I think I’ll toss a new name into the hat full of suggestions for a person deemed suitable to drink from the poisoned chalice that is to be set in front of the ‘Chair’ of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse so recently vacated by Fiona Woolf.
What is needed, is someone truly impartial; neither overly deferential to the ‘establishment’ – nor ideologically bound to place blind faith in the word of the poor ‘victims’. Someone who has shown a lifetime dedication to the noble art of ‘even-handedness’, true equality of dealings between disparate groups. Someone who perhaps has a historic interest in righting past injustices?
I think I have just the man to sup from that cup.
Before I tell you who it is, let us look first at some of the current ‘favourite’ suggestions to replace Ms Woolf.
First a man whose practise it was to don lace cuffs, black breeches, buckled patent leather shoes – and silk, nothing but silk was good enough for his corpulence. He acquired his position in life through the ancient art of a whisper in the ear of the Sovereign by the second highest ranking Great Officer of the State, who had noted his suitability to give counsel to Her Majesty – it’s all positively Ruritanian, and couldn’t be further removed from Fiona Woolf’s humble role supporting tradesmen in the ‘square mile’ as the City of London is known. She may have got the lace collars and cuffs, but she was never sufficiently ‘establishment’ to presume to counsel the Queen!
I speak of course, of Michael Mansfield QC. Michael has earned a small fortune over the years, handsomely recompensed by the State for representing the likes of Arthur Scargill, anarchists who bombed their way through debate, and IRA activists, gaining a reputation for standing up for the ‘little man’ against the might and power of the State – unfortunately, as soon as the State stopped being fair enough to pay him handsomely and support his six children and glorious house in Hampstead for doing this in the name of justice – he stopped doing it and announced ‘with regret’ that his chambers were no longer taking on cases for the ‘little man’…..since when he has concentrated on his after dinner speeches and his media career. He has another ten years to go before he gets his pension – I can see the attraction of chairing the inquiry for him…I cannot, for the life of me, see how he could be described as ‘not establishment’.
Then we have Esther Rantzen. What can one say? Impartial? Unbiased? The TV researcher who persuaded a wealthy businessman to put up £500K to set up Childline in 1986 – a totally anonymous 24 hour a day help line which takes more than a million calls a year from children in trouble – but never heard a whisper about Britain’s Greatest (Dead) Paedophile – Jimmy Savile.
Rantzen became chairman of the charity and Caplin vice chairman, and they recruited an influential management board. The first donations came from the Department of Health and the Variety Club, and one of the first Trustees, the philanthropist Ian Skipper OBE who had already worked with Rantzen to create the Ben Hardwick fund, agreed to underwrite the running of the charity for the first year. BT donated the first premises, and gave them a simple and memorable freephone number (0800 1111). From the start ChildLine relied on volunteer counsellors, and still does, having now evolved a specific training for them, (they currently have around 1600 volunteers regularly donating their time and skill). The charity also relied, and relies, on the generosity of the public to pay for the calls, which are free to the child.
A man who by the latest reckoning spent ‘every waking moment’ plotting his latest abuse – and yet not one ‘victim’ in 30 years, that is some 30 million calls, ever mentioned Jimmy Savile? Eventually she sold Childline to the NSPCC. What makes anyone think that the supposed ‘victims’ of Savile are going to speak openly to this woman now? E’nuff said.
Then there is Jim Gamble. Now he’s an interesting one. On the one hand he’s been a senior policeman, presiding over Operation Ore and was the first chief executive of CEOPS, so he has experience of child abuse. But is that really the prime requisite for a chairperson? There job is to listen to all points of view and consult with all experts – legal, child protection, governmental, and arrive at a balanced, impartial conclusion. Can anybody so steeped in the horrors of child abuse really be that impartial?
There is another problem. Ian Pace, not an ‘abuse survivor’ himself, but a long time campaigner against such abuse – specifically at Colet Court, Meirion Jones’ old prep school; allegedly by Alan Doggett in the 1960s – a man who, inconveniently for clarity, threw himself under a train before his guilt could be tested in a court of law – has thrown some interesting light on previously ignored aspects of the ‘survivors’ objections to Fiona Woolf .
The media honed in on complaints that Fiona lived in the same road as Leon Brittain – but failed to mention the other major objection to her. That she was ‘too close’ to her Butler. Being ‘too close’ to your Butler is about as anti-establishment as it gets. A genuine member of the establishment would slit their throat or take up with the under-gardener before stooping to such a thing.
It was not so much that he was a humble butler that offended, but that he was an ‘acquitted blackmailer’. The highly vocal sex abuse campaigners have a new definition of ‘acquitted’ – it merely means ‘he got away with it’ in their eyes. Thus whilst Colin Tucker is an utterly innocent man in the eyes of the law, he was irredeemably tainted by having once stood trial in a matter concerning the alleged sexual shenanigans amongst the great and the good of the Scottish legal cabal. Clutching an ‘acquitted blackmailer’ to her bosom was a faux pas too far for Mr Pace – had she not quit, he would have endeavoured to make her no doubt innocent relationship with Colin Tucker more widely known.
The details of these are now well-known and need little extra rehearsing; suffice to say that I think if she had stayed in position, some of the seemingly less important connections (in particular concerning her steward Colin Tucker) would have been raked over more extensively in the media.
Which leaves something of a problem for Mr Gamble – for he also is clutching, figuratively speaking, an ‘acquitted blackmailer’ to his bosom. I do seriously doubt that Mark Williams-Thomas is to be found polishing Mr Gamble’s boots – or anything else for that matter – late at night; but if having a close relationship with an ‘acquitted blackmailer’ was a problem for Ms Woolf, then it must surely be a problem for Mr Gamble.
I nominate Herman Ouseley. Who he?
He’s the Peckham lad who made good. He became The Lord Ouseley of Peckham – and he made his name from his commitment to equality, and fairness, and justice for all. Just what this inquiry needs.
He is also the man who rang the Metropolitan Commissioner in the wee small hours – a brief couple of hours after a young black man had been stabbed in South London. He said ‘it was imperative’ that this stabbing be investigated as a racist crime.
Why ‘imperative’ – it might indeed have been the outcome of the police investigation that there was no more to this incident than the colour of Stephen Lawrence’s skin, but that phone call, from you might say, an interested body, excluded any possibility that this might have been no more than the tragic outcome of the tribal nature of young men in a working class society – not that it was the colour of Stephen’s skin that had led to the stabbing, but that he was not of the same ‘tribe’.
Herman Ouseley’s, then chairman of the Equality Commission, phone call that night, led inexorably to the Macpherson Inquiry which ultimately resulted in our police force groaning under the yoke of that ‘institutionally racist’ label.
That in turn led to one of the greatest sex abuse scandals in this country – Rotherham et al.
“To be accused of being racist is the biggest problem a police officer can have. In South Yorkshire, you feared to tread in certain areas because of the racial dimensions.”
Now that is current abuse, and we know the cause, so Herman Ouseley would seem to be an excellent and fitting person to unravel just how it was that our police force ‘fared to tread’ in certain areas.
Equality for all.
Yes, Herman Ousely. Would serve him right.