SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVILISH

Again – yet again – the memorable sketch from ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ springs to mind. Rowan Atkinson and Mel Smith play MPs from opposite sides of the House, engaging in a lively debate chaired by Pamela Stephenson; as their argument reaches fever pitch, Rowan Atkinson keels over and dies of a heart attack. Mel Smith abruptly switches his vitriolic critique of his opponent’s stance midsentence and ends it by paying tribute to a Great Parliamentarian. We’ve seen it one more time today as the death was announced of Labour MP Carl Sargeant, a man who was the Welsh Government’s Secretary for Communities and Children until he was sacked last Friday. The reason for his dismissal was related to another allegation of the kind Westminster has been awash with over the past seven days.

It appears Mr Sargeant’s death was by his own hand, which is always a painfully sad way to end a life; but it was really only a matter of time before one of the politicians falling under the finger of suspicion took this route out of it. The kind of gushing tributes being paid to Carl Sargeant in the wake of his apparent suicide probably didn’t accompany his dismissal and party membership suspension just a few days ago because, as we all know, a man is guilty till proven innocent in ‘the Court of Public Opinion’, that non-Judicial body vigorously endorsed by every MP confident their own conduct was free from the allegations that have plagued other public bodies since society spinelessly kowtowed to the ‘I believe her’ mindset.

The Crown Courts of Britain assemble for business each Monday morning with disparate members of the public pulled out of the Jury Service tombola having to put their lives and livelihoods on ice for a fortnight. Whilst the barristers and judges casually stroll into the hallowed environs smug in the knowledge they won’t be lumbered with the extortionate parking fees that the potential jurors have to endure if they ignore the condescending advice to use that useless means of getting from A to B known as public transport, the system grinds on at a snail’s pace as people without a ‘Right Honourable’ prefix to their names face the music.

These insignificant plebs have been enduring the allegations Westminster residents are now suddenly confronted by for the last half-decade or so; their pariah status is emphasised by the warnings dished out to the jurors that craving a cigarette break outdoors might entail sharing a smoking space with ‘criminals’ – the status afforded the accused before their trial has even been graced with a verdict. Of course, the police and the CPS have no politicised agenda at all, and the accused wouldn’t even be there if smoke hadn’t been sighted before their fire began. Anyone fortunate enough never to have fallen foul of the boys-in-blue nail varnish has absolute faith in their integrity, naturally, and thus a negative opinion of the individual is formed even before the swearing-in ceremony.

Despite the Expenses’ Scandal of less than a full decade ago, the elected gravy train freeloaders have continued to recline in their exalted cocoons, convinced their lifestyle choice has rendered them immune from the curse of the false allegation or the taint of an accusation imbued with the power to end a career. How crushing it must be to finally realise they actually have no immunity from a moral crusade that has laid waste to hundreds of less important lives across the country, not to mention showbiz veterans whose advanced years and kitsch celebrity means they don’t matter.

Chris Evans and his ginger willy aside, there are no further entertainment icons to pursue, and dead public servants have had their graves so saturated with piss that even their pursuers are now seeking a golden handshake – see Wiltshire Constabulary’s Mike Veale. Where else to go to feed the insatiable appetites of Alison Saunders and Vera Baird? Why, Westminster, of course – not forgetting the poor relations of Cardiff and Edinburgh.

It was fine when a dying has-been like Leon Brittan was being shaken out of slumber on his deathbed or a WWII hero like Lord Bramall was having his house turned over on the instructions of a despicable Met chief ironically poised to replace him in the Lords – raised voices were few and far between then. But now we are supposed to be outraged that those who facilitated a climate wherein such events could take place are being bitten by the monster they approved the creation of. Well, sorry for the inconvenience, Westminster 2017; but it serves you right.

Yes, it’s sad that a man has to take his own life in the wake of allegations that have yet to be proven; but how many other lives have been taken in similar circumstances – ones that were denied the spotlight Carl Sargeant’s suicide has received today? And how many nauseatingly hypocritical tributes were paid to those lives when they were lost? Not many, I suspect. I’m afraid the chickens are coming home to roost now, and it’s increasingly hard to summon-up sympathy for the highest profile victims of a witch-hunt that the latest victims of gave the seal of approval to in the belief it would never touch them.

© The Editor

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MAY TO OCTOBER

Let’s face it – this hasn’t been the best of weeks for Tory leaders past or present. A day after the incumbent coughed and spluttered her way through what was supposed to be the moment at this year’s Conservative Party Conference when she reasserted her authority, a predecessor not even alive to combat his critics has seen his name dragged through the mud once again by a provincial police force desperately seeking straws to clutch that it hopes will justify the vast expense squandered on its futile investigation into him. Heath cannot change history; that duty is in the hands of the revisionists. But Theresa May has had ample opportunities to change the present and she seems utterly incapable of doing so; like Gordon Brown before her, poor old Mrs May stumbles into one farcical cock-up after another with the disaster-prone finesse of a classic sitcom character – the sitcom in question being, of course, ‘The Thick of It’.

‘Building a country that works or everyone’ isn’t the most coherent message for the Government to employ as reassurance that the country is in safe hands, but that was the slogan behind the PM when she staged her painful performance in front of the faithful. Party Conference slogans are usually meaningless combinations of words probably concocted by highly-paid strategists during ‘brainstorming’ sessions, but the loss of an F on the one used yesterday actually worked if one interprets it as a fitting symbol for the clueless shower running the show at the moment. Even if one overlooks the dubious attractions of a week-long event with a speech by Theresa May as its intended highlight, the Conservative Party Conference 2017 has been bad by any party standards.

What with Boris Johnson not even bothering to conceal his credentials as a successor and a ‘comedy terrorist’ interrupting the PM by handing her a P45, the whole shambles has been a fitting funeral ceremony for the May administration. Whilst there might have been a degree of sympathy in the hall for the Prime Minister as someone way out of their depth struggled yet again to convince anyone beyond the most sycophantic toadies that she’s the right woman for the job, Tories are not renowned for sentiment when it comes to their leaders. At times, the PM’s speech was reminiscent of an especially bad ‘Dragon’s Den’ pitch, and backstage rumblings of a coup are gathering pace once more as the house of Conservative cards is perilously close to collapsing.

In some respects, many Tories must be relieved the ghost of one of Mrs May’s predecessors has resurfaced, mired in murky hearsay that makes her misdemeanours appear all the more comical. It probably helps too that Edward Heath remains the Conservative Prime Minister whose unpopularity in the party remains as mysteriously potent as it was when he lost two successive General Elections in 1974; the passage of time has not diminished the antipathy he inspired. Indeed, what is a remarkably awful keynote speech when sharing column inches with a headline such as the one I came across on Yahoo News today: Former PM ‘raped 11 year-old boy’? The inverted commas were in place, but that was simple libel-preventing common sense where an unproven accusation is concerned; not that many seeing such a headline will pay much attention to inverted commas.

Operation Conifer, the retarded country cousin of Operation Midland which has spent the last couple of years Hoovering up most of the dead wood from that discredited witch-hunt via the congenital liar ‘Nick’, has come to the conclusion that Ted Heath would have been interviewed during the £1.5 million inquiry had he still been alive; and that kind of curious, nonsensical logic could be applied to practically any situation that didn’t actually happen.

Had Hitler not committed suicide in his bunker, he would have stood trial for war crimes at Nuremburg; had Gordon Smith not fluffed it in front of goal during the dying seconds of the 1983 FA Cup Final, Brighton and Hove Albion would have beaten Manchester United and won the trophy; had I been born twenty-five years earlier in Liverpool, I could have been the fifth Beatle. But, lest we forget, the Wiltshire Constabulary carried out their fishing party not to address the issue of Heath’s guilt or innocence, but to see whether there was a substantial amount of evidence to have interviewed the former Prime Minister, even though he inconveniently died a decade before they began it. Why didn’t they just reunite the ‘Time Team’ crowd and let them dig-up Heath’s back garden?

Are the tax-payers of Wiltshire so financially secure that they can afford the luxury of an existential police force? The county’s boys in blue have devoted the past couple of years to pondering on what they view as a perplexing conundrum – would Ted Heath have been interviewed under caution over allegations he raped an 11-year-old boy in 1961 if he were still alive? Hmmm, that’s a tricky one; let’s spend over a million quid coming up with the answer. Two years down the line, they’ve decided seven of the accusations would have warranted an interview under caution. Well done, lads. A pity the Woodentop who stood in front of Heath’s home and encouraged ‘victims to come forward’ isn’t around to crack open the bubbly, what with him being signed-off on long-term sick leave, but you can’t have everything.

The 100-page ‘summary closure report’ into Operation Conifer claims ‘no inference of guilt’ should arise from the fact Heath would have been interviewed under caution where seven of the 42 accusations are concerned; moreover, Dr Rachel Hoskins examined the so-called evidence last November and came to the conclusion that it ‘exposed a catalogue of fabrication’; she also dismissed the widely-publicised ‘Satanic’ angle so beloved of Icke disciples, advising the police to abandon the investigation. The police ignored her advice, and Operation Conifer has neither proven nor dispelled any of the rumours surrounding Heath whilst costing a small fortune in the process. All we know from its findings is that Ted kept his hands to himself throughout his tenure at No.10, as none of the allegations date from that period, funnily enough. He wasn’t daft, was he?

So, whatever Theresa May puts her foot in next, she can at least be content with the fact that it can’t top Satanic ritual abuse of minors. However, let’s see where we stand forty years hence. They’re a funny lot, those Tories, so you never know…

© The Editor

THE FISHING PARTY

ted-heathIt’s probably true to say Ted Heath was his own worst enemy. Britain’s Prime Minister from June 1970 to February 1974 was famed for his cold, brusque aloofness in company, ignoring VIPs, dignitaries and his own MPs at social functions and earning a reputation as a rather pompous and grumpy old so-and-so that won him few friends and cost him support amongst his peers when he needed it. Yet he himself couldn’t understand why people found it so hard to warm to him; he always saw everyone else as the problem. He came across as uncomfortable, stiff-necked and ill-at-ease when PM both on television and when speaking in public, a poor communicator struggling to get his message across to the electorate. With the possible exception of Gordon Brown, he remains on paper perhaps the most unsuited man for the job in the post-war era, an unlikely candidate for Downing Street if ever there was one.

Yet, put a baton in his hand and stick him in front of an orchestra or sit him down at a grand piano, and he was in his element. A diffident and difficult man whose shyness was often perceived as straightforward rudeness, Heath relaxed when with those who shared his passions. Music had been the main one from day one, though later in life he applied himself to mastering the art of sailing and this became his other great love. The determination he displayed when it came to learning the latter mirrored his political ambitions. Despite his evident limitations for public office, he wouldn’t be swayed and the work he put in was eventually rewarded when he won the contest to succeed Sir Alec Douglas Home as Tory leader in 1965. Five years later he scored a shock win over Labour PM Harold Wilson, a man who had repeatedly dismissed Heath as a lightweight up until polling day in 1970.

We’re so used to the nauseating ‘family shots’ of Prime Minister with spouse and children these days that it seems even more bizarre now to have had a bachelor at No.10 forty-five years ago, let alone one who sought solace of an evening by playing the piano and then took a couple of weeks off from running the country to compete in, and win, a prestigious yachting competition. Heath was certainly his own man, refusing to enter into a marriage solely for PR reasons and brushing off predictable rumours he was an old poof (to use the parlance of the time). Heath became PM just three years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality, though the accusation remained the default insult to aim at the unmarried man; those who were genuinely homosexual during that era tended to marry, such as Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, as a means of deflecting accusations, though Heath had no idea how to interact with women in a romantic manner and didn’t bother trying just for the sake of his public image.

After innumerable difficulties with bolshie unions and Northern Ireland, as well as antagonism over his pushing of Britain to join the Common Market, the Three Day Week was the final straw for the electorate. After losing two General Elections in 1974 and surrendering No.10 to his nemesis Harold Wilson, Heath’s days were numbered. When his unpopularity in his own party gifted Margaret Thatcher the kind of support required to topple Heath as leader in 1975, Heath couldn’t fathom why it had happened and for a good year or so was convinced he could regain his position; when Thatcher won the General Election in 1979, her decision not to award a Cabinet post to her still-active predecessor provoked one of the great public sulks in British political history, one that didn’t end until Thatcher herself was toppled in 1990.

During half-a-century as a serving MP, Edward Heath made many enemies and wasn’t prepared to compromise in order to court popularity. His relatively humble origins for a Conservative leader provoked enmity from the old patrician Tories, who looked down on him as a social inferior, and his obstinacy as PM where the press and public were concerned lingered long after he had left Downing Street. Heath wouldn’t play the game and that kind of attitude inspired grudges that have lasted, even more than a decade since his death. Naming and shaming him as a closet gay, though there was no evidence to back up such a claim other than he never married, is no longer a sufficient weapon in our sexually enlightened day and age, so the default insult now is paedophile, a word that embodies all the revulsion once reserved for ‘queer’.

The last 16 months has seen 21 presumably thumb-twiddling officers of Wiltshire Police pack their rods for a fishing expedition known as Operation Conifer, a sort-of retarded country cousin of the Met’s Operation Midland, in response to unsubstantiated accusations against the deceased PM, and have so far spent £700,000 casting their nets in the vain hope of salvaging confidence in the country’s most discredited public service. Heath’s name had already been pulled out of the fantasist’s hat worn by ‘Nick’, the anonymous accuser of half-a-dozen VIPs and their alleged part in the Westminster Paedo Ring that never was, and Wiltshire Police took it upon themselves to pursue additional ‘credible and true’ accusations even when Operation Midland was rightly recognised as the criminal waste of public money and ruination of reputations it was all along.

This week Operation Conifer was even reduced to ‘investigating’ (and I use that term loosely) the anti-Common Market incident in 1972, when a protestor threw ink at Heath as he arrived to sign on the dotted line that would enshrine Britain’s membership of the EEC. What the hell that has to do with ‘paedophilia’ is nothing other than the painful sound of a barrel’s bottom being desperately scraped. After last week’s damning report into Midland, the continuation of Conifer merely confirms the priorities of the police as a time-travelling hit squad whose interest in solving twenty-first century crimes is secondary to rooting around the dirty laundry of the dead and dying on the hearsay of mentally demented finger-pointers fresh out of therapy.

It’s no surprise they should single out Heath in a last pathetic throw of the dice. His defiant oddness in Prime Ministerial terms was a gift for them, but each victim of the witch-hunt has been an individual eccentric and square peg, characteristics alien to the consensus of the day. Operation Midland has now been acknowledged as an outrage by the media, yet few have dared to allocate the same condemnation to Operation Yewtree, the granddaddy of them all, and a project responsible for the rotting in gaol of more than one household name as well as the soiled gravestones of many more. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it? No, me neither.

© The Editor