A paedophile ring at No10?
Tom Watson MP dropped something of a bombshell during yesterday's PMQs (iPlayer). It was the sort of question which, had it come from just about any other parliamentarian, and had Mr Watson not been so thoroughly vindicated in his tireless pursuit of the Murdoch press, would have ensured the politician a place in the David Icke school of nutty conspiracy theory. But paedophilia is now irresistably topical, and all suspected offenders must be hunted, exposed and shamed - even if they're disguised as lizards during normal daylight hours and lurk in the cupbaords of Downing Steet or Buckingham Palace.
While MPs were fretting about GDP, growth, fuel tariffs and the West Coast Mainline, Tom Watson asked a question about a paedophile network with links to Downing Street and a former prime minister. He referred to the existence of ‘clear intelligence’, and urged the Prime Minister to investigate.
Mr Watson told a stunned House of Commons: "The evidence used to convict paedophile Peter Righton, if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring. One of its members boasts of his links to a senior aide of a former prime minister who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad. The leads were not followed up, but if the file still exists I want to ensure that the Metropolitan Police secure the evidence, re-examine it and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No10."
Mr Cameron referred to this being 'a very difficult and complex case' (well, what would you say?), and added that he was 'not entirely sure which former prime minister he is referring to'.
The vacuum of unknown unknowns will doubtless be filled (at least in the short-term) by the name of Ted Heath. But, as with Jimmy Savile, it's easy to disparage and defame the dead. If (as seems likely) Ted Heath was gay, it does not follow that he was a paedophile, which is an altogether different sexual predeliction. Former Conservative minister Edwina Currie has claimed that Sir Peter Morrison, PPS to Margaret Thatcher, had sex with 16-year-old boys (when the age of homosexual consent was 21). Again, conveniently, Sir Peter died in 1995.
But His Grace has a slight problem with Tom Watson's allegation.
In David Cameron's never-ending quest for 'gay equality’, and his deepest desire to 'decontaminate' the Tory brand and revive the Conservative Party as a ‘broad church’ of tolerant social liberalism, he has legislated to amend the statutory provisions on paedophilia and decriminalise it retrospectively, thereby rehabilitating those who were disobeying the law at the time. The state has permitted what it once prohibited, and the contemporary permission negates and nullifies historic prohibition.
Now that the age of homosexual consent has been equalised at 16, Mr Watson's allegation of a paedophile ring 'leading to No10' is rendered otiose. Certainly, if Sir Peter Morrison were having sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of homosexual consent was 21, according to David Cameron he is no longer a paedophile.
Indeed, if one were to take an EU-wide perspective on this (being a 'single legal area'), Tom Watson's allegations would not stand up to scrutiny in a political union where the age of consent begins at 12 (in the Vatican) or 13 (in Spain).
There is no agreed EU or European definition of what constitutes pederasty. And if the mystery prime minister to whom Tom Watson refers were having sex consensually with underage boys or girls in (say) the 1970s, the present Prime Minister has absolved his predecessor by redefining 'paedo' and 'consensual'. If past crimes against children would no longer show on a Criminal Records Bureau certificate, no crime has been committed.
Accordingly, if the age of consent were to be lowered at some point in the future (as it most assuredly will be), to 15 or 14 (if only to harmonise with 'ever closer union'), the legal precedent has been set for retrospective absolution. Today's paedophiles can look forward to the eradication of their criminal records, and an assurance that they will not be condemned to the life-long shame of having to declare that they were convicted of under-age sex.
So, Tom Watson is on a hiding to nothing. Parliament has consensualised that which the law said could not be consensual at the time of the act. We may no longer define sexual perversion or judge a person's private morality, for Parliament determines the public law. And Parliament, of which Mr Watson is a participating member, would doubtless deem this former prime minister a 'fit and proper' person to work with children.