Hewitt apologises and the Sun picks up the cudgels
Patricia Hewitt yesterday apologised for failing to recognise the Paedophile Information Exchange's true agenda when it was affiliated to the National Council for Civil Liberties in the 1970s.
Using the very words that most people had been willing Harriet Harman
to utter all last weekend, Hewitt said that she had made mistakes, been naive, got it wrong and apologised for doing so.
The story makes the splash in the Sun and the fronts of the Mail, Telegraph and Times. The Hewitt statement is new, but the core story is still old.
SubScribe has written three times on this subject, so readers will know where it stands and there is no need to go through the previous arguments.
There will, however, be those who see justification in documents that have emerged this week. Without being an apologist for the 'apologists', here are some thoughts on interpretation.
a child over ten could be proved. That does not seem to be quite the same as 'It's OK to have sex with 10-year-olds', which suggests the proposed relaxation of the law was aimed at adults.
Rather it appears to me to be a recognition that teenagers have sex and a reflection of the view that they should not be criminalised. The reference to 10-year-olds and incest was more likely to have been a misguided acknowledgement that precocious pubescent children are prone to experiment and that a brother or sister may be a convenient person to do it with.
None of those involved would dare to put forward that defence in the fevered atmosphere of the past week; best simply to say 'we got it wrong'. And of course they did. But perhaps not quite as wrong as the Mail, Sun and a number of commentators have suggested.
The Labour trio's errors were in not seeing the PIE people for what they were, for mistaking freedom of speech with a licence to abuse. There seem to have been some qualms in the NCCL committee room and efforts appear to have been made to make clear that this was not intended as any kind of paedophile's charter:
“It was agreed that our evidence should propose that if a partner in a sexual relationship was under ten, s/he is presumed incapable of consent. If the partner is over ten and under 14, there is a rebuttable presumption that no consent was given, but the defendant should have to prove that the child consented and understood the nature of the act to which consent was given.”
Of course the approach was still wrong.
But it is also wrong to pluck events from 40 years ago and judge the people involved on the basis of one interpretation of those events, disregarding the attitudes of the time (read David Aaronovitch on this) and everything else that they have done in the intervening period.
A picture of Beaverbrook and Hitler is weaving its way round the internet with a variety of captions. SubScribe will not publish it here, because it imagines the Mail regrets those past links with a vile organisation, for which it has yet to apologise.
The 10-day siege
Wednesday 19 Feb
Mail splashes on 'Labour apologists for paedophilia'
Thursday Mail demands that Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt apologise for historical links between NCCL and PIE. Quotes former detective saying Labour trio made huge mistake.
Roy Greenslade blogs in Guardian that he thinks Harman and Hewitt should explain.
Friday Mail runs inside story quoting Greenslade and an abuse victims' charity
Saturday Mail runs spread on boy abused in Islington care home and repeats call for Labour trio to apologise
Monday Mail attacks continued silence in splash based on weekend columnists.
Harman issues statement and appears on Newsnight, but does not apologise. Says Mail not fit to preach morals.
Tuesday Mail splashes on Harman's failure to say sorry. Harman expresses regret.
Thursday Hewitt appears after 12 days away and says sorry
Friday Sun splashes on 'full horror of paedophile plan' citing 1976 press release signed by Hewitt