Unsubstantiated claims could harm many
Sir Edward Heath was Conservative Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974. Seen by many as a progressive “one nation Tory”, he was fiercely in favour of Britain’s membership of what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) and the man who dismissed Enoch Powell MP from the Conservative Party for his notorious “rivers of blood” speech about immigrants. He finally fell when he tried to take on the National Union of Mineworkers in a strike over pay.
Heath was also a bachelor, and one of the few British Ministers never to have married. He was also seldom seen in female company, and this, coupled with unsubstantiated allegations about male friends, led to a great deal of speculation, even voiced in the media that he was gay. Whether this is true or not, Edward Heath took to the grave with him in 2005.
With investigations continuing into sexual abuse of children by politicians and other high-profile people in the 1970s, allegations have now been levelled against Edward Heath, serious enough that there are now three investigations about his activities.
The first involves brothel madame Myra Forde, whom it has been claimed that, as one of her clients, she knew that Heath had a penchant for little boys and used this to blackmail him into getting a court case against her dropped in 1992.
The second is that Edward Heath was involved in a VIP paedophile ring operating in Westminster in the 1960s, with at least one person alleging he was a “core member”.
The third involves allegations that Heath used his yacht, Morning Cloud, to visit Jersey, a British dependency in the Channel Islands, to visit a home where it is now known children suffered systematic sexual and physical abuse. It is further alleged that he took children aboard Morning Cloud to abuse them.
These are of course serious allegations, and given that it is now known there was indeed a VIP paedophile ring involving politicians in the 1970s, they deserve to be taken seriously. The abuse of children in the 1970s was never taken seriously, which resulted in high-profile people such as Liberal MP Cyril Smith and DJ and celebrity Jimmy Saville getting away with molesting children with impunity. Saville, once knighted for his charity work for children’s hospitals and at one time held up as a national treasure, is now thought to have been one of the most prolific active paedophiles in history, with over 300 cases reported – and people still coming forward. Things are very different today, and however flimsy the claim, the police take these matters extremely seriously and one wishes them every success in their investigations.
So, as a survivor of sexual abuse and as one who despises Tories, why should this worry me? Because of the connotations the abuse claims are already kicking up; that because Edward Heath may have been gay, and now child sexual abuse claims are being levelled towards him, people are already putting two and two together and coming up with five.
The internet is now awash with blogs and commentators on them by people stating that Heath’s dubious sexuality means he must have been a paedophile. Therein lies the danger. Unsubstantiated claims levelled, while there is an enquiry into VIP paedophile rings, people want to believe that Heath was guilty, and as he never married, and was alleged to be gay, he has already been tried and convicted by many.
Time to get things into perspective.
Firstly, and I cannot reiterate this often enough, the overwhelming vast majority of paedophiles are heterosexual men, many married with families of them own. A child is – statistically at least – much safer in the hands of a gay man or a lesbian woman than they are in the hands of a heterosexual male.
Some of the investigations are spurious to say the least, with at least one accuser known to be a fantasist, and others based on hearsay. The investigations apart, one of the more loony accusations that have been levelled against Heath is that he was blackmailed into the UK joining the EEC by people who had proof of him abusing kids. These claims are made by right-wing Eurosceptics who cannot accept the fact that any Tory PM was pro-European.
There’s no proof that Edward Heath ever sailed to or set foot on Jersey, let alone visited the Haut de la Garenne Children’s Home. Nonetheless, there is now one woman alleging that she saw 11 boys boarding Morning Cloud, and counted only 10 returning; the inference being that Heath murdered one of the boys – and of course not one of the other 10 ever saw anything and have never spoken about it.
Former Madame Myra Forde has denied any of the allegations. Through her former solicitor, she has stated “For the avoidance of any doubt, Myra Forde wishes me to make it clear that she had no involvement with Ted Heath of any kind and has no knowledge of any misconduct on his part.” and of the court case dropped, continued that the prosecution “took what, at the time, seemed a sensible decision that they could not prove their case and offered no evidence”. Consider also that for the case to be dropped would need Edward Heath to lean upon the Crown prosecutors, when he was not in office, and really had no power.
Finally, and this must be sacrosanct to any allegations, as much as some of us may hate Tories with a vengeance, the rule of law is that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Edward Heath can no longer speak for himself, but like any accused his innocence must be presumed until proven otherwise.
I had no love for Edward Heath, as I have no love for any Tories, and I am not for one moment suggesting that he is innocent of the allegations laid against him. Investigations are already proving that at the least it is strongly likely that he knew of a paedophile ring among MPs, and did nothing to stop that. But then, he was not alone in that, with Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and perhaps even Nick Clegg and David Cameron sharing that particular shame.
But to accuse a man who may – or may not – have been gay, and then automatically colour him as a paedophile, on the flimsiest of evidence, is to go down a very dangerous road indeed. And a road that could lead to members of the LGBTQI community and single cishet men targeted by lynch mobs as potential paedophiles. It happened once before in the UK in the 1990s, when red top newspapers whipped up public hysteria about paedophiles, and it could all to easily happen again.
Edward Heath was certainly a slimy bastard. I recall him as Prime Minister, with the nightly power cuts and the oil crisis of 1973, with motorists lining up and even fighting for petrol rations. He was a hapless Prime Minister and life was dismal under him. He could have been a child abuser, and he may not have been – that is for the police to investigate and any enquiry, made congnisant with the full facts, to decide; not the public and certainly not conspiracy theorists and keyboard warriors, who however well-meaning, could end up hurting innocent people in the process.