Sloss Not her brother's keeper

Baroness Butler-Sloss Not her brother’s keeper

Baroness Butler Sloss made a dignified exit as chair of the new  overarching child sexual abuse inquiry today because of a damaging conflict of interest caused by her dead brother, the former attorney general, Michael Havers.

Her decision was announced after it was publicly revealed on the Exaro website that her brother ,Lord Havers effectively skewed the terms of reference of a  inquiry under the late  judge William Hughes to concentrate only  on staff abusing boys and not  possible prominent visitors to the Kincora boys home who are alleged to have abused them.

As Zac Goldsmith MP said on the BBC’s World at One: |”These kind of things are really big and it’s inevitable that a proper, all-encompassing inquiry would find its way all the way to Kincora. It would look at who set the terms of reference. It would look at who was excluded, who was protected by the terms of reference. And that would lead to Havers himself, who was responsible for that.”

Those who study publicly available documents can see both from the terms of the inquiry and an intriguing Cabinet minute already published on this website  which hoped this inquiry would end  “rumour and unfounded accusations”. about sexual abuse at the home.

The judge himself made pointed remarks:.

He wrote: “The conduct of the police, or elected representatives, or clergymen, or military intelligence or any other persons who may have been in receipt of allegations, information or rumours relating to Kincora or any other home, was not under scrutiny in this inquiry.”

What was missing was finding a source who could connect the setting of the terms of reference directly to the then attorney general, Sir Michael Havers.

Both me and my ex Guardian colleague  David Pallister were able to do precisely that over the weekend. A top level  source whose name we agreed to protect said : “Havers briefed him, and it was Havers who gave the terms of reference to him.”

From entirely separate sources I have been aware that Theresa May  has known that this could surface over the weekend and that it could cause immense problems for Baroness Butler-Sloss if she started to probe into the Kincora inquiry and the current inquiry going on in Northern ireland about historic child sexual abuse. But no action was taken.

To put in context Baroness Butler-Sloss is not to blame for this. She is literally in this case not her brother’s keeper. Nor is Theresa May who I have on good authority i\s committed to tackling this problem and was always more sympathetic to an overarching inquiry than David Cameron.

From yet another source the indecent rush to appoint someone to head the inquiry lies at the door of Downing street which shocked by the  slur of child abuse stories making headlines on Sunday made a rushed decision to set up an inquiry after ignoring the views of 145 MPs.

The real lesson from  this latest incompetent and botched up initiative is that  people need to reflect on who they want and take into account the views of victims and  child experts before rushing to fix a problem. The lesson is stay calm and sort it out properly. Otherwise it is just another episode for Yes, Prime Minister.

 

 

Magnificent Seven MPs champion survivors voices on new panel

Zac Goldsmith MP

Zac Goldsmith MP

The seven  MPs who demanded an overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse have written to Theresa May, the home secretary again – this time to say survivors must be appointed to the new independent panel.

My  report on  the Exaro website reveals that the seven have asked for a meeting to discuss who will sit on the panel and what the terms of reference should be.

The letter says: “If Lady Butler Sloss is to Chair the Inquiry, and given the many questions that have surrounded her appointment, it is essential that the group as a whole is absolutely robust, with a wide range of trusted representatives, including survivors.”

The good news is that all the MPs are agreed that survivor involvement is a must and a robust panel is essential. Zac Goldsmith said:”The strength and credibility of the inquiry will depend on the terms of reference and the panel of people, who must be absolutely bullet-proof.

The seven Mps are: Zac Goldsmith, Simon Danczuk ,Tessa Munt,Tom Watson,Tim Loughton,         Caroline Lucas and John Hemming.

It is excellent that the seven are emphasising the role for survivors and tough people on the inquiry. It is exactly what is needed. The signs are that Theresa May is willing to meet them possibly early this week as she is not expected to be affected by the reshuffle.

Zac Goldsmith presses Theresa May for meeting as she says ” not yet” to an overarching inquiry

Theresa May has finally officially replied to a request from now 139 MPs for a Hillsborough style overarching inquiry into historic child sex abuse.

In a more emollient letter to the original seven MPs  who called for the inquiry she is indicating that she will give serious consideration to an inquiry – but not until all the current police investigations are completed.

The full story and texts of the letters between Theresa May and Zac Goldsmith are on the Exaro website today.

Zac Goldsmith has responded by writing a letter to the home secretary.

“The next step is for us to meet you, along with other interested members of Parliament, to discuss the issue more fully.

“It would make sense for this meeting to happen sooner rather than later, and we would therefore appreciate it if you could let us have a date as soon as possible.”

It is also revealed that Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, has gone further than David Cameron and rejected any inquiry into historic child sex abuse saying such a move is  ” a waste of money”.

The letter from Theresa May is encouraging in that she feels she has to  fully respond to a demand from 138 MPs of all parties and is obviously anxious to say that she will thoroughly examine the case after police investigations are completed. But Zac Goldsmith is right to press her much further. His call for an urgent meeting so she can hear the full facts from possibly as many as 138 MPs is exactly right.

As for Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, he obviously believes that  finding justice for child sex abuse victims  is less important than cutting taxes. Frankly this is unsurprising from him – the man who slashed compensation payments for innocent victims of criminals, doesn’t believe prisoners should have any right to read books,and would quite happily see people stripped of legal representation in the courts if they can’t afford it. He belongs to the wing of  what Theresa May once called ” the nasty party.”.

Social workers join lobby for MPs to demand child sex inquiry

 

Andrew Lansley: No debate on child sex abuse now

The professional organisation for social workers, the British Association of Social workers, has asked its 15000 members to lobby MPs to press  for a national overarching inquiry into historic child sexual abuse

It comes as the number of MPs  backing the call  launched by seven MPs including former children’s minister, Tim Loughton and Zac Goldsmith has now jumped to over 100.

The full story by my colleagues Mark Conrad and Alex Varley-Winter is published on the Exaro website today.

David Niven,former chairman of the BASW who runs a child protection consultancy, told Exaro that a national inquiry was “long overdue”.

“A national inquiry is much needed, and it is about time it happened. We have campaigned for decades for an inquiry that would be comprehensive, which would ‘clear the air’, reassure the public and co-ordinate the way forward for child protection.”

All this shows is that the government is going to come under growing pressure to act and that David Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the leader of the House of Commons and the man responsible for the  unpopular  NHS  reform and privatisation  programme, are going to find it more difficult to stick to their line in trying to ignore the move.

Mr Lansley at the moment  doesn’t even want Parliament to debate the issue. I bet you he doesn’t.

Now all MPs asked by their colleagues to back child sex abuse inquiry

Tim Loughton MP

Tim Loughton MP

Every MP in Parliament is to be asked by former Conservative children’s minister, Tim Loughton, and  Zac Goldsmith, Tory MP for Richmond, to sign up to the original call by seven MPs of all parties for an independent panel  to be set up by Theresa May, the home secretary.

The latest move revealed today by Exaro news is a further acceleration of a campaign  which has now attracted support – at the latest count of 53 MPs.

A groundswell of support in Parliament for such an inquiry quickly grew thanks to a crowd-sourcing campaign by Exaro’s Twitter followers (@ExaroNews), and David Cameron was challenged about it at prime minister’s questions last week.

The original seven – as well as Loughton and Goldsmith – are Tom Watson. the Labour MP who raised the Peter Righton scandal in Parliament; Simon Danczuk, who has written a book and raised the scandal about serial paedophile Sir Cyril Smith;Liberal Democrats Tessa Munt and John Hemming and Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP.

Full details of the letter sent to Theresa May and a full list of the 53 MPs backing the inquiry are on the Exaro website.

Exaro Exclusive: The magnificent seven MPs campaign for independent inquiry into historic child sex abuse

Zac Goldsmith MP

Zac Goldsmith MP

An important step was taken today when seven MPs wrote to Theresa May asking for an independent panel  inquiry to be launched into repeated failures by police to investigate thoroughly historic cases of child sexual abuse. They want the equivalent of the investigation into the Hillsborough disaster.The initiative came from Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond, who has become acutely aware that the Met Police have still not got to the bottom of the historic child sex scandal at Elm Guest House in his constituency despite two people  due to stand trial.

He decided that the issue was too important to become a political football and that an all party approach – it involves MPs from four parties- Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green- was the best way forward.

Caroline Lucas MP

Caroline Lucas MP

 The result is revealed on the Exaro website today in two reports by me outlining the letter and the key cases where they have been repeated failures – every time police investigation have come near VIPs. evidence seems to have gone missing, dossiers lost,surveillance material disappearing, seized child porn DVDs lost and even police investigation reports possibly censored.

John Hemming MP

John Hemming MP

The first report on Exaro details the letter sent to Theresa May and the type of inquiry MPs want. The second report goes into more detail about what MPs want investigated. well as Zac, the other six MPs, are the former coalition children’s minister,Conservative MP Tim Loughton; Labour’s Tom Watson, who raised the question of a paedophile ring run by the late Peter Righton; Labour MP Simon Danczuk, the Rochdale MP who exposed further scandals around the late Sir Cyril Smith; Tess Munt, Liberal Democrat MP for Wells and parliamentary private secretary to Vince Cable, who has concerns about physical and sexual abuse in military schools; John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham, Yardley, who has raised similar issues of child sexual abuse, and Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, who expresses concern about the issue.

Simon Danczuk MP

Simon Danczuk MP

 These magnificent MPs have put their political differences aside and put their heads above the parapet. They do not mince their words about the unsatisfactory situation that still persists. 

Tim Loughton MP

Tim Loughton MP

 As Tim Loughton puts it:“Virtually every week, the public is bombarded with new stories about sexual abuse of children coming to light, yet they stretch as far back as the 1960’s.“Few areas have been left untouched with increasingly alarming stories involving schools, churches, care homes, entertainment, sport and of course politicians and celebrities.“Most alarming is a consistent theme of the reluctance or, more worryingly, the seeming complicity of police and other agencies to investigate the allegations seriously, and pursue the perpetrators rigorously.

“Documents go missing and investigations are curtailed with a chilling frequency, and that now threatens a serious undermining of the public’s confidence in our current child-protection system despite all the progress that has undoubtedly been made in recent years.”

Tessa Munt MP

Tessa Munt MP

It is really time to act.  Teflon Theresa May – not known as a shrinking violet in dealing with tough and controversial issues – should very seriously consider what the MPs want and why they feel driven to ask for it.

 

Tom Watson MP

Tom Watson MP