Another nonce - Sir Cyril Smith

overopensights

ADC
Book Reviewer
Around 1972 a childhood friend and neighbor who went to a different secondary school from me, told me about how their well-liked music teacher had engaged him in sexual activity after the lesson at school. My friend told me that he learnt to say "a firm NO" to the teacher and that was enough in order to be left alone. My friend told me about this in order to warn me of such things. We were about 13. I knew then how babies are made but hitherto had no inkling about different sexual orientations/perversions (the instruction given to us an early age, not to accept sweets from strangers, was never actually explained).
A year or so after that I heard boys in my year at school talking about the music teacher at ****** ****** molesting pupils, so apparently it was no secret. A year or two after that the music teacher reached retirement and his school held a gala farewell concert for him - the school hall was packed with parents, visitors etc. and the evening enjoyed by all.
I suppose times have changed.
I went to the cinema one Saturday morning aged about 10 years of age, I was sat next to a chap that I thought was a bit old to watch Roy Rogers. next I knew his hand was on my Knee. I thought what thre feck is he on. I moved and that was that!
My younger brother, better looking than me was chatted up for most of his teenage years, at petrol stns, bus stops and other places. His reaction was to shout loudly 'Bugger off' and it seemed to work.
 
I went to the picture one saturday morning aged about 10 years, I was sat next to a chap that I thought was a bit old to watch Roy Rogers. next I knew his hand was on my Knee. I thought what thre feck is he on. I moved and that was that!
Roy Rogers - that would have been in the '50's?

Glad you escaped from the baddie.
 

overopensights

ADC
Book Reviewer
When I was in junior school down south mid 70s.. The head master used to run nude swimming at lunch time for any of the kids that wanted it. You had to get your parents to sign a disclaimer. He also run a scout group (I did not go to) and he was also a justice of the peace. How times change...
Your school had a swimming pool?
 

Yokel

LE
He’s also one of the Lords who tried to stop brexit so I’m not too bothered.

in his defence though, it’s very easy to demonise somebody through with modern day standards about what happened in a different time with different standards. I don’t believe for one minute that child abuse/rape etc etc were viewed through the same prism in the 70s as they are today.
Nothing to do with sexual abuse, but a slighty random conversation with someone the other week suggested that child abuse was not taken that seriously in 'the good old days' - late sixties/seventies I think.

But does that excuse those who looked the other way? People who chose the easy thing over the right thing?
 
Nothing to do with sexual abuse, but a slighty random conversation with someone the other week suggested that child abuse was not taken that seriously in 'the good old days' - late sixties/seventies I think.

But does that excuse those who looked the other way? People who chose the easy thing over the right thing?
A.N. Wilson writes about it. I hesitate to say "writes well" - it's horrifying stuff - but he does convey effectively how establishments sought to cover up, or even hide in plain sight, their abuses.

 

Yokel

LE
If people cannot be trusted to do the right thing then the law must coerce them to do so. So much for the story of The Good Samaritan.

People have a moral duty to see things and act upon them.
 
How was he allowed to get away with it, for so long ?
That is the real shame, because it was known about 10 years before.
How many kids had their lives destroyed because perverts took advantage of pathetic Liberal councils ?
 
How was he allowed to get away with it, for so long ?
That is the real shame, because it was known about 10 years before.
How many kids had their lives destroyed because perverts took advantage of pathetic Liberal councils ?
I suspect, in part, because he was a fairly important figure - he was regarded as a bit of a figure of fun because of his obesity, plus his appearances on TV where he didn't seem to take himself that seriously, but was an ambitious piece of work, who flipped from Liberal to Labour and then back to Liberal again in part because he felt his ambition was better served by the moves. He gained a lot of influence in the party under Thorpe - who we know to have been a thoroughly disreputable individual who probably should've gone to jail for a long time over the Norman Scott case.

He was a key figure in the establishment of the Lib-Lab Pact which kept the Callaghan administration in office in 1977-78; the initial contact between the Liberals and Labour came via Smith.

He later became disillusioned with the pact, to the point that obituaries said he had little taste for it - but the archives show that it was Smith who got in touch with No.10 which ultimately led meeting between Steel and Callaghan which ended with the Pact.

I once wondered whether or not he was thinking more of coalition and possible ministerial office rather than what eventuated, with the Liberals not getting any ministerial posts in return for their support, but I suspect that he felt that Steel mishandled things and didn't get the party any meaningful influence, hence his resignation from what Steel slightly pompously termed his 'shadow government'.

It's important to note that Steel didn't send Smith to open the bidding - the evidence is that this was an initiative by Smith... (National Archives, PREM 16/395: note from Stowe to Callaghan, 4 March 1977, my source being Jonathan Kirkup's PhD thesis from 2012)

Alan Beith, who replaced Smith as Liberal Chief Whip, has noted in his evidence to the ongoing abuse inquiry that Smith was rarely in the Commons during that period, instead doing a great deal of constituency work in Rochdale. And he was popular in the national party because he would cheerfully go around supporting candidates in by-elections, and attend constituency dinners and the like - so he had a powerful support base amongst the ordinary party members who hadn't the first clue that he was a wrong 'un.

So what you have is a man who does a load of work for his constituents; is well-liked in his party; is a noted public figure and has more influence in the Liberal Party than might be supposed. He also has a certain public persona where he doesn't take himself too seriously, sending himself up on TV (and remember that he appeared in a Bananarama video in the early/mid-80s as well, suggesting an enduring reputation as a 'character').

You then, in turn, get a situation where allegations against him were presumed to be slightly incredible; the incidents which made Private Eye were regarded as being out of character rather than indicative of the fact that he was an abuser. Kirkup's thesis has credible evidence that the Thorpe scandal actually saw a fair amount of sympathy for Thorpe (followed by the dead dog with Norman Scott in third place), so there was a further problem - Thorpe, rather than serving as a warning that all might not be well with a party which was seen as well-meaning and generally harmless, in fact (completely inadvertently) created conditions in which Liberal supporters and sympathisers would be less sympathetic to press allegations than they would be today.

Also, Steel's relationship with Smith was far from cosy. Michael Meadowcroft, in his review of the book which resulted from Jonathan Kirkup's PhD notes how Steel's relationship with his party was bad and how he ignored what the party wanted, acting in a far more presidential style than might be assumed; Smith was furious and openly and roundly abused Steel after the 1983 election.

It's not hard, therefore, to imagine how this played out - popular politician who seems to do an awful lot of good work for his constituents and who has considerable influence in the party is faced with allegations which do not seem credible (in an era when sexual abuse as a whole wasn't taken as seriously as now); those allegations which might have legs do not seem to be that serious and are treated as odd behaviour and as a single issue, rather than signs of ongoing criminal activity. Throw into the mix Steel's fractious relationship with the party, and I wonder whether he regarded the allegations as being nothing more than a damned nuisance, probably untrue and likely to do him no good in the eyes of his party if he challenged Smith over them and it became known that he was doing this - would the party have sided with Steel attempting to discover whether Smith was a paedophile, or would they have seen it as their arrogant, unpopular leader attempting to do down an opponent through smearing him in the most vile manner (apart from the obvious point that it was true)? Is it that Steel is about to be chucked out of the party not for, as the press assumes, supporting Smith and covering it up, but for failing to explore the matter resolutely enough because he thought it would blow his relationship with the party to bits?

Like many abusers, Smith was plausible and cultivated popularity and friendships which shielded him from suspicion until it was way too late.
 
No real surprise with the finding, but what will be the consequences?

'Political institutions failed to respond to historical claims of child sexual abuse but there was no evidence of an organised paedophile network at Westminster, an inquiry has found.

'The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said there had been a "significant problem" of deference towards people of public prominence. A long-awaited report into allegations criticised political parties and police for not acting on information. They turned a "blind eye", it said.

'The report found that institutions "regularly put their own reputations or political interests before child protection". It cited as an example the former Liberal party leader, Lord Steel, who was criticised for not acting on information that the late MP Cyril Smith had abused children.'



Meanwhile. Ming Campbell seems to have lost his moral compass if, as a politician, he ever had one.

'MENZIES Campbell has reportedly warned Willie Rennie he’ll leave the LibDems if David Steel is expelled from the party for protecting a paedophile.

'The Scottish LibDems are bracing themselves for a difficult afternoon, with the publication of a report into Westminster child sex abuse apparently set to castigate the former Presiding Officer for his historical failure to act over predatory beast Cyril Smith. Reports last week suggested the party would expel Steel over his inaction, but that in turn led to threats from other senior figures that they would walk if Steel was made a scapegoat.'


 
He can go back to his constituency and prepare to have his collar felt.
 
Meanwhile. Ming Campbell seems to have lost his moral compass if, as a politician, he ever had one.

'MENZIES Campbell has reportedly warned Willie Rennie he’ll leave the LibDems if David Steel is expelled from the party for protecting a paedophile.

'The Scottish LibDems are bracing themselves for a difficult afternoon, with the publication of a report into Westminster child sex abuse apparently set to castigate the former Presiding Officer for his historical failure to act over predatory beast Cyril Smith. Reports last week suggested the party would expel Steel over his inaction, but that in turn led to threats from other senior figures that they would walk if Steel was made a scapegoat.'
I wonder if the threat was more along the lines of 'there are a number of senior figures, still living, who deserve blame for this, and if you heap all the blame on Steel, we're off...'

Alan Beith was the Chief Whip, and has given evidence to the inquiry - I have a feeling that he may well be in line for a share of the blame in the eyes of the report; Des Wilson reviewed the book about Smith (sadly, for the Daily Mail, but...) and made the following observation:


There was the MP who virtually sustained the whisky industry on his own. If you lit a match too close to his breath you could have made Guy Fawkes Night look like a back-garden barbecue. Many a bar would have been bankrupted without his presence. (And this was before the days of Charles Kennedy.)​
As for affairs, Paddy Ashdown was not the only parliamentary party member whose secretary was valued for more than her typing skills.​
Then there was the local party leader from well to the north of Watford who had to be woken from his bed on many a Friday and Saturday night to attend a local police station and rescue his MP from trouble after he had been picked up in one dubious circumstance or another. This MP once asked me to travel for three hours to speak to his local party one Friday evening. When I arrived at his house he was just welcoming two attractive ‘boys’ who had also travelled from London on the same train. I was put in a taxi and sent to the meeting without even the offer of dinner while the MP headed to some dodgy backstreet club with his much younger friends.​

I'd wager that Ming Campbell is of the view that there are several, still-living Liberal Democrat peers and grandees who deserve to be binned and that he didn't want Steel to take all the blame. Steel has, of course, effectively done just that...
 

philc

LE
No real surprise with the finding, but what will be the consequences?

'Political institutions failed to respond to historical claims of child sexual abuse but there was no evidence of an organised paedophile network at Westminster, an inquiry has found.

'The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said there had been a "significant problem" of deference towards people of public prominence. A long-awaited report into allegations criticised political parties and police for not acting on information. They turned a "blind eye", it said.

'The report found that institutions "regularly put their own reputations or political interests before child protection". It cited as an example the former Liberal party leader, Lord Steel, who was criticised for not acting on information that the late MP Cyril Smith had abused children.'



Meanwhile. Ming Campbell seems to have lost his moral compass if, as a politician, he ever had one.

'MENZIES Campbell has reportedly warned Willie Rennie he’ll leave the LibDems if David Steel is expelled from the party for protecting a paedophile.

'The Scottish LibDems are bracing themselves for a difficult afternoon, with the publication of a report into Westminster child sex abuse apparently set to castigate the former Presiding Officer for his historical failure to act over predatory beast Cyril Smith. Reports last week suggested the party would expel Steel over his inaction, but that in turn led to threats from other senior figures that they would walk if Steel was made a scapegoat.'


This report just about points the finger at all parties for many failings, across the board cover ups and cozying up to pedophiles.
 
I wonder if the threat was more along the lines of 'there are a number of senior figures, still living, who deserve blame for this, and if you heap all the blame on Steel, we're off...'

Alan Beith was the Chief Whip, and has given evidence to the inquiry - I have a feeling that he may well be in line for a share of the blame in the eyes of the report; Des Wilson reviewed the book about Smith (sadly, for the Daily Mail, but...) and made the following observation:


There was the MP who virtually sustained the whisky industry on his own. If you lit a match too close to his breath you could have made Guy Fawkes Night look like a back-garden barbecue. Many a bar would have been bankrupted without his presence. (And this was before the days of Charles Kennedy.)​
As for affairs, Paddy Ashdown was not the only parliamentary party member whose secretary was valued for more than her typing skills.​
Then there was the local party leader from well to the north of Watford who had to be woken from his bed on many a Friday and Saturday night to attend a local police station and rescue his MP from trouble after he had been picked up in one dubious circumstance or another. This MP once asked me to travel for three hours to speak to his local party one Friday evening. When I arrived at his house he was just welcoming two attractive ‘boys’ who had also travelled from London on the same train. I was put in a taxi and sent to the meeting without even the offer of dinner while the MP headed to some dodgy backstreet club with his much younger friends.​

I'd wager that Ming Campbell is of the view that there are several, still-living Liberal Democrat peers and grandees who deserve to be binned and that he didn't want Steel to take all the blame. Steel has, of course, effectively done just that...
Trouble averted; jumped before pushed.

'Lord Steel quit the Lib Dems today after an inquiry slammed his failure to report child sex abuse claims against the late MP Cyril Smith. The former Liberal Party leader, 81, said he will also retire from the House of Lords "as soon as possible" after 55 years' unbroken service in Parliament.

'But the grandee did not apologise or admit wrongdoing. Instead he said he was quitting to avoid "turmoil" in his party. He added he had struggled to hear while giving evidence, and was unable to clarify his evidence to the inquiry. It suggests Lord Steel can no longer be expelled from the Lib Dems - a prospect which had been reportedly mulled by party chiefs.'


 

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