I have felt sorry for “the senior Conservative of the Thatcher era” ever since the Newsnight programme alleged that he had committed paedophile crimes, inviting people to trawl the internet to find out more. His friends could not protest his innocence, for fear of naming him when they knew he was innocent.
The Savile case and the “senior Conservative of the Thatcher era ” case have one thing in common – very poor journalism. If you are going to intervene in the exposure and apprehension of serious criminals, you need to get your facts right, you need to have evidence with witnesses, and you need to put the accusations to the accused to see what the defence is going to be. Apparently in the Macalpine case the BBC failed to check that the person accused by their one witness was the correct person, failed to find any supporting evidence for the accusations, and failed to ask the accused what he thought of it. Meanwhile, with the Savile case, there was a failure to unearth all the evidence from a multitude of witnesses, and to produce a programme which delivered the weight of evidence now thought to be out there.
Some Conservatives feel particularly unhappy about the way this has been treated. Of course the treatment of the wrongly accused is the worst feature, but they are not happy that in a fairly unsuccessful attempt to disguise his name the Conservative party was accused of harbouring a paedophile in the Thatcher era. Some Conservatives will ask why the unnamed person had to be described in this way. Would the BBC have said a senior figure of the Callaghan or Wilson era, if the dates had been different, or were they as often seems the case, out to attack Margaret Thatcher? Would they have constantly repeated the word Labour, if the senior figure had been from that party, or sufficed themselves with a general word like politician? Why, in the North Wales abuse cases, did the BBC not constantly refer also to Clwyd Council, the Council responsible for the childrens’ homes? Clwyd was certainly not a Conservative Council. Why did they not add the Labour party label to a very nasty set of incidents if they thought the fact that it was a national Conservative government mattered? Why didn’t the unpublished Clwyd report into the abuse crisis become a matter of interest, as well as the wide ranging enquiry ordered and published by Conservative Ministers?
I like to think that Ministers and senior Councillors of any colour would wish to let the police and prosecuting authorities get to the bottom of any hateful crime, without fear or favour.All decent Conservative and Labour people condemn child abuse as one of the worst crimes. The BBC should be careful about trying to give a party gloss on crime, especially when it gets the accusations wrong.