Mark Clarke and the YBF – Some Notes

Expanded 29 November

A somewhat overlooked detail from the Daily Mail, 8 November:

Donal Blaney, chairman of the Conservative Way Forward campaign group, where Johnson worked, said Clarke, currently suspended from the party, should be thrown out permanently by Tory chairman Lord Feldman – now.

Lawyer Mr Blaney, a close friend of several Cabinet Ministers, said Clarke had violently threatened him twice, including once on the House of Commons terrace.

He said: ‘He started effing and blinding at me over something trivial. I told him I would not put up with it. He went totally berserk. His temper goes from nought to 60 miles per hour in a second. It is very scary. It’s no wonder people, me included, feel intimidated by him.’

Mr Blaney got to know Clarke through the Young Britons’ Foundation, an organisation set up by Mr Blaney to find future Tory leaders.

Clarke allegedly assaulted a female Tory official when he ‘gatecrashed’ a YBF event in Washington DC in the summer.

Mr Blaney banned Clarke from the YBF in August, after he physically threatened [Elliott] Johnson in Westminster’s Marquis of Granby pub in front of shocked bystanders.

As has been widely reported, Johnson was found dead on railway tracks on 15 September. He had left a note, in which he accused Clarke of bullying him. Assuming that the Mail‘s timeline is accurate, Blaney is to be commended for having moved against Clarke before the tragedy, rather than as a response to it. Clarke is now facing further allegations of bullying, and of blackmail and predatory sexual behaviour.

However, it has to be said that the Mail report is somewhat remiss in that it fails to explain exactly how it was that “Mr Blaney got to know Clarke through the Young Britons’ Foundation”. Blaney co-founded the YBF, and Clarke was for a time actually its “Outreach Officer”. Although details have been removed from the YBF website (with a number of pages now bringing up an error message), Clarke was also the recipient of a YBF award.

Clarke also appears front and centre in a group photo that until a few days ago served as the banner for the YBF Twitter stream (it was removed just after this post first went live on 22 November); the photo was taken at the most recent YBF conference, and Clarke is shown standing alongside Blaney and the then Conservative Party Chairman, Grant Shapps (Johnson can be seen standing over to the left) (1, 2, 3).

It has also been widely established that Clarke has been having an extramarital affair with India Brummitt, who until June was the YBF Operations Manager, and according to one report they recently attended a wedding as a couple. The bridegroom was Greg Smith, who co-founded the YBF with Blaney, and who is currently the YBF Campaigns Manager. Apparently there was a scene when another Conservative berated Clarke for not being at home with his family.

Further, Blaney’s apparent long-standing distaste for Clarke is something of a surprise: following the general election in May, Blaney wrote two Tweets praising Clarke’s efforts. One of these referred to several individuals, and Blaney reasonably had to include Clarke to avoid making a public snub; but this was not the case with the other Tweet, which observed that the Conservative vote in Tooting was less than had been the case in 2010, when Clarke had stood as the candidate. Tim Fenton at Zelo Street has more details on Clarke’s association with Blaney and the YBF.

Meanwhile, details about the alleged assault in Washington are vague, and the Mail article appears to be the only source. Taken literally, the report reads as if Clarke had knocked someone out of the way while forcing his way into the venue, but this does not seem to be the most likely interpretation. It is more reasonable to assume that “gatecrashed” merely signals that Clarke had tagged along in an unofficial capacity – perhaps in the company of Brummitt (although she had started a new job elsewhere a couple of months previously).

The Washington event would have been the YBF’s “Reagan-Thatcher US Summer Conference Programme”. According to the YBF website, participants stay at Marymount University, where they hear from “scholars at the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Leadership Institute, America’s Future Foundation, Media Research Center and Campaigns & Elections magazine”, before moving on to George Washington University “to network with hundreds of college students from across the United States and to hear from leading conservative speakers such as Newt Gingrich, Fred Barnes, Michael Reagan and George Allen at the Young America’s Foundation National Conservative Student Conference.”

Footnotes

(1) Clarke’s association with the YBF has also been foregrounded in older media reports. In 2010, when Clarke was standing for election, the Guardian noted:

Susan John-Richards, a former Conservative who is now standing as an Independent in the south London constituency, has found that her personal website, susanrichards.com surprisingly links inquirers to that of her Tory rival, Mark Clarke. Weirdly, so does susanrichards.org and susanjohnrichards.net. The matter has been referred to the Electoral Commission. Meanwhile, Clarke denies all knowledge. Nothing to do with him, couldn’t stop it if he tried. Whoever could have done something so dastardly? Step forward, one Matthew Richardson, who set up the sites last week. Who he? A close friend of Clarke’s and colleague on the Young Britons’ Foundation…

Three years later, the Evening Standard ran an article about an alleged attempt to bring Conservative militants into the City of London Corporation through “dirty tricks”; the report noted that “many of the candidates linked to Mr Clarke are involved in the Young Britons’ Foundation or the Right-wing Trade Union Reform Campaign.”

(2) Not all party chairs have shared Shapps’ enthusiasm for the YBF. In 2010, Eric Pickles disassociated the party from the YBF’s support for waterboarding.

(3) Shapps is one of several senior figures with questions to answer about the mishandling of bullying complaints received by CCHQ – including the apparent improper disclosure of confidential statements by complainants. Following the election in May, Shapps was removed as Chairman and made International Development minister. Although this is a perhaps more interesting job, it was widely seen as a demotion in the wake of various controversies. The Clarke scandal has now led to Shapps resigning as a minister.

Robert Spencer Misleads on Muslims at Place de la République

From Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch:

France: Only 30 Muslims show up for rally against Paris jihad attacks

That’s thirty Muslims out of around five million Muslims in France.

Spencer’s source is the Daily Mail, although the quote he provides doesn’t support the spin he’s put on the above:

As crowds continued to gather at the Place de la République last night, laying flowers and lighting candles in memory of the dead, a group French Muslims held up banners and started to chant.

‘Unite against brutality, unite for humanity!’ They shouted. ‘Killing any human is killing all mankind! Saving any human is saving all mankind!’

Around 30 Muslims, all of Bangladeshi origin and living in Paris, felt they had to take a stand against Islamic extremism because – as they saw it – few other Muslims were willing to raise their voices.

In order words, there was no “rally” – the “crowds” consisted of individuals who were present at the Place de la République for informal commemoration, and one particular Muslim group (consisting of the “World Sunni Party” and the “World Humanity Revolution Party“, according to its banner) decided to make an organised statement, which was noticed by a journalist. That’s it.

To extrapolate from that to the supposed contrasting attitude of “five million Muslims in France” is dishonest. Nobody knows how many French Muslims have so far visited the Place de la République in the wake of the massacre, although footage and pictures showing other identifiable Muslims present (some holding home-made banners) is easy enough to find.

Apparently there will be an organised rally on Friday, and Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, has called on Muslims to take part.

When your hate-mongering can be debunked by careful reading of the Daily Mail, it’s time to take stock.

Spencer’s misrepresentation has been picked up Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit as “Only 30 Paris Muslims Protest ISIS Attacks”, which in turn is being promoted by WND. Hoft, of course, is famously “The Stupidest Man on the Internet” – but what’s Spencer’s excuse?

New Claim that Complaint Information was “Leaked” to Mark Clarke

From the Telegraph:

A Tory aide accused of bullying and sexual harassment allegedly confronted a second reported victim after being “leaked” details of an internal Conservative inquiry.

Mark Clarke approached the person at a party just hours after they made a formal complaint against him, claiming he knew the names of others who had also expressed concerns, it has been claimed.

…The second alleged victim claims Mr Clarke was given the information about their complaint by a senior Conservative party source within CCHQ.

..A Conservative spokesman said: “It is not correct that the names of complainants were leaked by the Party; if names were leaked by anyone else, the Party will take all necessary steps to find out how that occurred.”

That spokesman’s quote should ring alarm bells. Obviously, the “alleged victim” is suggesting that the “senior Conservative party source” acted improperly, not that this was an official act by “the Party”. To begin a response with “It is not correct” is a lame attempt to suggest that the “alleged victim” has said something doubtful, while diverting attention away from anything of substance.

How can we have any confidence that the Party “will take all necessary steps” when its default position is such an obvious mix of studied obtuseness and glib complacency? It seems to me that this is just further evidence that complaining to CCHQ about bullying risks escalating attacks, and that there needs to be an independent enquiry. Details about a petition calling for this can be found here.

UPDATE: Hours before a report on Newsnight, the Conservative Party announced that Clarke had been expelled “for life”. Ben Howlett MP, who was formerly chair of Conservative Future, says that complaints about Clarke go back to 2010, but that successive chairs had failed to act:

Mr Howlett said: “We’ve complained about him [Clarke] for a long period of time, and it’s not just him, it was people that were attributed to him as well.

“I complained when I was national chairman directly to Sayeeda Warsi as the party chairman, I complained directly to the chairman’s office when Grant Shapps took over as the party chairman and I have to say Lord Feldman has been well aware of all this, for a very long period of time.”

Asked about Mr Howlett’s claims, the party said Lord Feldman was not aware of allegations against Clarke until August 2015 when he “acted immediately to set up an internal disciplinary inquiry”.

A Conservative spokesperson said on Tuesday night: “We have been checking and rechecking, but have not been able to find any records of complaints that were made but not dealt with – but we are determined to get to the bottom of what’s happened.”

***

Background

Allegations against Clarke have been piling up since September, following the death of a young Conservative activist named Elliott Johnson. Johnson had made a complaint of bullying by Clarke to the party chairman, Lord Feldman, after which he was confronted by Clarke in a pub and pressured to withdraw it. Johnson named Clarke in a note which came to light after Johnson was found dead on a railway track; the tragedy is being reported as suicide, although his family think he may have changed his mind at the last moment but was unable to move out of the way of an oncoming train in time.

Breitbart London subsequently reported:

Breitbart London can exclusively reveal that a number of Conservative activists have now come forward with allegations that Mr Clarke had also attempted to bully them. One source told us this afternoon: “He was threatening young women, claiming that he could influence the Conservative Party’s selection process and candidates list.” 

…An e-mail from an unrelated incident clearly shows Mr Clarke allegedly demanding the attendance of a young activist at Tory Central Office, for an issue allegedly unrelated to the Conservative Party. Mr Clarke wrote in August last year: “I am a Director in CCHQ. Do you understand this simple fact? I am telling you that we want to have a meeting with you. A member of my team, who is also a staff member in CCHQ and reports into the Chairman’s office asked you to attend.”

…Further to this, Mr Clarke is alleged to have written: “I am a Director in CCHQ. I report into the Party Chairman directly…”

…This e-mail may raise questions as to whether or not Mr Clarke was directed by the party chairman at the time, Grant Shapps, to act in such a manner.

So far, this isn’t something that Shapps (whose own integrity is questionable) has felt the need to clarify.

In May, Ben Harris-Quinney, who was suspended from the Conservative Party for suggesting tactical voting for UKIP,  told the Spectator that “there have been a number of online articles over the past few weeks that are inaccurate and clearly designed to defame my character, this organised campaign appears to have strong links to Conservative Central Office”; as the controversy around Clarke grew he told the Sunday Times that Clarke had warned him after a clash that “attacks would be widespread, that would come from a number of anonymous individuals and I would not be able to pin it down on anyone at Conservative Central Office.”

A further particularly audacious allegation came to light over the weekend; the Mail on Sunday broke the story:

The Tories were rocked by a new scandal last night after a Cabinet Minister confessed to an affair after being told he faced a blackmail plot by a senior aide to David Cameron.

The Minister informed No 10 he had been told Tory director Mark Clarke intended to film him and his female lover leaving a London club where they met for trysts.

He ended the six-month affair in May, the same month in which his lover, who holds a high profile Conservative post, was tipped off about the alleged blackmail plot.

…A well-placed source said: ‘They were going to send the incriminating photo to the Minister in a plain manila envelope so they could blackmail him,’ said the source. ‘Clarke wanted political favours.’

The minister was subsequently named as Robert Halfon. Blackmailing a cabinet minister is an incredibly serious matter – it’s not just illegal, it has potential security ramifications. Would a young Tory aide really have planned such a reckless escapade on his own initiative? And what kind of “political favours” would Halfon be in a position to provide?

Other allegations around Clarke are more sordid: there are claims of predatory sexual behaviour (“Two… women say that he bragged of using alcohol to make women sleep with him, calling it his ‘IIP’ technique: ‘Isolate, Inebriate and Penetrate”), and of another blackmail plot which involved attempting “to leak a video of another Tory rival duped into performing a lewd sex act in a film sent to a fake website in the name of a French woman.”

Clarke has denied all the allegations, and claims that he is being targeted for attempting to expose drug use among Conservative activists.

WND Selling Bizarre “Bible” Containing “Lost” Chapter of Acts

An advert on the front page of WND:

Best-selling Bible of 2015 – off today!

Clicking the link takes us to the “WND Superstore” page, where there are details of a book called the Cepher, supposedly “the most complete and accurate English translation and transliteration of sacred Scripture in the world today.”

By “most complete”, this means that it contains material that is not normally found in Jewish or Christian Bibles:

Includes all of the 74 previously canonized books, plus another 13 books considered to be inspired and/or historically significant such as Chanok (Enoch) & Yovheliym (Jubilees) from the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as Yashar (Jasher), 2-4 Ezra (Esdras), 1-2 Baruk, and 1-4 Makkabiym (Maccabees) – all published in the chronological order of their writing.

Restores the 29th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles chronicling Paul’s journey to Spain.

Further background can be found on the book’s official website:

…Speaking of the book of Acts, unlike all other English Bibles, we have the completed text of this book, finishing with Chapter 29 (in reliance on the Suninni Manuscript and the Muratorian fragment).

The “Suninni Manuscript” is actually the “Sonnini Manuscript”, and it was forged in the nineteenth century to promote British-Israelism. Craig A. Evans has some details, drawing on Edgar Johnson Goodspeed’s 1979 book Strange New Gospels:

…Acts 29, supposedly translated by C. S. Sonnini, from a “Greek manuscript found in the Archives at Constantinople.” Publisher T. G. Cole tells us that the text was found “interleaved in a copy of Sonnini’s Travels in Turkey and Greece [sic] and purchased at the sale of the library and effects of the Right Hon, Sir John Newport, Bart., in Ireland (Goodspeed, 59). The alibi is clever, for Charles Sigisbert Sonnini (1751-1812) was a real person, who in fact published Voyage en Grèce et in Turquie, which appeared in English as Travels in Greece and Turkey. (1)

It was published as The Long Lost Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: Containing the Account of Paul’s Journey in Spain and Britain : Also a Remarkable Prediction of Britain’s Glorious Inheritance. The English text of this spurious document can be found online quite easily. Here’s an extract (commentary added by some British-Israelite enthusiast):

1- And Paul, full of the blessings of Christ, and abounding in the spirit, departed out of Rome, determining to go into Spain, for he had a long time proposed to journey thitherward, and was minded also to go from thence to Britain.

2- For he had heard in Phoenicia that certain of the children of Israel, about the time of the Assyrian captivity, had escaped by sea to “The Isles afar off” as spoken be the Prophet [Esdra], and called by the Romans – Britain…

7- And they departed out of Spain, and Paul and his company finding a ship in Armorica sailing unto Britain, they were therein, and passing along the south Coast, they reached a port called Raphinus. (This is the Roman name for Sandwich, in Kent. In Saxon times there was, still standing in Sandwich, and old house called the “House of the Apostles: and tradition has it that Paul was one of the Apostles)…

9- And on the morrow he came and stood upon Mount Lud (Ludgate Hill and Broadway where St. Paul’s Cathedral stands in London, England) and the people thronged at the gate, and they believed the Word and testimony of Jesus.

This story of Paul travelling to Britain to preach to lost Israelites is so ludicrous as to be barely worth commenting on. There is no ancient document to support the suggestion that anyone in the first century believed in “children of Israel” travelling to Britain, and nothing to support the notion that such a story would have influenced where Paul decided to visit.

One wonders why the WND advert mentions the text’s reference to Spain (which at least has some support in early Christian tradition) but declines to refer to the British connection. Is it because they knew it would be too ridiculous to credit? Given this, it seems likely that the Book of Jasher in the same “Bible” is the eighteenth-century forgery known as Pseudo-Jasher.

The Cepher also includes various tinkerings with the text of actual Biblical books. Returning again to the fuller description:

For instance, every English Bible makes a huge error in the Song of Solomon concerning the gender of the speaker which, of course, completely destroys the text.

…Another glaring error is the genealogy set forth in Matthew 1 is that of Miryam (Mary), it is not the genealogy of her husband Joseph! Count the generations: 14, 14, and 14 – except in every English Bible the last set has 13. This error was easily corrected, once we realized that Joseph (Yoceph) was also the name of her father.

And so on. Pretty bold given that the Bible’s creator, Stephen Pidgeon, describes himself on Linkedin as having “Limited working proficiency” in Hebrew and makes no mention of Greek.

This eccentric document would be of little interest, were it not for the fact of WND‘s influence in promoting a fundamentalist form of Christianity within American conservatism. For instance, WND editor Joseph Farah is close to Jonathan Cahn, currently one of the most popular “End-Times” commentators within neo-Pentecostalism, and to Jim Bakker. But it seems to me that most Christians would regard the Cepher as a completely unacceptable corruption of the actual Bible. How can this be the “Best-selling Bible of 2015”?

According to the blurb:

The Cepher Publishing Group is an assembly of believers who have come together to bring the unabridged Word of the Heavenly Father to the world in printed form.  In the late 1990s, Stephen Pidgeon, the group’s founder, discovered that many books and other texts were missing from the Bible.

He was assisted by a certain Brad Huckins. Pidgeon is also the author of a “Hebrew Roots Daily Planner” – I previously blogged on the “Hebrew Roots” movement here.

Pidgeon, who resides in Washington State, also has other interests, such as opposing same-sex marriage and promoting Birtherism and other anti-Obama conspiracies. Equality Matters has a profile.

Footnote

(1) Footnote on page 80 of Craig A. Evans, “Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt”, in Ancient Gospel Or Modern Forgery?: The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate, ed. Tony Burke, 2013,

Walid Shoebat Addresses Jersey Shore Police Officers

From the Asbury Park Press:

A purported “expert witness” on Islam known for his anti-Muslim and anti-gay views, and whose claims that he is an ex-Palestinian terrorist have been discredited by news media and other groups, was paid thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to address police at a seminar in Ocean County last week on counter-terrorism.

The appearance Nov. 2 by Walid Shoebat, a Palestinian-American who bills himself as a former Muslim terrorist turned Christian, was attended by more than 60 law enforcement officers from throughout the Jersey Shore and sponsored by the Ocean County Police Academy, the Asbury Park Press has learned.

…A total of 62 law enforcement officers participated in the in-service training and Shoebat was paid a fee of $109 per person, paid for by each officer’s employer or union, all depending on the terms of the officer’s labor contract with their agency, said Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy, whose office oversees the police academy and has since disavowed the appearance by Shoebat.

The article highlights questions that have been raised about Shoebat’s purported biography, and draws attention to Tweets that demonstrate his conspiricism (“Hillary Clinton Worked With The Muslim Brotherhood Causing The Murder Americans In Benghazi”) and his anti-gay rabble-rousing (“Homosexuals In The Military Are Raping And Molesting Tens Of Thousands Of American Soldiers”).

It is surprising that Shoebat is still getting these gigs – in previous years, self-styled bogus “counter-terror” experts managed to hoodwink police and media on both sides of the Atlantic (in 2011, Shoebat was “keynote speaker” at an event organised by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, for instance), but there was reason to hope that increased scrutiny had marginalised the opportunists. I was under the impression that Shoebat these days was more likely to be found ranting on Rick Wiles’ radio show, or talking to churches about how the Bible predicts a Muslim anti-Christ. Apparently not.

It is possible to overstate the significance of Shoebat’s background – unlike the extravagant tales of Kamal Saleem (with whom Shoebat used to go on tour), Shoebat’s story of having planted a bomb (that didn’t harm anyone) for the PLO many years ago is at least plausible. However, it hardly makes him an expert on terrorism. Instead, Shoebat promotes himself as an “ex-Muslim”, with lurid inside information about how Muslims supposedly operate.

Shoebat claims that Obama is a secret Muslim, and this why Muslims support him, and this explains why Obama is pro-choice (“Of course, because there’s nothing better Islamists want to do than have Americans kill their own children, so it’s not a problem for him”). Shoebat has also wistfully wishes that nuclear weapons could be used against “the whole Muslim world”, as this would “take care of the whole problem once and for all”. And that’s before we get on to Shoebat’s son Theodore Shoebat, who works closely with his father and who explicitly calls for gay people to be executed.

The Asbury Park Press article also draws attention to Courses Offering Police Specialization (COPS), the training company that brought Shoebat to Ocean County. The event was advertised via the COPS Facebook page in September:

We are bringing in Ex-Terrorist Walid Shoebat to instruct the Law Enforcement Community on how to spot, apprehend, and deter acts of terrorism within our country

A screenshot of an email was included (weird capitalisations in original):

Walid Shoebat is an EX-Palestinian terrorist. He has since become a US citizen. He has appeared on CNN and HLN as a terrorist expert. He is a self proclaimed Aspostate Muslm, who after the September 11 attacks in 2001 has become an active advocate against Islamism. Shoebat believes that “most Muslims” seek to impose Sharia Law in the United States. His is also an expert witness on Islamism. For a full bio, go to http:/www.shoebat.com/

Topics to be discussed during this training:

*ISIS
*Mindset of terrorist
*The Proliferation of Sharia Law and the impact on society
*What does a terrorist look like?
*How do we confront a terrorist
*How safe are we?

A slightly tidier version appears on the COPS website, under the title “Know Your Enemy”. Does this mean “most Muslims”, then? This appears to be only event involving Islam that COPS has provided, and there’s no indication of any wider interest in the subject by the organisation or its founder, Mitch Cowit.

According to the report, Shoebat’s operational advice was that “local law enforcement should be checking local dojos to see if Muslims are taking martial arts classes”. Sheriff Mastronardy told the paper that

the police academy will do a better job in the future of vetting guest speakers booked through third parties.

Incidentally, Cowit has an approach to policing that would make an inquisitor proud; according to a blurb:

Mitch Has an expertise in Behavior Analysis, Reading Body Language and using Statement Analysis Techniques: He has a 90% confession and conviction rating from using these skills.

(H/T Imagine 2050)

UPDATE: With thudding inevitably, Mastronardy is now claiming to have received a mysterious death threat, and is blaming it on the fact he came under criticism. The Asbury Park Press again reports:

Mastronardy  said he blamed the death threat on the New Jersey Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations’ being quoted in news articles in the Asbury Park Press and other media outlets in which Muslim leaders criticized seminar speaker Walid Shoebat… The sheriff accused CAIR of having ties to terrorist organizations.

Oddly, however:

“We have no knowledge of this issue,” said Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office.

John Mann, “Dickens Dossiers”, the Monday Club and VIP Abuse Allegations

(Expanded and revised from an earlier blog entry following Mann’s 4 November statement in Parliament)

Mann announces receiving “Dickens Dossier”

From the Telegraph, 21 October:

A dossier of evidence of an alleged paedophile ring which was believed to have been lost has been handed to a Labour MP who has been at the forefront of demands for justice for victims.

The dossier is believed to be a copy of the evidence handed to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan by Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1984.

…John Mann said that the file was handed to him by the same individual who had provided it to Mr Dickens in the 1980s, after it was compiled by former Tory MPs Sir Victor Raikes and Anthony Courtney – both now dead.

The Bassetlaw MP said he would pass it on to the Metropolitan Police to assist them with their investigations into historical sex abuse allegations.

Tom Watson has been criticised for his handling of allegations of historic “VIP sex abuse”, but for some reason Mann’s constant self-promotion and grandstanding on the same issue seems to escape critical scrutiny. Mann regularly boasts of having lists of names and inside information, and when Harvey Proctor’s home was raided earlier this year Mann provided a crowing and prejudicial comment about the police investigation for the Daily Mail (which we now know was based on testimony from a man, “Nick”, whose extravagant claims have been found to be fatally flawed). His approach to the subject, in short, is that of the demagogue.

The first question is why it’s taking Mann so long to get around to handing the dossier over to the police (still not there on 21 October, according to the above). He first announced he’d seen the thing on 24 September:

significant development re the Dickens file and Brittan in the near future. Been shown documents that I expect to be made public soon

Then on 28 September:

In January 1984 Geoffrey Dickens handed over a second list of alleged paedophiles to Leon Brittan. I have seen a photocopy of the document.

and

How come I can find a copy of part of the Dickens file when David Cameron’s official enquiry [the Wanless Review] found nothing?

This question was designed to give the impression of a cover-up that Mann had somehow brilliantly penetrated, when in fact the answer appears to be: “because it was in private hands and the person who owned it has now given a copy to you”.

Mann went on to hint that the file (“documents about MP alleged child abuse”) had also been given to BBC Panorama in 1984, and to suggest that the programme’s failure to make a documentary about it at the time, or to pass it on to the police, undermined the credibility of the new documentary on “VIP” accusers that went out on 6 October.

The second question is whether the file is even genuine. According to the BBC:

The author, a Conservative party member in the 1980s, says the information was gathered from two former Tory MPs – Sir Victor Raikes and Anthony Courtney.

Both are now dead and as a result the authenticity of the document can’t be directly verified; however, handwritten notes said to have been compiled during discussions with the MPs in the 1980s are also also in the file.

Geoffrey Dickens is thought to have passed at least two “dossiers” to Lord Brittan in 1983 and early 1984.

One wonders about Raikes and Courtney: both men were born in the first decade of the twentieth century, and died in the 1980s. Assuming the document is genuine, did these elderly gents really compile it, or did they simply commission it or put their names to it?

Both men were associated with the Tory Right, including the anti-immigration Monday Club. Mann also dropped a hint along these lines in May, when he said that “I am very interested in knowing more about GK Young who helped form the Monday Club.” This suggests that Mann has had this story in reserve for some months.

After the Telegraph story appeared, Mann went on to claim to have “identified location of scores of new documents relevant to child abuse investigations and Westminster”. He also repeated his assertion that “BBC Panorama [has] unreleased information of significance to the police”.

Background to “Dickens Dossiers”

Leon Brittan is alleged to have mishandled these “dossiers”, either as part of an “establishment cover-up” or because he was he was himself a paedophile; in the months leading up to Brittan’s death, the same newspapers that are now castigating Tom Watson over allegations against Brittan were full of insinuating and sensationalising stories about “Brittan’s faulty memory” and how this related to VIP paedophile rings. But in fact there is no evidence that he did not deal with Dickens’ files appropriately, and Dickens never made any complaint about Brittan.

The Sunday Times in fact reported on what was known about the dossiers in February, and the impression is of a rag-bag of allegations of “deviancy”. As regards details from the first dossier:

…One [allegation] was from an angry mother complaining that her 16-year-old son had “become homosexual” after taking a job in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace, where homosexuality was “prevalent”. The second was from a civil servant working for what was then Customs and Excise, who pointed out that addresses linked to paedophile material sent from abroad were not routinely passed on to the police.

And as for a second batch of information, which appears to be quite distinct from what Mann describes as being Dickens’ “file (no 2)”:

According to an internal Home Office inquiry conducted by an investigator from HMRC, “some . . . relate to the cult Children of God”, a religious sect widely accused of abusing children [see footnote below – RB].

The other letters involved matters that had already been dealt with by police or the courts or lacked evidence, such as a letter from a woman complaining about PIE advertising but without any examples.

Two months later, on March 20, 1984, Dickens received a letter from Brittan, who addressed him “Dear Geoff” .

Brittan confirmed that when Dickens had visited the Home Office the previous November, he had brought only two letters making direct accusations. Brittan also said the two “cult” letters Dickens had given him in January had been sent to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) .

During this correspondence, Dickens made no mention of “prominent individuals” or a paedophile ring at Westminster. If, as has since been suggested, he had submitted a damning dossier to the Home Office revealing the existence of a Westminster paedophile conspiracy then it is highly likely he would have referred to it explicitly.

As the decade progressed, Dickens moved on to warning about witchcraft and Satanic Ritual Abuse.

Mann’s Statement in Parliament

On 27 October, Mann announced that he had “secured a 30 minute debate on the Wanless Review and the Dickens file in Parliament Wednesday 4th November 4pm”. The debate was a “Westminster Hall” debate, meaning that it took place in a virtually empty committee room rather than the chamber of the House of Commons.

The “debate” actually consisted of Mann making a statement, and a minister (Karen Bradley) giving a response. In terms of the Wanless Review itself, there wasn’t much to say: despite his attempts to whip up a sense of intrigue ahead of the event, Mann said nothing that suggested that the Review had been handled improperly or neglectfully. Instead, Mann’s statement ranged broadly.

Mann began by listing cases of historical abuse that have either led to convictions or are under police investigation, as evidence that sceptical “commentators” have got it all wrong. It appears that in Mann’s mind, there are people who deny child abuse really exists, and people who believe “Nick’s” fantasies about Ted Heath and attempted castration at sex parties. Mann also mentioned meetings he had had with people who had suffered sex abuse in childhood, and recalled first hearing about Dolphin Square in 1988.

Mann at length got around to revealing some details about the dossier. Here’s the meat:

There was an internal battle going on within the Conservative party, specifically within the Monday club—[Raikes and Courtney] were both key figures in that—with a new organisation, the Young Monday club. They were part of that factional battle, and the second file emerged because of it. I do not think that they thought that what they described in the file as paedophilia was of particular importance other than for doing the other side in.

What is significant is the details, the allegations that were made and the fact that those allegations were not investigated. The file is unambiguous…. In the first line, it says, “GK Young heads up a Powellite faction known as Tory Action.” George Kennedy Young, now long dead, was deputy director of MI6. The allegation is that he manipulated a group of people, and that, within that, there were paedophile rings.

…Information and allegations in it include allegations of sex with children, names of people alleged to be involved, and suggestions both of locations, including one precise location, and of a third-party organisation that was directly involved.

…It is worth saying one other thing about George Kennedy Young. He was involved in many dubious activities; he tried to get some kind of private army called “Unison” going. I have seen a range of background documents that would be of interest to anyone campaigning on the Shrewsbury pickets and on infiltration of the miners’ strike, with names that correlate. There are a lot of allegations about him attempting to undermine both the Heath and the Wilson Governments. He was clearly a manipulator, and is key to what was going on. I do not know why he is so prominent or why the Society for Individual Freedom, which he set up, is named in this, but he is a significant figure and that may give some sort of reason for why things then disappeared.

This bears absolutely no relation to what was reported in the Sunday Times in February. I suppose it’s possible that the document was bundled in with the “other letters” as part of a broader dossier, but there’s no reason to suppose this was the case.

Young didn’t actually set up the Society for Individual Freedom, although he was its chairman at one point; and Tory Action was created by Young after he left the Monday Club in 1974. The final paragraph quoted above is not directly relevant to the matter in hand, but the fact that Mann, who is a Labour MP, has chosen to foreground these details indicates that he wants to bring Young’s right-wing political murkiness in to the mix.

Mann followed up on Twitter:

The Dickens dossier ( no 2) came from a battle within the Monday Club. I have agreed with the police not to identify 19 live people named [link]

I will be seeking a meeting with Norman Tebbit who banned the Young Monday Club around 1985/6. [link]

Tebbit famously closed down the Federation of Conservative Students in 1986, on the grounds that its antics were bringing the party into disrepute; however, I’ve been unable to find details about similar action against the Young Monday Club.

This context, however, does suggest that the document’s purpose was primarily to smear political opponents (as even Mann himself seems to acknowledge); at this stage, I’m sceptical that it contains material of substance that was improperly ignored by the police in 1984 – let alone anything that substantiates the specific Exaro-led allegations.

[UPDATE (5 November): More details from Mann on Twitter.

Some general points:

There are 19 names directly identified in the file. I would be very surprised in the general public recognised three quarters [link]

….the cases are complex. In particular some are gay men involved in rather sleazy company, in others alleged violence and abuse [link]

The Dickens file alleges rings in London, Manchester, North Yorkshire, and Portsmouth plus in another right wing organisation  [link]

Also:

It is astonishing and impossible that the Home Office was unable to locate this file, considering its content. [link]

This seems to be a clear accusation that the Wanless Review was corrupt (or had been sabotaged). But if he felt this was the case, why did he not press the point in his “debate”? And why would the dossier’s content mean that it should have been found?

Further:

the authenticated handwriting is of Victor Raikes (a letter) [link]

That proves the file was indeed compiled with Raikes’ involvement: but it falls short of proving that it was given to Dickens or that Dickens gave it to Brittan. An important link in the chain is unconfirmed (other than by an anonymous source in contact with Mann) – and given the Sunday Times article there’s reason to be sceptical.

And finally, some last-second hedging:

There are people named in this Dickens dossier who will have been wrongly slurred. They have vital information and will know who they are. [link]

Well, I suppose we should be grateful that Mann has at last admitted the possibility of a false allegation. But given how he’s built this story up over the past few weeks, teasing and playing the media with a drip-drip of information and hints, this is a serious caveat that amounts to something of an anti-climax.]

[UPDATE (19 November): On 18 November, Mann published a letter to David Cameron on his website. It includes the following details:

I enclose a copy of the second Geoffrey Dickens file given to Mr Dickens on 18 January 1984 and which Mr Dickens then handed to Home Secretary Leon Brittan for investigation.

I am unaware of the content of the discussion between Dickens and Brittan, but Mr Dickens was aware of other additional information following his January meeting. The same information and other documents were also subsequently handed over to Ian Gow, I believe in his capacity as a Conservative vice chairman, by a Conservative Central office official [on Twitter, Mann says this was Mark Worrall – RB].

You will note the annotated note about Central Office on the document given to Geoffrey Dickens.

…Whilst the motivations behind the creation of this document and various and many others was a battle within the Conservatives, particularly involving splits within the Monday Club and the attempt by the Young Monday Club to take over the youth and student structures of the Conservative Party, and whilst observing that some of the issues raised are neither illegal, nor in mine or most people’s eyes not immoral or improper, you will also note that there are direct allegations about the abuse of children and there are separate documents allegation major sexual violence.

The file itself contains allegations of a paedophile ring and specifically identifies Conservative residential training centre Swinton College as a location involved.

Mann says that the dossier has been given to police working on “Operation Midland“, although that investigation has now been folded into Operation Fairbank.

The following day, and continuing his sensationalising “drip-drip” approach to releasing information about the file, Mann added that “The new evidence available to police with Dickens file includes allegations about North Wales and Kincora”.]

Mann vs critics

Following the Telegraph article, Mann responded to sceptical and critical reactions to his with a bit of red meat for the mob:

An oddball assortment of nobodies, who know nothing about child abuse, are attacking me. Don’t worry all you decent people out there.

This follows a Tweet from earlier this month in which he opined that

It is interesting that I have received more attacks for raising issues of child abuse than everything else put together this year.

In other words, criticism of Mann’s self-serving mix of vagueness and sensationalism amounts to “attacks for raising issues of child abuse” – and is that not further evidence of a conspiracy by people who are not “decent”?

Mann has also previously deployed the claim that he has special inside knowledge of VIP abuse. In April, he responded to a column by David Aaronovitch with the jibe that

@DAaronovitch as usual the font of all wisdom on child abuse. Except that he has met no victims nor seen any of the police evidence.

Mann did not deign to be drawn into specifics, although Aaronovitch’s column focused on the provenance of the claim that Enoch Powell and Willie Whitelaw had been child-abusing Satanists, and also mentioned the “Hampstead baby-eating Satanic cult” hoax

Footnote

The Children of God is an American religious group, today known as the Family International. It believes in free love between members, and this previously included sexual relations with and between children. Dickens’ reference to the group, and to homosexuality at Buckingham Palace, are sloppily conflated in a headline that appeared above a Don Hale story in the Daily Star Sunday in December: “Child sex cult in Buckingham Palace”.

VIP and Celebrity Abuse Allegations and Satanic Panic: Possible Links

The main reason why this blog has taken such a lengthy detour into allegations about “VIP child-sex abuse” is because there are some obvious parallels and continuities with Satanic Ritual Abuse claims in the 1980s and early 1990s. As with SRA, the “Westminster” allegations are conspiratorial, and include not only orgiastic paedophilia but also sadistic torture and murder that appear to have some ritual elements (“Nick’s” allegations, for instance, include Harvey Proctor tying a boy to a table and stabbing him, and soldiers pinning Remembrance Day poppies into bare skin). The new round of claims has also seen a revival of interest in the late Geoffrey Dickens, a buffoonish MP who in the 1980s claimed to have “dossiers” relating to paedophilia and who later in the decade promoted lurid conspiracy theories about Satanism and witchcraft.

However, I’ve been cautious about how far direct connections with SRA can be made. In 1986, allegations about MPs being Satanists were raised during the trial of a fraudster (a story that was resurrected briefly, and unhappily, in March), but the “Westminster” allegations have a more direct pedigree in old sensationalist newspaper reports about organised abuse rings and extravagantly libellous accusations against politicians that appeared in Scallywag magazine in the early to mid-1990s. Anna Raccoon notes a possible direct link between Scallywag and the current allegations via a certain Andrea Davison, but although this may be important for understanding the particular shape and direction the current claims have taken, much of the material has been lurking around on the internet for years. New life has been breathed into Scallywag-type claims by an increasing awareness of the reality of child abuse within institutional settings, by posthumous allegations against Jimmy Savile and others, and by the fact that we live in a world in which we all like to think the worst about politicians.

SRA allegations, by contrast, remain marginalised –  the stories were simply too incredible, and the anti-SRA “movement” was discredited by a series of high-profile false allegations in the USA and the UK. However, being marginalised is not the same as going away: psychotherapists like Valerie Sinason have continued to publish books and articles promoting the concept, while the sad case of Carol Felstead, a victim of “therapy” who was made to believe that her parents were Satanists and that she had been raped with claw-hammer in Conservative Central Office, shows that both strands remained intertwined at the turn of the century.

But is this of any relevance to current police investigations taking place under the names of “Fairbank”, “Fernbridge”, “Yewtree”, among others?

The argument for a direct link between old SRA allegations and what is happening now has been made by SAFF, the Sub-culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation. This organisation was formed in 1988, primarily in response to the vilification of neo-pagan and occult groups during the SRA panic, and the SAFF website incorporates an extensive archive of materials about SRA claims: these range from extracts from newsletters from organisations such as RAINS (Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support) through to lurid newspaper articles. The case is put forward in full here, with some impressive documentation.

Among other things, the author draws attention to the fact that the original head of Operation Yewtree, Commander Peter Spindler, previously sent 30 Metropolitan Police officers on a course on how to spot evidence of SRA. There’s also an odd detail from a document produced by RAINS which lists a number of Satanic abuse “suspects” from an accuser known as “Helen G.” This person alleged that the comedian Jimmy Tarbuck was “seen at Beaulieu at Summer Solstice”, where “Cult Festival Ceremonies” supposedly took place. Tarbuck, of course, was arrested in April 2013 as part of Operation Yewtree, with one initial accuser rising to six after the arrest was announced. The matter was subsequently dropped (after the best part of a year) – not just due to “insufficient evidence”, but because of counter-evidence that showed he had been the victim of false accusations.  Perhaps a coincidence, but it seems reasonable to speculate about whether certain names have been passed around by “anti-SRA” enthusiasts for years and are now influencing police decisions and/or therapeutic encounters.

As SAFF also draws attention to, there is also an association between RAINS and the police via DCI Clive Driscoll (who is now retired). Driscoll has a long-standing association Sinason, and in early 2013 Sinason provided quotes to the Express claiming that she had been told by victims in 1992 and 1993 that they had been abused by Jimmy Savile during Satanic rituals (some of which supposedly took place in the basement of Stoke Mandeville Hospital). Alas, Sinason didn’t share this information with the world until after Savile’s posthumous reputation had already been destroyed.

Meanwhile, Driscoll was in the media in July after claiming that he had been removed from an investigation into organised paedophilia because a minister in Tony Blair’s government was implicated. He followed up a few weeks later with the claim that he had received allegations of sex abuse against Ted Heath  in 2001. This media exposure also prompted interest in his book, in which he claims that in the 1960s ritually-abused children had been disposed of in a lake near Gravesend – a claim dismissed by Kent Police as “third-party hearsay”.