“Grudging” Police Statement Concludes VIP Abuse Investigation into Lord Bramall

Police previously said evidence would be referred to CPS; now concede there is no evidence to pass on

From the BBC:

A former head of the British army has said he is pleased he faces no further action in connection with allegations of historical child abuse.

Lord Bramall, 92, was interviewed under caution by police on 30 April 2015.

…He said the letter the [Metropolitan Police] had sent him was “pretty grudging, but at least I’m in the clear”.

Lord Bramall added it was “complete self-justification” by the police, who he claimed “had not behaved very well”.

Along with this private statement to Bramall, the Met has issued a public announcement under the bland headline “Man interviewed by Operation Midland faces no further action”, which states that the matter is being dropped due to “insufficient evidence”. This implies that the allegation is simply unproven, when in fact most reasonable observers will take the view that Bramall has been the victim of a false accuser and that the matter should have been dropped months ago.

Bramall’s accuser currently has legal anonymity, although the media have given him the pseudonym “Nick”. Nick’s claims are wide-ranging to the point of extravagance, but they evolved over a period of time. First, he accused a deceased relative of abusing him in the 1970s and 1980s; then, he made a claim about a paedophile ring; next, after posthumous allegations about Jimmy Savile appeared in the media, he claimed that the ring included the late DJ; after that, he named high-profile politicians who had previously been accused by others; finally, he alleged that that he had not only been abused, but had also witnessed three child murders. Two of these murders supposedly occurred at paeodophile orgies involving VIPs, while in the third instance a friend was deliberately run over by a car in Kingston-on-Thames.

Other details related by Nick include the claim that soldiers used to pin Remembrance Day poppies onto his bare skin as form of torture, and that he had seen a boy tied to a table and stabbed multiple times. These stories strike me as closely related to the kind of inversions and rituals that are associated with Satanic Ritual Abuse claims (hence my interest). One particularly outlandish anecdote is that on one occasion he faced being castrated by Harvey Proctor MP, who was persuaded to desist by a fellow orgiast, former Prime Minister Ted Heath.

Nick’s claims (not all of which were initially disclosed to the public) were at first infamously described by the lead investigating officer as “credible and true”; however, by September 2015 word had reached the media that nothing could be substantiated, and the police conceded that this expression should not have been used. Shortly afterwards, BBC Panorama undertook extensive efforts to track down evidence of the supposed murder in Kingston-on-Thames, and found no record or memory of any such incident. Operation Midland was then folded into Operation Fairbank, which was set up to deal with “Non Recent Allegations of Child Abuse”. This seemed to me to be an attempt to wind Midland down while maintaining face.

Meanwhile, the Met issued a statement on “Historic child abuse investigations and Operation Midland” which explained that

The integrity of our investigation is paramount, and the public can have confidence that allegations of homicide are being investigated thoroughly. Our officers have the resources to test all the evidence, and we have not yet completed this task. It is then for the Crown Prosecution Service to make a decision on whether to prosecute.

However, according to the new statement, relating to Lord Bramall:

Following a thorough investigation officers have concluded there is insufficient evidence to request the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider charging the man with any offences.

This decision was taken by the Met in accordance with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ‘Guidance on Charging’. The Met have been in discussion with the CPS during the enquiry and they are aware of the decision in this case.

…The DPP ‘Guidance on Charging’ sets out the responsibility of the police to assess cases before referral to the CPS to ensure the ‘Full Code Test’ can be met on the available evidence. Equally, the guidance also details the responsibility of the police for taking “no further action” in any case that cannot meet the appropriate evidential standard.

So, in this instance at least it was not in fact “for the Crown Prosecution Service to make a decision”; in cases where there is no evidence, there is no need to make a referral to the CPS at all. The above statement verges on the comic in its determination to leave the impression that the police did not so much make a decision as simply follow CPS requirements, but this is a transparent attempt to pass the buck. How much back-and-forth was there between the Met and the CPS over who would finally take responsibility? (1)

It looks to me that the police have dragged things out unnecessarily. It dug itself into a hole with the “credible and true” comment, and it was reluctant to discharge its responsibility to clear Bramall as quickly as possible lest it be accused of some sort of “establishment cover up”. There is also a reasonable suspicion that the new announcement was timed for publication on the same day that it was finally confirmed that the courts would not be considering child abuse allegations against the late Lord Janner. In Janner’s case, the CPS has conceded that there was a case to answer that should have been brought before the courts some years ago; the Met would have found it useful for the media to be concentrating on the CPS’s failure to deal with a man who may have been guilty, rather than on the police persecution of an innocent man. 

And even now, Harvey Proctor remains under a cloud of suspicion thanks to Nick. There is no realistic prospect that Nick’s allegations will lead to a successful prosecution, and Proctor ought to have been cleared alongside Bramall. Instead, however, it appears that the police have been trawling Proctor’s private life going back to his 1960s student days in a desperate attempt to come up with a substitute accusation.

UPDATE: A detail from Max Hastings in the Sun:

Pals of Lord Bramall said he had been “through hell”, and revealed that some of the allegations included the bizarre claim he had been at Jimmy Savile’s pool parties…

[Bramall’s] pal, historian and journalist Sir Max Hastings, yesterday revealed allegations put to Lord Bramall included the Savile pool parties, and attacks in the 1970s in periods when the peer wasn’t even serving in Britain.

Sir Max said: “Anyone who knew Edwin Bramall would find this incredible…”

UPDATE 2: Coverage in the Daily Mail includes a text box titled “So is everything ‘Nick’ told Met a pack of lies?” (published online as a .jpeg), which mentions in passing that

Another man, Darren, said Lord Bramall abused him – police quickly found this to be “unsubstantiated”.

This is not correct – no other source is claiming that Bramall faced two accusers, and “Darren” himself has sent a message denying having made any such allegation.

My suspicion is that some hapless Mail hack has misread “Brittan” as “Bramall” somewhere along the line; the Mail previously reported in September that

The man, known only as ‘Darren’, said he was forced to attend sadistic sex parties at the Dolphin Square complex. He said a girl may have been killed and named Lord Brittan as one of his abusers. 

But police confirmed that detectives had ‘fully investigated’ the allegations and found them to be ‘unsubstantiated’.

BBC Panorama found an email that Darren had written two years before, denying that Brittan had abused him and describing Brittan as a “poor man”; he subsequently retracted his allegations in December.

In fact, the police’s “unsubstantiated” assessment probably refers to Darren’s claim that in 1992, while doing work experience at a country estate in Suffolk, he had witnessed Peter Righton murder a man with Down’s Syndrome by using two cars to tear him apart. However, Darren’s dates did not match Righton’s residency, and the idea of a man with a registered learning disability disappearing unnoticed in 1992 is highly implausible. Darren has a long history of troubled and erratic behaviour, including making false a confession to a murder and making a fake bomb threat.

UPDATE 3: Exaro News, which has heavily invested in Nick’s allegations, has noted the new development by adding a cursory update to a story it published in March 2015.

UPDATE 4: On 18 January, the London Times ran an editorial that contained the detail that

In a letter to Lord Bramall’s lawyers, the Met protests that rumours existed even before the police investigation. Yet this does not absolve the police of responsibility for stoking them.

The notion of the police deciding to act because of “rumours” is an absolutely appalling proposition. But it’s particularly odd given that there have in fact never been any “rumours” about Lord Bramall. Assuming the Times‘s account is accurate (and there is doubt – an earlier version online apparently referred to Bramall’s “arrest”, when he was never arrested), the police are confused. It is true that conspiracy websites have been promoting claims about “VIP paedophiles” for years, but these stories have centred for the most part on politicians. Nick drew on these accounts in his complaints to police, but the military claims are his own distinctive contribution. More on Nick’s military focus here.

Footnote

(1) The CPS has been known to act in exactly the same way – hence its bizarre refusal in December to confirm that Janner’s death meant the end of the legal process.

Evangelical Newspaper “Disassociates” From David Virtue Article Defending Patrick Sookhdeo

The English Churchman (8 January, subscription only) has apologised for publishing an article by David Virtue concerning the case of Patrick Sookhdeo, who was found guilty of a sexual assault and of intimidating witnesses last year:

We published an article on the trial of Dr Patrick Sookhdeo in good faith in EC 7939. It was written by David Virtue who has a reputation as the editor of a large website of Anglican news, that claims to have 4 million subscribers. He attended the trial and also interviewed various people, but we now understand, he did not contact female prosecution witnesses for right of reply or notify them he would be naming them…

We were careful to state at the head of our article that we did not believe that David Virtue’s friendship with Dr Sookhdeo would have prejudiced his professional journalism and his report…  The article was not published as a statement of facts but as the opinion of Mr Virtue.

A similar article was first published on the Virtueonline website. However we understand that attempts by offended parties to respond to Mr Virtue in the comments sections of his website have been removed. Obviously a website has the right to remove comments but in this case we are quite disturbed that this should be so and it does not bode well. Very serious objections have been made to Mr Virtue’s report. We have been told that many of his facts are either wrong or part-truths while other material facts are missing. This is deeply disturbing. We stated initially that we did not intend the inclusion of the article to be an expression of our judgment on the honesty of any person but feel obliged to repeat that we formally disassociate ourselves from any accusations made against individuals in the article, particularly, following new information, suggestions they may have lied on oath….

My view is that if someone genuinely believes that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, they should be allowed a fair hearing even though it may be upsetting for complainants or their relatives. However, those making the case for the convicted ought to have something sensible to say, and they should express themselves reasonably. They should be particularly circumspect about how they raise counter-allegations against prosecution witnesses.

I became aware of Virtue’s advocacy for Sookhdeo a couple of days ago, when he supplemented his own earlier articles on the subject with a repellent post by Richard Carvath, entitled “Patrick Sookhdeo, Jezebel and the Satan Gang”. The title speaks for itself, and Carvath set about smearing and mocking witnesses with distasteful and gratuitous observations such as that one witness has a Facebook profile in which her “arms are uncovered and she wears a figure-hugging dress, her buttocks clearly presented to the beholder.”

Under British law, the name of the sexual assault victim cannot be published, although Carvath appears to have enjoyed using the name “Jezebel” as a substitute. There are also rules against facilitating “jigsaw identification“, which Virtue and Carvath risk skirting with by naming the other witnesses and referring to their social media presences. In this instance, naming prosecution witnesses serves no good purpose (they are not anyone known to the public), and in the context of continuing civil litigation its effect may be intimidatory.

It has also been brought to my attention that Virtue made sure that those named in Carvath’s article were made aware of the piece, by sending them an email headed “A FURTHER VINDICATION OF DR. SOOKHDEO AND CHARGES LEVELED AT HIM” (crank capitalisation in original). Such an email amounted to an invitation to his subjects to read the allegations against them – meaning that his decision to delete any comments he received in reply puts him in an even poorer light.

(Thanks to a reader for details of the English Churchman statement)

UPDATE: On Twitter, Carvarth has claimed that two editors have been “threatened for covering the Patrick Sookhdeo miscarriage of justice”. However, it seems to me that the statement from the  English Churchman goes far beyond the kind of reluctant distancing that might be necessitated by a threat of legal action.

Patrick Sookhdeo Supporters Make Case For the Defence

From the BBC News, February last year:

The founder of a Wiltshire-based Christian charity has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a female member of staff.

Patrick Sookhdeo, from Barnabas Aid International, was also found to have intimidated two employees who were due to give evidence against him.

Sookhdeo continues to maintain his innocence (although he has declined to appeal for health reasons and due to the expense), and his cause has been championed in particular by David Virtue of Virtue Online:

The “touching” as it turned out was little more than brushing of one breast; the Rev. Albrecht Hauser, Chairman of Barnabas Aid International refuted the charges of intimidation. He wrote: “The alleged witness intimidation relates to a short extempore speech made by Dr. Sookhdeo to the entire UK staff and most of the trustees, at a meeting called by the board, which I pressed him to attend (against his inclination) and at which I urged him to speak (also against his inclination). There were over 50 people in a crowded room, and many of us saw no sign of any intention to intimidate witnesses.”

Virtue’s article (he has also written others on the subject) is headlined “In Sex Crimes One Must Prove One’s Innocence”, and I’m full agreement that that there is cause for concern about how the police and courts in the UK are currently handling “historic” allegations of a sexual nature in particular (see this post). However, I’ve also seen how Sookhdeo has a tendency to twist and misrepresent information, and this must affect how I regard any continuing “case for the defence”.

This case includes not just an alternative narrative of what actually happened (as put forward by Hauser), but also inferences about the court operated. It is suggested that the conviction was secured because the jury was white and mostly female, and that the sentence was lenient and as such indicates that the judge was sceptical. This is not convincing – Sookhdeo’s lawyers could have raised an objection to the make-up of the jury before the trial got underway, and the sentence was (as Mark Woods of Christian Today has pointed out) in the middle range for this kind of offence.

Virtue has also now, in my opinion, damaged Sookhdeo’s cause by promoting a bizarre screed by one Richard Carvath. Carvath denounces the assault complainant as “Jezebel”, and refers to the prosecution witnesses as the “Satan gang”. The rhetoric is extraordinary; discussing one witness who formerly worked at Barnabas, Carvarth writes that her

current Facebook profile photo provides a good example of the sort of dress and attitude which so concerned Sookhdeo, given the specific nature and focus of the Barnabas ministry.

In a ‘look at me’ photo, [redacted]‘s arms are uncovered and she wears a figure-hugging dress, her buttocks clearly presented to the beholder.

Carvath goes on to complain about Facebook links between complainants and Andrea Minichello Williams of Christian Concern.

Carvath has also been using Twitter to fire accusatory questions at Mark Woods, who has written a number of critical articles about Sookhdeo for Christian Today (not to be confused with the American evangelical Christianity Today, although Virtue is critical of that publication’s reporting on Sookhdeo as well). In a series of Tweets, he has asked whether Woods is working with Sookhdeo’s pro-Palestinian critic Ben White (reply: “No.”); what the “nature of the relationship” is between Woods and one of the intimidation complainants (reply: “None.”); and whether Woods has been in direct contact with any complainants (reply: “No.”). Despite this last reply, Carvath then pressed on with asking whether a new allegation was due to “your encouraging the complainant” (reply: “for the record: no.”).

Carvath was previously expelled from the Conservative Christian Fellowship for what he describes as his “views on homopervuality… and islam.”

German Tradition of Throwing Fireworks Around Used as Evidence of Immigrant Attacks

From Infowars:

Shocking video taken in Berlin on New Years Eve shows migrants shooting guns and hurling fireworks in scenes that resemble something out of a war zone.

Or “scenes that resemble what goes on every year in Berlin on New Years Eve”. Compare the video being promoted by Infowars with a video of New Years Eve in Berlin at the end of 2012 (sic; it was uploaded at the start of 2013) – including the supposed guns.

It is easy to find other examples on YouTube of past New Year’s Eve events in Germany that show similar revelries. I was in Germany for New Year’s Eve at the end 1993, and having been raised on terrifying 1970s public safety films about the dangers of fireworks I was somewhat alarmed at the way bangers in particular were being thrown around.

The BBC has details of a woman in Cologne who was injured by a firecracker that was placed in her hood while her phone was stolen, and it also reports that a British woman “said fireworks had been thrown at her group by men who spoke neither German nor English”. It appears that some media are now extrapolating from this to using any footage of fireworks being set off in crowds as evidence of hostile behaviour by “immigrants”. Thus the Daily Mail has included a video headlined “Fireworks thrown into crowd outside train station in Cologne” in a story about the sexual assaults, when in fact what it shows is totally unexceptional (H/T @mcelderrytruth).

The point is not that the assaults in Cologne should be minimised; the point is that where there is a genuine concern, there will be misinformation, and there will also be those who wish to exploit public anger for their own opportunistic purposes.

Jonathan Cahn Claims Stock Market Figures Confirm “Shemitah” Theory

From WND:

U.S. markets finished 2015 in the red. The Dow was down 2.2 percent. The S&P 500 ended the year down 0.7 percent. It was the worst year for those two indexes since markets collapsed in 2008.

…So what does Jonathan Cahn, the author of “The Mystery of the Shemitah” and his previous New York Times bestseller, “The Harbinger,” have to say?

“In other words, this Shemitah was the worst year in 7 years – since the last Shemitah,” he told WND.

Cahn who was widely criticized by people claiming he had made predictions of economic collapse in 2015 when he hadn’t. In his book and in every interview he gave throughout the year he made a point of saying that nothing might happen.

In recent years, Jonathan Cahn has become perhaps the most popular “End Times” theorist in American evangelicalism, and his claim to have discovered from the Bible how God manipulates the economy via a seven-year cycle has been heavily promoted by WND, the Charisma media empire, and Jim Bakker. During 2015, his “Shemitah” theory was also presented as being complementary to the prediction that the “Blood Moon” tetrad would hail disaster during September.

It is true that Cahn’s theory allows himself a certain amount of leeway. His evidence of the “cycle” is selective: thus the Wall Street Crash of 1929 doesn’t feature in his schema, because 1929 wasn’t a Shemitah year, but the UK leaving the gold standard in 1931 is supposedly responsible for “the greatest monthlong stock market percentage crash in Wall Street history” and as such is confirmation of the Shemitah’s cosmic power.

However, Cahn certainly hinted very heavily that a disaster would come in September 2015. As he said to Sid Roth some months prior:

The first shaking is 9/11. Second shaking is the economic collapse. When does it happen? It happens in 2008… The greatest day happened at the end of September 2008. It was the greatest stock market crash in the history of America.

It’s pretty clear that this infers something similar for September 2015, and Bakker (who has previously accompanied Cahn and WND editor Joseph Farah on a tour of the Holy Land) was inspired warn of earthquakes, typhoons, bombings and a stock market crash for 13 September. Shortly after the date passed, Cahn pointed to a stock market selloff in August as being close enough to the date to confirm his prediction.

However, as regards the end-of-year stock market figures, careful readers will note that there is some sleight of hand in the observation that “it was the worst year… since markets collapsed in 2008”. “Worst year since” does not mean “as bad as”. As the WSJ reported:

U.S. stocks had their worst annual performance since 2008, closing out a rocky year that tempered investors’ expectations for gains in 2016.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, a basket of 30 stocks, lost 2.2% in 2015, while the broader S&P 500 fell 0.7%.

The S&P’s loss ended three years of double-digit gains for the index, but was far from the nearly 40% dive it took in 2008, a year of financial crisis.

…The last time the Dow posted an annual decline was 2008, when it fell 34%.

It is clear that 2008 and 2015 are in no way comparable, despite the God arranging the “Blood Moon” display for extra effect. Although the WSJ is now talking in terms of “weaker estimates of economic growth for the fourth quarter”, this is a far cry from the “economic collapse” that is always looming just around the corner.

WND also gives some background:

According to the Bible, the Shemitah year was set aside as a blessing for the nation of Israel.

Like the weekly Sabbath, the Shemitah year would be a time of rest for the land and for the agricultural society. There would be no sowing and reaping. Instead, God would provide food miraculously for the people, as He did during the Exodus from Egypt.

Leviticus 25:4 says: “But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.”

However, Cahn points out, if the Shemitah was not observed by the people, it would become a curse, as described later in Leviticus chapter 25.

Leviticus promises that enough produce will be provided in the year prior to the “sabbatical year” to allow subsistence for the subsequent three years, which is a bit different from the Bible’s story of food appearing from out of nowhere in the desert during the Exodus. Deuteronomy adds a requirement to cancel debts. The “sabbatical year” does not appear to have been widely observed in ancient Israel, probably because it was an impractical “Priestly” imposition of a late date.

Of course, Cahn is not interested in advising US farmers on agriculture, and the debt cancellation element appears to be “social justice” limitation on wealth inequality that the US Christian Right would reject as being socialistic. Thus Cahn transforms the Shemitah into something that God does to the economy, and the moral requirements are transferred onto issues such as the need to respect “the biblical definition of marriage”.

Sun Probes Church Toilets in Cocaine Quest

The Sun has a “White Xmas Exclusive”:

Ding Dong Merrily We’re High: The Sun finds cocaine traces in iconic churches

EXCLUSIVE: Signs of drug found at Canterbury headquarters and 11 out of 25 top institutions

THE loos at some of Britain’s most iconic places of worship show signs of cocaine abuse, a Sun probe can reveal.

Our investigators discovered evidence members of the public really did have a white Christmas at 11 out of 25 top cathedrals and churches — including the Church of England’s HQ…

This is what I believe is known in the trade as a “non-story” – a number of churches and cathedrals that are also tourist destinations have toilets attached, and it appears that cocaine has been handled in some of these. These are not toilets that are reserved for clergy or churchgoers, and in some cases (such as Canterbury, for instance) they are accessed without entering the main building and so serve as public conveniences for passersby as well as for visitors.

The reference to the “Church of England’s HQ” is particularly mischievous, suggestive of Lambeth Palace (the Church’s administrative centre, which is not open to the public) rather than Canterbury Cathedral, which has spiritual primacy, and which is where one of the tests took place.

The Sun ran a similar stunt in 2013, focusing on the Houses of Parliament – that was at least a bit more interesting, as although the buildings are open to the public, security is tight and it is not a casual destination.

The trusty Crackdown Drug Testing Ltd “Cocaine Swab Drug Test” (available in a pack of ten for £16) was deployed again a few weeks ago to provide the shocking confirmation that cocaine had been handled in a pub in Brixton – the context here was that the pub had just been used as the venue for a Christmas party for supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, and the Sun wished to run a story about “Hard-Left Labour group in drug shame”. This story can be fairly characterised as a smear, but the paper perhaps wished to appear even-handed shortly after running an unbylined story  under the headline “Elliott Johnson dad claims Tories ‘openly snorted’ cocaine at boat party”.

It seems that Sun hack Matt Quinton was so flushed by his Brixton success that he has decided to make a full-time career from investigative toilet swabbing. One photo shows Quinton posing next to a toilet seat while brandishing a wipe, although he’s risking a nasty rash: his hands are bare, whereas the the product blurb cautions that the wipes contain “Cobalt Thiocyanate, which may cause irritation to skin” and that “the use Latex Gloves is recommended when handling the swabs”.

Times Backpedals on “Muslims ‘Silent on Terror'” Headline

An amended front-page headline from The Times (image H/T @steveplrose):

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According to the text:

Muslims are boycotting the country’s key anti-radicalisation programme, The Times can disclose, after it emerged that less than a tenth of extremism tip-offs were coming directly from the community or faith leaders.

The revelation that there were fewer than 300 community tip-offs in six months to the government’s Prevent programme will raise concern that the police are being denied information that might prevent terrorist attacks.

The rest of the article is paywalled, although the guts of it appear in a derivative PA article:

…The Times says that data released by the National Police Chiefs Council has revealed that of the 3,288 referrals to Prevent in the first half of the year, just 280 – or 8.6% – came from within the Muslim community, or from family, friends and faith leaders. Nearly 2,200 referrals were made by public bodies outside policing, such as social services and the health or education sectors.

Following the Times article, the National Police Chiefs Council issued a statement:

A legislative change was introduced in April 2015 which required public bodies to make referrals to the Prevent programme, and which led to a high number of referrals being recorded… The figures may not accurately capture the nature of the original source because in many cases members of the community will report in the first instance to the police. For example, the numbers include referrals about domestic extremism and extreme right wing radicalisation. Currently one in ten of the referrals received come direct from communities, whilst referrals from outside of police and prisons form the majority of the other referrals received

Although tactfully written, this knocks the wind out of The Times‘s front-page splash: the “2,200 referrals” are due to a change in the law, and they include data that has nothing to do with Islamic extremism; and the “280” figure is not a record of the extent to which concerned Muslims may have made “information that might prevent terrorist attacks” known to the police. The article is statistically misleading and lacks any kind of meaningful qualitative interpretation.

Note also the oddness of a headline quote that doesn’t appear to be attributed to anyone, and which is then substituted for a different headline quote. Who is saying these things, if not The Times itself? In which case, why are quote marks needed at all? One suspects that the hapless journalist has been handed a press release from someone with an interest, with the data pre-spun.

Mark Clarke, Harry Cole and a “Social Media Campaign” Against Ben Howlett MP

A detail from Simon Walters at the Mail on Sunday:

Tory MP Ben Howlett has spoken of his ‘mental health issues’ after a vicious feud with Mark Clarke.

Traumatised Mr Howlett was referred to a psychotherapist by his GP when Clarke’s gang falsely branded him a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ in a four-year social media war against him.

An inexperienced Howlett, then 23, made a half-hearted defence of Northern Ireland politician Gerry Adams at a rowdy pub hustings chaired by Clarke, and was branded a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ and ‘IRA apologist’ in an internet smear campaign against him.

He is convinced it was a trap laid by Clarke. After he applied to become a Parliamentary candidate in 2013, local activists were targeted with the same bogus claims. 

I previously wrote about the Mark Clarke scandal here; Zelo Street has extensive commentary and background on the media coverage. The hustings were for a forthcoming election for chair of Conservative Future.

The history of this particular claim about Howlett is of some interest. Its first appearance was on the website of Harry Cole, who in 2010 was blogging as “Tory Bear” while also working for Paul Staines. Cole, who is today the Sun‘s Westminster Correspondent, has long-standing links with Clarke, although Cole now says they fell out last year. Cole has filed a number of reports on the Clarke story for the Sun, including one exclusive that featured images of notes from David Cameron that must be Clarke’s own personal possessions.

Here’s Cole on Howlett in 2010:

And so to Mahiki last night for the first of the Conservative Future chairman hustings that was piggy-backing on the Young Britons’ Foundation Summer Party…

It wasn’t until a cheeky grenade was lobbed in that there was the night’s only shocking incident. Candidates were asked “Which politician do you most relate to and respect… in Northern Ireland?”

Given that he was speaking in a room of Thatcherite right-wingers, Ben Howlett’s attempt at getting the Fenian vote look spectacularly inappropriate. He cited Gerry Adams as “a conviction politician”.

What exactly did Howlett mean by this? Cole doesn’t feel the need to give any kind of context, but we do know that Cole is deeply dishonest, and it is highly implausible that Howlett would have offered up an endorsement IRA terrorism.

Cole’s post was promoted the same day by Iain Dale, who observed that “One suspects [Howlett’s] chances of winning the chairmanship of CF have not improved”.

The matter was raised again in 2012 by Christian May on Dale’s Total Politics website; it is perhaps worth noting that Christian May is apparently Cole’s flatmate (H/T Zelo Street), and that last year May, Cole and Clarke were part of the same cricket team. Here’s May’s version:

Speaking of being embarrassingly off message, rightly or wrongly most Tories in Westminster now associate the current Conservative Future chairman, Ben Howlett, with his infamous gaffe during a hustings. When asked which politician from Northern Ireland he most admired, he responded “Gerry Adams.” Even more bafflingly, he stuck to his position and described him as “a conviction politician.” He may have misspoke. He may have said something stupid under pressure but unfortunately for him he did say it and today “and Gerry Adams” is a suggested result when Ben Howlett is typed into Google.

One senior figure from the height of young Conservative notoriety tells me that when Norman Tebbit learned that Howlett revealed Gerry Adams to be a man he admired, the former Party Chairman “shook his head in disgust and said that nothing surprised him anymore about the state of the Conservative Party”.

There’s a subtle change of emphasis here: the word “admire” has been introduced, and the “conviction politician” comment is evidence of doubling-down rather than being the main offence itself (Incidentally, one wonders who the “senior figure” was who made sure that the story reached the ears of Norman Tebbit, and who then reported back with his reaction).

The matter was raised yet again in 2014 by Breitbart London:

Would-be Conservative MP for Bath Ben Howlett is facing pressure to stand down after it emerged that one of his admired politicians Gerry Adams was taken into questioning over murder.

At a private meeting in 2010 Mr Howlett was asked which Northern Irish politician he most admired, confirming it was Mr Adams, who leads the political arm of the terrorist Irish Republican Army: Sinn Fein.

Despite regular requests to take back the comments, Mr Howlett has always stood by them. He was recently selected to fight the marginal seat of Bath in the 2015 UK general electiion… His chances are now likely to have been significantly damaged.

…The full story on Adams is available here.

One suspects that by reporting that Howlett is “facing pressure”, Breitbart is being self-referential. “Admired” is now firmly embedded into the heart of the story; and the impression is given that Howlett regularly enthuses over Adams. The Breitbart article is anonymous, although the link to the article on Adams clicks through to a (now blank) piece by Andre Walker, who is frequently described as a “henchman” of Mark Clarke.

The story most recently reappeared in a piece about the Mark Clarke scandal by Iain Dale:

Howlett fingered Sayeeda Warsi, Grant Shapps and Andrew Feldman on Newsnight last week, saying that he had reported instances of bullying to them which they had failed to investigate…

My only previous knowledge of Howlett was when he was seeking adoption in a number of seats prior to the last election. He was sifted for interview in Eastbourne, once represented by Margaret Thatcher’s close friend, Ian Gow. Gow was killed by an IRA car bomb in 1990. Eastbourne Conservatives decided not to select Howlett as their candidate. One reason was that he had publicly announced that the politician he most admired in Northern Ireland was Gerry Adams.

But as shown above, Dale’s “previous knowledge of Howlett” in fact came from Harry Cole in 2010. Further, Dale’s information about Howlett’s failure in Eastbourne appears to be a new detail that he is here introducing into the public domain. Dale obviously wants us to regard Howlett with scepticism and distaste (the wider implication of his article is that Howlett’s complaints are opportunistic) – but he is keen for us to believe that he is merely relaying the considered opinion of mainstream Conservatives in Eastbourne, rather than once again promoting Harry Cole’s 2010 blogpost.

The same Mail on Sunday article that I began this post with also includes a detail about Paul Abbott, until recently the chief executive of Conservative Way Forward. According to the report, he has been a

…victim of a crude smear campaign inspired by Clarke’s camp in recent weeks.

This is somewhat opaque, but it presumably refers to a claim that appeared (with evidence) in the Sun last week:

A CONSERVATIVE Party chief warned Tatler Tory Mark Clarke he should smile at people and get “someone else to shoot them” after he was accused of bullying.

Activist Josh Hitchens complained about Clarke to party bosses just two months before he was made boss of RoadTrip.

But his email was immediately forwarded to then-Chief of Staff Paul Abbott, who leaked the complaint to Clarke, warning: “FYI. Maybe do this on the phone in future?”

And the co-author of this particular article? Once again: Harry Cole. Is the Mail on Sunday‘s Simon Walters trying to tell us something?

Own A Widow’s Mite For Less Than $60!

From the Gospel According to Mark (KJV):

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

It’s a story that invites us to think about humility and the true nature of generosity and commitment. And what better way to show that these things are important  to you than to wear Widow’s Mite jewellery?

WND has the details of a miraculous Christmas offer:

You know the story of the widow’s mite from the Bible. But did you know that you can own one or more of these bronze coins from ancient Israel, circa 135 BC to 29 AD?

On a recent WND trip to the Holy Land, WND cofounder Elizabeth Farah met with Lenny Wolfe, a highly respected adventurer and antiquities dealer who has collected a treasure trove of these ancient coins and mounted them in sterling silver casings. Mrs. Farah decided to bring a little bit of the Holy Land back to share with her friends.

The WND Superstore has a limited supply of these in two sizes – small regularly priced at $59.99, but discounted for holiday shoppers at $49.99, and $69.99, discounted to $59.99. They come ready to place on your own chain or on a charm bracelet. At these prices, they won’t last long.

Each widow’s mite comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by the distinguished Lenny Wolfe, packaged in a velvet jewelry pouch inside a gift box.

WND regularly organises tours to the “Holy Land”, in the company of the likes of Jim Bakker and Jonathan Cahn, originator of the recent “Shemitah” end-times prophecy theory. And it seems that the real message of the “widow’s mite” is to do with the importance of Israel:

“This is something I’ve dreamed about,” said Farah. “I wanted to bring back biblically meaningful products from Israel for all of the lovers of the Jewish state in America and around the world. This is the first step. It’s a small one – indeed the smallest coin from Israel’s Roman era. But they are coins with real meaning – so much so that Jesus Himself commented on them”

Wolfe is indeed a well-known figure in Israeli antiquities dealing, and he is profiled in a 2008 book about the subject by Nina Burleigh:

I met with Wolfe on several occasions in Jerusalem, and in New York. He was always highly entertaining—sly, salacious, raunchy and suggestive—but it was also clear he knew what he was talking about, and unlike Oded Golan, whose explanations of his business were always obscure, Wolfe was  proud to describe exactly how the Israeli antiquities market works. “I’m a real motherfucker,” he told me the first day we met. “But I won’t sell a fake.”

Presumably those are not the words that appear on the “certificate of authenticity”.

Lantern Project Loses NHS Funding

From the Daily Mail:

A charity which has helped two key witnesses in the VIP child sex abuse investigation has lost NHS funding amid concerns over its use of a controversial therapy which can generate false memories.

The Lantern Project was stripped of financial support after fears were raised over its governance, counselling techniques and use of unqualified staff.

The move raises further questions about the judgment of Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, who championed two alleged victims of VIP abuse helped by the charity. 

As opposed, presumably, to “questions about the judgment” of the Daily Mail, which for years has run articles promoting the Lantern Project and its founder, Graham Wilmer – here’s one from almost exactly a year ago, and here’s one from 2010. The 2014 article describes Wilmer as a “government adviser”, noting he had been “appointed by Theresa May to the controversial historic sex abuse inquiry”; Wilmer subsequently declined to re-apply when a new panel was created a few months later, but if there are questions about Watson, why are there not also “questions about the judgment” of the government?

The article also mentions “the disgraced ‘investigative’ news website Exaro”; but until a few months ago the Mail was very happy to refer to the site as a credible source, just as it described Watson as “campaigning MP Tom Watson”. That, of course, was before Watson became deputy leader of the Labour Party.

I’ve expressed misgivings about Exaro‘s approach, and I am of the view that Watson has made mistakes in his advocacy of CSA claims; but the Mail‘s reverse ferret, which began a couple of months ago, is hard to take.

The statement by the NHS Wirral Commissioning Group can be seen here; there is no specific reference to “recovered memories”. The Mail appears to have inferred that this may have been factor from a critical article that appeared in the Sunday Times in October, which described the Lantern Project as using “a controversial therapy experts fear could generate false memories” – I discussed this report, and the Lantern Project’s response, here.

As I noted previously, Wilmer comes across on Twitter as strangely aggressive character, posting triumphant and goading messages that boast of discrediting disclosures just around the corner (“tick tock” being a favourite phrase). This left a very poor professional impression. Wilmer also appears to have a grudge against a former MP, and this individual has been named as an abuser by one of Lantern’s clients. This creates the unfortunate sense of a conflict of interest.

Last month, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse launched a “Truth Pilot Project” in Liverpool. The launch event included comments from the Merseyside Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre and Stepping Stones North Wales; the Lantern Project was conspicuously not mentioned.

Footnote

The new Mail article repeats an error that appeared in the Sunday Times report in claiming that recovered memories “played a part in false abuse cases such as the Cleveland child abuse scandal in 1987”. In fact, the Cleveland case was driven by a quack medical misdiagnosis.