A Note on the Hobson-Corbyn Imperialism Controversy

This one was the subject of wide discussion yesterday – from The Times:

Jeremy Corbyn endorsed book about Jews controlling banks and the press

Jeremy Corbyn wrote the foreword to a book which argued that banks and the press were controlled by Jews.

In 2011 he agreed to endorse a new edition of JA Hobson’s 1902 book Imperialism: A Study, four years before he was catapulted from backbench obscurity to the Labour leadership.

In his foreword Mr Corbyn said the work was a “great tome”, praising Hobson’s “brilliant, and very controversial at the time” analysis of the “pressures” behind western, and in particular British, imperialism at the turn of the 20th century.

The headline reduces the book in a way that is misleading: anyone unfamiliar with the work might assume that this was some anti-Semitic tract akin to Henry Ford’s The International Jew rather than a wide-ranging critique of imperialism that has been of interest and value to wide readerships for decades, despite the flaw in which the author conflated criticisms of capitalist financing with references to Jews.

The Times headline refers specifically to a thesis outlined on pages 65-67 of the first edition, in which Hobson suggests that capitalism is controlled, “so far as Europe is concerned, chiefly by men of a single and peculiar race,” who “are in a unique position to manipulate the policy of nations”. He then asks:

“Does any one seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by and European State, or a great State loan subscribed, if the house of Rothschild and its connexions set their face against it?”

This is not a pervasive theme of the book, and had these pages not been included the work would still stand as a coherent argument. However, the existence of this passage – and of anti-Semitic comments made by Hobson elsewhere – must reflect negatively on how we are to understand the author’s worldview as explicated in the rest of his work.

An article by Miles Taylor (Professor of Modern History at York University) in yesterday’s Guardian fully acknowledges Hobson’s anti-Semitism, but in relation to the Rothschild reference he writes:

Without naming him, Hobson’s actual target was Nathan Rothschild, head of the banking family and a prominent public figure in Edwardian Britain. A former MP, ally of Benjamin Disraeli, and the first practising Jew to join the House of Lords, Hobson’s readers would have known immediately at whom Hobson’s invective was directed. Undoubtedly, Lord Rothschild was up to his ears in British imperialism; one of his best friends was Cecil Rhodes, and he helped bankroll the British South Africa Company, which smashed and grabbed its way across the continent in the 1890s.

This contextualisation is important, but one wonders how many of Hobson’s readers would also have thought of the long-standing conspiracy theory, first formulated in the 1840s, that Rothchild’s grandfather, also named Nathan, had profited from the Battle of Waterloo; Hobson’s allusion to the “house of Rothschild” must feed into the more generalised anti-Rothschild rhetoric that is today a staple of conspiracy thinking on both left and right. And is there any reason to give Hobson the benefit of the doubt that this wasn’t the point all along?

Taylor also writes that “nowhere in the book did Hobson refer specifically to Jews”, which seems a bit pedantic given the reference to “men of a single and peculiar race”. Also, a reference to “Hebrew mining speculators” was added in the second edition of the book in 1905 (page 177); this was retained in the third edition of 1938 (page 277), along with the Rothschild reference (page 57). This third edition describes itself as “entirely revised and reset”, yet these passages were retained despite the rise of Nazism. (1)

Corbyn’s foreword for a 2011 reprint from Spokesman Books can be seen here – he appears to have read the text closely, albeit uncritically. It’s possible that he did not engage with the “Rothschild” and “peculiar race” comments because he considered that readers would regard these as obvious archaisms to be disregarded, like Hobson’s references to “lower races” (although in the latter case Hobson was attempting to write sympathetically about the exploitation of tribal peoples, despite the racist language).

However, Hobson’s anti-Semitism has long been identified as a problem to be acknowledged, (2) and its continuing capacity to cause harm ought to have been recognised by anyone promoting the text in 2011 – especially a politician with influence within a particular activist milieu.

This is not the first time that Corbyn as come under criticism for apparently failing to recognise anti-Semitic conspiracy rhetoric relating to banking – I discussed a previous instance here.

Notes

1. I was alerted to the different editions by reading a 1985 review in n Victorian Studies by J.L. Herkless of J.A. Allett’s biography of Hobson. Herkless writes that “Allett quotes a passage from Hobson’s Imperialism (1902) in which there is a slighting reference to the ‘Hebrews'”. I looked for this in the source and couldn’t find it in the 1902 edition, and so I consulted Allett’s book and saw that he was actually quoting the third edition on this point. The website Archive.org now makes it an easy matter to consult, search and compare all three editions: for the first edition, see here; for the second edition, see here; and for the third edition, see here. I don’t know which edition forms the basis for the Spokesman Books reprint.

2. There are two sources in particular: Colin Holmes (1978), “J. A. Hobson and the Jews”, in his edited volume Immigrants and Minorities in British Society; and J.A. Allett (1987), “New liberalism, old prejudices: J. A. Hobson and the ‘Jewish question’“, in Jewish Social Studies 49: 2. As noted in the above note, Allett also wrote a biography of Hobson: New Liberalism: The Political Economy of J.A. Hobson (1981).

Hungarian Pentecostal Church Credited with “Kicking George Soros Out of Hungary”

From Charisma News:

Some say Europe is post-Christian. But although there’s a great deal of spiritual darkness in that continent, pockets of revival are also springing up. In a recent interview with evangelist and pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, he told me how God is moving across many European nations through his revival tour, Europe Ablaze….

One area where the Spirit of God is stirring up revival is Budapest, Hungary. Faith Church in Budapest, where Howard-Browne recently ministered, has experienced revival nonstop for 20 years. This Pentecostal church single-handedly kicked George Soros out of Hungary, Howard-Browne says.

Howard-Browne is a long-serving neo-Pentecostal evangelist, best-known for his involvement in the 1990s “Toronto Blessing”. These days, he also revels in the validation he has received from physical proximity to Donald Trump – he was among evangelical figures who laid hands on Trump in the Oval Office last year, and prior to Trump’s election Howard-Browne declared him to be “the New World Order’s Worst Nightmare”, who would frustrate Satan’s plan to bring about an End-Times one-world religion.

The above article is based on an interview between Howard-Browne and Charisma’s owner, Stephen Strang. For his part, Strang has written two books elucidating the supernatural significance of Trump’s presidency, one of which – God and Donald Trump -Trump obligingly waved around at journalists.

The Faith Church in Budapest is headed by Sándor Németh (or Németh Sándor, according to the Hungarian practice of placing the family name first), and according to Howard-Browne their meeting was a last-minute affair arranged at the prompting of God – indeed, an actual angel appeared to Németh with the instruction to invite Howard-Browne to the church.

According to his official biopage, Németh is a former seminarian who left Catholicism and affiliated with the Charismatic movement in the 1970s – he and his wife were ordained by the Good News Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1980, and Németh was particularly influenced by the British Pentecostal revivalist Derek Prince, whose ministry placed a particular emphasis on spiritual warfare against demons. Starting out as an illegal underground church, Németh says he now has 70,000 members nationwide plus “a support base of several hundred thousand”, and that his international ministry reaches “the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, the Ukraine, Kirgizstan and Cambodia”.

Németh’s church also owns ATV, which is Hungary’s third-largest 24-news station, and his Patmos Records publishing house produces Hungarian translations of American evangelists ranging from Jonathan Cahn (blogged here) to Joel Osteen and the late Kenneth Hagin, as well as secular works by the likes of Geert Wilders (as reported here) and Sebastian Gorka (1). Information in English is scare, although Németh’s influence in the country – and support for Viktor Orbán – was critically chronicled by the US-based Budapest Beacon, which drew on various media sources in Hungary before the decline of the country’s media plurality.

It is not clear how exactly Németh’s church supposedly “kicked George Soros out of Hungary”, but I think the idea is that the popularity of Németh’s church squeezed Soros out of the marketplace of ideas, rather than that Németh is responsible for laws in Hungary that suppress Soros’s civil society activities. Howard-Browne also reports Németh as saying that

So [Faith Church Pastor Nemeth Sandor] said to me, ‘Look, I need your help, because Soros is trying to work to shut my money down and is attacking tithing and everything.'”

I take this to mean that the church has come under some critical scrutiny as regards donations and financing, and that “Soros” here is a bogeyman thought to be behind negative coverage. Németh has previously identified Soros (Soros György) as an opponent of ” the anti-global, anti-immigration, national and Christian political forces in Europe”, and as responsible for the EU’s Sargentini Report, which criticised increasing authoritarianism in Hungary.

Charisma News has a history of running anti-Soros stories – I previously discussed one effort here.

Footnote

1. The Gorka book is A Dzsihád legyőzése, a Hungarian translation of his Defeating Jihad. Although Gorka is himself of Hungarian heritage, the book was translated by Péter Morvay (Morvay Petér), a producer at ATV and editor of Faith Church’s Hetek magazine. This site shows that it formed the basis for a formal presentation with military and defence officials at Hungary’s army headquarters.

Over-Hyped Fire in Paris Garage Prompts Palace of Versailles Conspiracy Theory

From French news site 78Actu, 23 April:

Les cendres fument encore à l’heure qu’il est mais l’incendie qui a détruit un garage, rue du Parc de Clagny à Versailles (Yvelines) est maitrisé.

…Vers 17h, dans le garage Automobiles du Parc de Clagny, un ouvrier est en train de faire des soudures lorsque cela déclenche l’incendie.

The report explains that a welding accident had caused a large fire at a garage in the Paris suburb of Versailles. Apparently more than 80 firefighters were involved in putting it out, and videos of the incident show that there was a substantial plume of dark smoke. There were no injuries.

This was mundane news of some local interest, but the words “Versailles” and “fire” led to a misunderstanding on social media that the Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles) was on fire. Coming so soon after the fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, this was then cited as new evidence that the Notre Dame fire was suspicious. As the days have passed, the lack of any news reports confirming such a dramatic development has been described by diehard conspiracists (using a #versaillesfire hashtag) as a “news blackout” – a proposition so boneheaded that it must be superfluous even to allude to the many obvious improbabilities and impossibilities of such a proposal.

The misunderstanding owes a great deal to the Kremlin-linked news agency Sputnik. Sputnik’s English-language report did specify “a car warehouse at the Rue du Parc”, but this was not reflected in the headline, which referred only to “a huge fire in Versailles”. (1) Sputnik’s French Twitter feed made use of a gratuitous flashing “URGENT” gif (which it also uses on other reports), while its Moldovan report sensationalised via a stock image of a conflagration and asked “Istoria se repetă?”, clearly implying a link with Notre Dame. The information about the welding context provided by 78Actu (“de faire des soudures”) was not mentioned anywhere.

The news cycle has moved on, but within the conspiracy milieu a vague memory will likely lodge that a famous French landmark was consumed by fire shortly after Notre Dame, with disconfirmations (most obviously, the continued existence of an undamaged Palace of Versailles, visited daily by thousands of tourists) either irrelevant or demonstrating the extent of the cover up.

Excursus

A related conspiracy theory suggests that the fire in fact targeted a church on the same street as the garage. However, this church has a social media presence and its postings indicate nothing amiss.

Footnote

1. Some social media discussion refers to a “car dealership” rather than a “car warehouse”.

2001: The News of the World and a “Huge Police Dossier” of Celebrity Abuse Allegations

Simon Just of Real Troll Exposure has drawn attention to an interesting News of the World article from November 2001, which was published in the wake of record producer Jonathan King’s conviction for underage sex abuse against five complainants:

A HUGE police dossier details the child sex secrets of some of Britain’s favourite stars. The 700-page report, studied by the News of the World, makes horrifying reading

TV star Jonathan King, jailed for seven years this week for a string of underage sex offences, is simply the first name in a gigantic police initiative codenamed Operation Arundel.

The investigation by Surrey police grew out of the orginal [sic] inquiry into 56-year-old King’s activities.

A bulleted list of “King’s debauched cronies” follows, although “for legal reasons” (i.e. lack of evidence) the paper did not provide any names. The article refers to a “chart star” who “cultivates a squeaky-clean image”; a “pop idol” who has been “named as a paedophile”; a “TV presenter” who is “close pals” with a “convicted paedophile”; a “peer” who has served in the House of Lords more than 20 years as a Lib-Dem, and whose “name was put forward”; “two DJs”, who are “said to be at the heart of King’s paedophile ring”; and “a “record producer”. The article, by Ben Proctor and Mike Jarvis, ends by asking: “Do you recognise any of the men in the police dossiers as your abuser? Ring 0207 782 1001… A sympathetic reporter will be waiting to take your call.” For some reason, a distinction is made between the dossier itself and “a list held by Scotland Yard”.

The article foreshadows the many headlines about “celebrity sex abuse” that have appeared in the British media in recent years – and it raises the question of to what extent old allegations may have been cross-contaminated or inspired by media hints, and how police leaks and media exposés may have fed off each other, with troubling end results. And this is not some natural development – the leaker of the “huge police dossier” shows how the agency of particular individuals may influence outcomes.

First, though, the backstory. The article was published a year after News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks (now Wade) had decided to suspend her paper’s “name and shame” anti-paedophile campaign, set up in the wake of the murder of the schoolgirl Sarah Payne. The campaign had led to outbreaks of public disorder during 2000 – most notoriously, a doctor’s house was attacked based on a confusion between the words “paediatrician” and “paedophile”, but the last straw was when a convicted sex abuser who had been released from prison went missing after fleeing a mob. However, outrage over child sex abuse remained a tabloid staple, and a “700-page report” would be an irresistible prospect.

Jonathan King has always maintained his innocence, and in 2005 following his release from prison his website was shut down after he made scathing comments about one of the complainants – a complaint was made to his internet provider by an activist named Shy Keenan (discussed here), who had been paired with Sarah Payne’s mother Sara by the News of the World to continue campaigning against underage sex abuse. The incident was reported in the Mirror as “Perv King’s Web Filth Shut Down“, a headline that falsely inferred that he was running a pornographic website.

In 2014, the evidence gathered against King in 2000 was reviewed, and Surrey Police decided to bring a new charge against him: he was put on trial last year, but this time there was a different outcome: the trial collapsed due to the discovery of police failures that must now cast a shadow over the original convictions (see commentary by Daniel Finkelstein here). One detail was that

In 2014 Surrey Police also learnt that former detective Mark Williams-Thomas, who helped run the original inquiry and is now an investigative journalist, was allegedly offering to sell information on – and introductions to – King’s victims.

I discussed Williams-Thomas’s response to this discovery here.

Williams-Thomas left Surrey Police in October 2000 – this was a year before the News of the World revealed the existence of the “700-page report”, but it ought to have been obvious to the force that this leak was the work of Mark Williams-Thomas – so why was no action taken against him?

In 2001, Williams-Thomas was not a public figure. However, that changed in 2012 when he made the Exposure documentary denouncing the late Jimmy Savile. Simon notes one particular media profile that appeared a few months after the documentary, which again refers to a “dossier”:

Williams-Thomas has worked closely with Scotland Yard’s Operation Yewtree inquiry into abuse by Savile and others, sharing new leads and contact details for victims as he proceeds. He has a dossier featuring a catalogue of allegations alongside the names of about 20 suspects, including some household names, which he has shared with detectives. In some cases that has led to arrests, he says, although he does not reveal names.

A number of figures, including the comedian Freddie Starr, DJ Dave Lee Travis and PR man Max Clifford, are on police bail waiting to learn whether they will face sexual offence charges after being detained under Operation Yewtree.

It is odd to juxtapose “He does not reveal names” with a list of names; it is reasonable to infer a connection between the names and the dossier, and to assume that this dossier is the 2001 police report – although the hook that these are all “King’s debauched cronies” has been jettisoned (Operation Arundel had closed in 2003).

Operation Yewtree has yielded some convictions that it is reasonable to regard as safe. However, some of the investigations have been persecutory and raise questions about police conduct – Jim Davidson and Paul Gambaccini have both written books that raise serious concerns, and Freddie Starr, Jimmy Tarbuck and Cliff Richard have made public appearances where it is obvious that unsubstantiated and/or impossible allegations have taken a toll on personal wellbeing.

The involvement of Williams-Thomas came under particular scrutiny in a Mail on Sunday article by David Rose and Rosie Waterhouse last November, in a piece headlined “How a self-promoting TV detective, obsessed with celebrity sex abusers, helped police ruin the lives of Sir Cliff and a string of other famous faces… who all turned out to be TOTALLY INNOCENT” – Williams-Thomas responded by pointing out a previous article by Rose that had ended with a libel payout, which was hardly a substantive response. (1)

The 2001 News of the World article gives the impression that this game of ping-pong has been going on for the best part of twenty years or more: a police/ex-police source leaks to the media, and the story prompts the police to take further action, which generates new stories. The Savile documentary turbo-charged this process. (2)

Meanwhile, Williams-Thomas has a book out soon: Hunting Killers, the cover of which advertises itself as “Britain’s top crime investigator reveals how he solves the unsolvable”. According to the blurb:

Death has a unique smell. I’ve been in the presence of people who have killed; I’ve been in rooms where people have been killed. I’ve seen the unspeakable things human beings are capable of. None of that puts me off my aim; I want to see those people caught, convicted and sent to jail.

The criminologist James Treadwell was not impressed by this, for reasons he outlined in a Twitter thread (here, here, here and here). Given the ephemeral nature of the site, I’ll quote in full:

I think I have probably been in VASTLY more lengthy interviews with murderers than most criminologists. I can name names, but don’t. Many would mean nothing to most people anyway. But this sort of narrative line, It is cheap, simplistic and horrible. Homicide, rather than murder happens for an array of complex reasons, involving a diverse cast of offenders and victims. The impact is a far wider way than often recognised, and simplistic tropes of “hunting”, “wickedness” and “evil” are, in my humble opinion, just utter crap.

Victims and offenders deserve better, as do all involved. A far bigger cast is involved. Much of the criminal justice work is mundane and frustrating and, well all a bit dull. That work doesn’t end with conviction. Some of the most dull and tragic people I have met were murderers.

A final thing. If you need to tell people how significant you are on the cover of your book, you probably aren’t. So even if your publisher swallows the line, most criminologists and people with half a clue won’t. So please, just for your sake, don’t start to believe the hype.

Publication is now imminent – although for some reason Williams-Thomas has recently closed down his Twitter account.

Footnotes

1. This response was recently noted by self-described “police whistleblower” Jon Wedger, after Rosie Waterhouse asked some difficult questions concerning a man recently produced by Wedger and his associate Anna Brees as a new Edward Heath accuser. Wedger says he now intends to “target” journalists who write sceptically about allegations.

2. This dynamic may have parallels with other subjects – for instance, Rebekah Brooks was later responsible at the Sun for a bogus terror-related story in 2009 derived from false information provided by a self-described activist who had been involved with a group that had links with police.

Watts, Wedger and Brees vs Private Eye

Staying with the latest issue of Private Eye magazine (No. 1493), page 13 has news from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which for the past three weeks has been taking evidence relating to allegations about “VIP sex abusers” connected to Westminster. Part of the article is concerned with leaks from the inquiry:

In a surprise closing statement, lead counsel Brian Altman QC revealed that IICSA had investigated a leak inquiry after embargoed evidence was repeatedly leaked and then published ahead of its release date by a journalist… IICSA chair Alexis Jay had thus decided that in future core participants and their lawyers will not receive evidence in advance of hearings…

“There was no public interest in the journalist making this information public; simply gaining advantage in publishing the information as a scoop,” Altman said. “The information was due to be made public y the inquiry just a few days following publication.”

So who is the mystery hack? Step forward Mark Watts…

Watts has been in attendance the whole time, Tweeting and writing articles for his FOIA Centre website. The article has prompted him to write a letter to the magazine, which he has also posted as a screenshot on Twitter:

Private Eye was wrong in its last issue for the third time in its third article about me and my work to expose VIP paedophiles.

Your report of the final day of hearings for the Westminster investigation of the inquiry into child sexual abuse wrongly said that its chairwoman, Alexis Jay, had decided to stop giving evidence to core participants and their lawyers in advance of hearings because of my publishing “confidential” material on the FOIA Centre’s website. The hearing heard of no such decision – for this or any other reason.

Given your correspondent’s failure to understand a few minutes of that hearing, no wonder you totally missed the mountain of evidence over three weeks of hearings on how the authorities kept letting off VIP paedophiles and suspected VIP paedophiles.

I am well known for publishing articles in the public interest based on a wide variety of leaked reports and evidence that authorities want to suppress, including during my time as editor of Exaro and as co-ordinator of the FOIA Centre. So much for your “conspiracy theories”.

Private Eye’s continual attacks on survivors of sexual abuse, whistleblowers and journalists who shed light on VIP paedophiles show how much you miss the late Paul Foot, one of the first to try to expose this very issue. I remind you that news is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress. All the rest is advertising. Or, as in the case of your article, PR – for the establishment.

In his Tweet alongside the letter, Watts desribes the Eye as “PIE-eyed”, thus suggesting that the magazine shares the perspective of the long-dead and widely reviled Paedophile Information Exchange.

Watts’s best-known “work to expose VIP paedophiles” consists of articles he wrote for the Exaro News website in which he attributed a number of historic allegations to a certain man who attended the police with an Exaro colleague. Despite a lengthy police investigation following from this, no arrests were ever made, and indeed some of those who were named were afterwards offered compensation. The subject currently cannot be discussed in any detail for legal reasons, although hopefully these will be resolved in due course.

It’s perhaps telling that despite asserting that his articles are “in the public interest”, Watts does not attempt to explain why Altman’s direct contradiction of this claim is wrong. Instead, he focuses on the detail of access to documents. Here is what Altman said:

Now that the hearings in the Westminster investigation have been completed, you [i.e. Alexis Jay] have asked the solicitor to the inquiry to terminate the access of core participants in this investigation to the body of disclosed documents, and that will be done today. Going forward, core participants will be entitled to request access to documents on the provision of reasons, for example, in order to prepare for making further submissions in writing by April 12 or in order to respond to rule 13 warnings.

It seems that this “termination” was interpreted by Private Eye as being in direct response to the issue of the leak discussed by Altman just before. However, it is not in Watts’s interest to correct or clarify, rather than just complain, and so he keeps things vague in the hope that we will infer journalistic malpractice.

Meanwhile, Private Eye’s “continual attacks on survivors of sexual abuse, whistleblowers and journalists” appears to be primarily a reference to Michael Tarraga (1), whose new memoir Meat Rack Boy contains an account of an underage sexual encounter with Edward Heath in the summer of 1963. The Eye (1492, p. 38) very reasonably pointed out that the specifics of this story are difficult to reconcile with Heath’s schedule during that period, and that it was odd that Tarraga had not referred to Heath in a previous version of his memoir, called The Successful Failure (2).

Tarraga only mentioned Heath after coming into contact with a self-described “police whistleblower” named Jon Wedger, who now works full time promoting conspiracy theories about “VIP child sex abuse” and even Satanic Ritual Abuse; Wedger has long been keen to justify former Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale’s posthumous police investigation into Heath, which has been derided as a fiasco, and so this discovery of a new alleged victim was a bit of luck.

Tarraga’s memoir was then reshaped by Wedger’s associate Anna Brees, a former mainstream journalist who now works as a media trainer – the new version of the memoir is published by “Brees Media”, although little effort seems to gone into formatting or copyediting the typescript. Brees, like Wedger, is firmly embedded in the conspiracy milieu – she has also Tweeted references to the Illuminati and to the American “Pizzagate” and “Qanon” conspiracy theories.

Watts and Wedger met socially during the IICSA Westminster hearings, and Watts and Brees have expressed mutual admiration for each other on Twitter.

Watt’s letter is just one prong of a more wide-ranging attack against Private Eye: he is also calling on his supporters not to buy the magazine, while Wedger has announced that “the target now has to be corrupt mainstream media journalists working hard on trying to cover up the VIP paedophile rings.” As I detailed in my previous post, Brees has also ratcheted things up after a second Private Eye article (1493, p. 13) referred to further contradictions in Tarraga’s story – this led to a hostile Twitter exchange with the journalist Rosie Waterhouse, in which Waterhouse referred to an old “email” by Tarraga which was in fact a forum post. Seizing on this imprecision, Brees pedantically denounced this as Waterhouse’s “first lie”. Brees also arranged a new interview with Tarraga, who spoke of his “great distress” and repeatedly abused Waterhouse as “Rosie Fucking Waterhouse” while Brees smirked.

Wedger, meanwhile, drew attention to a notice on Mark Williams-Thomas’s website, published in response to a Mail on Sunday article about him headlined “How a self-promoting TV detective, obsessed with celebrity sex abusers, helped police ruin the lives of Sir Cliff and a string of other famous faces… who all turned out to be TOTALLY INNOCENT” (I discussed Williams-Thomas here). The article had been written by Waterhouse and David Rose, and Wedger concluded that “Think these two are mates. One after @BreesAnna the other went after Lenny Harper who investigates Haut de la Garenne. It’s time to shine a light on these journalists”. Brees concurred, stating that “they seem to have an interest in shaping public opinion on how we see child sexual abuse… We must look into this further it’s a new media revolution”. This then led into a spin-off argument about the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey that drew in David Rose, Stuart Syvret and Leah McGrath Goodman.

Currently, Wedger is asking his Twitter followers “When are we going to stop the corrupt journalists?” and complaining that “Private eye journalists are watching every single thing myself and my team do. And I mean EVERYTHING including broadcasts to tiny YouTube stations. What I don’t understand is how they knew I’d be on it? Victims are being targeted”.

Private Eye has its faults, but covering up VIP abuse for the benefit of “the establishment” is not one of them. The current editor, Ian Hislop, famously fought a libel case in 1994 after the magazine accused North Wales Chief Constable Gordon Anglesea of child sex abuse; the case was lost, but Anglesea’s conviction just before his death in 2016 was written up as a vindication of the magazine and of Anglesea’s accusers (I wrote critically about this here).

The magazine does, though, have a history of raising concerns about false allegations and how their originators: this has included covering links between therapists and Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations, and similar scandals such as the sad story of Carol Felstead (whose case was early raised by Matthew Scott as a cautionary tale when Watts first produced his VIP abuse informant).

Footnotes

(1) As well as Tarraga, Watts may also have in mind Anthony Daly, who joined in the Twitter conversation to complain about Private Eye’s coverage of his memoir Playland. The book described Daly’s purported experiences while he was under the control of a vice ring in central London whose activities included child exploitation (Tarraga’s title Meat Rack Boy refers to the same milieu) – the experiences included encounters with various VIPs.

In May 2018, the Eye (1469, p. 35) ran a review under the heading “Fantasy Fiction”; the piece did not attempt to debunk his story, but implied in a sceptical tone that Mirror Books (associated with the newspaper group) had published an unlikely and unsubstantiated story. Daly – who says he was inspired to speak out after reading Anthony Gilberthorpe’s claims (discussed here) – Tweeted that he had offered to show evidence to Eye editor Ian Hislop but had been ignored.

(2) Another difficulty is that Tarraga told Wedger that all he knew about Heath at the time was that he was “a prominent sailor”, when Heath did not take up sailing until 1966.

Private Eye Explores New Edward Heath Accuser

UPDATE (18 April): The second half of this post has been updated several times in the last few days in the light of new information.

In a quote provided to Private Eye magazine (1), former TV journalist turned conspiracy theorist Anna Brees has explained how it is that Michael Tarraga’s misery memoir Meat Rack Boy, recently published with her assistance, includes an allegation of sex abuse against former Prime Minister Edward Heath that was absent from the previous edition of his life story, as presented in his self-published book The Successful Failure:

“I knew this would draw attention to his story and it has,” Brees tells the Eye. “As a journalist I knew what the ‘headline’ would be for others, so pursued this in my interview and added it to the book.”

As I noted in a previous post, Heath wasn’t part of Tarraga’s story until he was explicitly prompted to name him by Jon Wedger, a self-described “police whistleblower” who spends his time making video interviews with various people with allegations pertaining to child sex abuse, including Satanic Ritual Abuse. Wedger is a strong supporter of (and he claims friendship with) former Chief Constable Mike Veale, who led the posthumous investigation into allegations against Heath, and as such it is remarkably fortuitous that he just happened to find a new accuser while making a casual enquiry with an interview subject.

Wedger, who works closely with Brees, has a line of branded “I Stand with Jon Wedger” merchandise, and he is currently fundraising to “raise awareness” of child sex abuse – this is despite the ubiquity of the subject in the media for years and a slew of particularly lurid and sensational claims since the posthumous allegations against Jimmy Savile in 2012. According to Wedger, “all profits” from Tarraga’s book will “go to the campaign to expose an establishment cover up of child abuse”, while Brees now says that “the profits are paying for a two day new media training event in Blackpool this June”. In contrast, proceeds from The Successful Failure were pledged to a children’s hospice called Sam’s Place (2).

The Eye summarises the relevant chapter in Meat Rack Boy, entitled “Uncle Teddy”:

Tarraga says that while he attended Chafford approved school school for boys near Harwich, Essex, the deputy headmaster gave him half a crown to go to a sailing club in neighbouring Suffolk. “Uncle Teddy and I went swimming. I was taken to the boat… I just spent an afternoon with him sailing and swimming. What did Uncle Teddy do? “Dry my naked body, play with me and make me do something to him. We gave each other oral sex.”

Tarraga has said this was in 1962 or 1963, although records show that he was admitted to Chafford approved school in Harwich in Essex on 31 July 1963. According to the Eye:

Heath was Lord Privy Seal at the time, and the Eye has checked his day-to-day movements for the rest of that summer through his ministerial appointment diaries: crammed with official meetings and lunches in London, a five-day trip to Russia, a week’s holiday in Islay, visits to Stockholm and Helskini, and so on. It’s hard to see when or how he could have fitted in a lazy afternoon swimming, sailing and sexually abusing in Suffolk.

Other inconsistencies

In a follow-up article (3), the Eye says that it “has now found other inconsistencies in Tarraga’s accounts about his abusive upbringing”, but that Brees has “refused to answer any more questions after the Eye challenged her to explain the contradictions”.

No further details are provided, although interaction between the journalist Rosie Waterhouse and Anna Brees on Twitter since publication indicate that one example pertains to a social media post made by “tarraga1” in August 2011 to a site called RootsChat.com:

re your question about the orphanage in london colney  it was st gabrials/st raphals at all saints convent run by sisters of the poor,I know this because my brother sister and myself lived there from 1952 untill1960 when I was moved to another home called the hollies in sidcup… i have many very happy memories of it during my time,

This appears to be inconsistent with Tarraga’s account in Meat Rack Boy, in which he says that he remained in foster care until 1959 and was then only at the convent school for ten months. Before that, he had been in foster home funded by Lambeth Council in Borehamwood (formerly spelt Boreham Wood), where, he alleges, the foster parents had “raped and sold him out to others” (as summarised by Wedger) from the age of four. His brother and sister had also been abused, but had been sent to the convent some years before him. Yet the above post has all three of them living together at All Saints – outside the jurisdiction of Lambeth Council – and apparently all very happy.

As Waterhouse puts it:

Happy to share all my questions to Anna Jon Wedger and Michael Tarraga. Where was Michael between 1952 and 1960? With wicked sex abusing foster parents? Or in children’s home in London where he had “many happy memories” a/c to email [sic] he sent 2011? Inconsistency. Unanswered.

Despite the reported refusal to answer questions, Brees has made several responses to the above. First, she suggested that Waterhouse was focusing on a trivial point about Tarraga’s age:

I’d love to share the questions sent to me by Rosie waterhouse @rosiew5. I fully stand by my reporting on what happened to @MikeTarraga the inconsistencies are that he could not remember if he was 3 or 4. What’s your agenda Rosie? What’s your view on victims of sexual abuse?

Brees’s own answer to this question is to suggest that Waterhouse is unduly focused on the idea that people make false allegations in order to receive compensation –  thus her Tweet so includes some very short extracts from a 1997 Newsnight report that Waterhouse uploaded to YouTube a few years ago. The report was about the coincidentally named Waterhouse Inquiry (named for Ronald Waterhouse QC) into sexual abuse in children’s homes in Wales, and Brees’s extracts emphasise the word “compensation”.

Second, Brees has posted online a document indicating that Tarraga and his twin brother were indeed living in Borehamwood in 1954, and a letter that Tarraga received in December 2017 from the Lambeth Children’s Home Redress Scheme. The letter thanks Tarraga for “coming forward and telling the Council what you experienced while in care”, and recognises his “immense bravery and courage on your part to come forward and tell us about the abuse, particularly when you may have have feared that you might not be believed”.

Third, Brees has now recorded a new video interview with Tarraga, which has been uploaded by Wedger. Tarraga angrily denounces “Rosie Fucking Waterhouse”, whom he calls a liar, and Brees slightly cryptically summaries Tarraga’s early years as “You were taken away from your brother and sister, and you ended up with, they were in a place that you was much happier” [sic]. Tarraga confirms authorship of the tarraga1 post, but says it has been taken out of context. The opportunity to explain what the correct understanding should be, though, is not taken. The interview was then followed up by a short commentary from Brees, in which she again notes the 1954 email and describes Waterhouse’s mistaken reference to the forum post as having been an email as “her first lie”.

The Lambeth letter is clearly a standard reply; in Meat Rack Boy Tarraga says that he was at both the Hollies and Shirley Oaks prior to being sent to Chafford in the early 1960s, and Lambeth Council has acknowledged that there was widespread abuse at Shirley Oaks in particular – so much so that all former Shirley Oaks residents are now offered compensation, on the grounds that even those who may have escaped abuse were at risk of it (and in the new video Tarraga confirms that he has received compensation, which funded his Successful Failure book).

However, on Facebook Tarraga has complained that despite him receiving this letter, Lambeth “also state that i wasnt one of theirs” (also noted by Wedger on Twitter). Tarraga is now apparently in a dispute with Lambeth council about the matter; perhaps the issue is that Lambeth have said that they are not responsible for anything that happened to him in Hertfordshire, or later on at Chafford in Essex (when he says he encountered Edward Heath), but if so no-one appears to be advising him as to which authority he should be contacting instead. Certainly, it serves Wedger and Brees if Lambeth is thought to be involved in a “cover up” of some sort.

The same Facebook post also states:

whilst i cannot say nor will i say that i was raped bummed call it what you like by any famous person but i will state under oath in court that i was abuse raped both orally anally and violently by many men from the upper class’s

It is difficult to reconcile this with his claim about Edward Heath – the word “rape” might seem to offer a bit of wriggle room, but given his age in 1963 and his denunciation of the term “child prostitute” in the same post, we can be sure that by the word “rape” he means any oral sex, whether forced or not. The explanation, according to Tarraga, is that his encounter with Heath was insignificant.

Perhaps the various problems discussed above can be ironed out: in particular, it is possible that when Tarraga wrote that “my brother sister and myself lived there from 1952 untill1960”, he meant “my brother, sister and myself between us lived there from 1952 to 1960″ – i.e. an overall total in which three people overlapped. After all, his elder sister would probably have left before he did, due to being one or two years ahead. But if this is the explanation, why did Brees not address this issue raised by Waterhouse before the Private Eye article was published? If she held back for strategic reasons, so that an article would appear that she could then dispute, then she is the one responsible for the “distress” that Tarraga speaks about in his interview.

In his new video interview, Tarraga also laments the way that so much focus has been placed on his supposed encounter with Heath, and the prospect that he may be remembered simply as “Meat Rack Boy”, but these are the inevitable and obvious outcomes of Brees’s media strategy. It is unrealistic to accuse a former prime minister of sex abuse and not expect some critical scrutiny, and yet Brees appears not to have warned Tarraga that this would happen. Given Tarraga’s health and vulnerability, this is a failure of a duty of care.

There is a sense of manipulation in the video interview which becomes especially clear towards the end, as Brees invites Tarraga to denounce the BBC on an unrelated matter (4) and to praise Mark Watts, a journalist who promoted VIP abuse conspiracy theories on the Exaro website (5). It looks to me that Brees’s and Wedger’s interests being are served, rather than those of Tarraga.

****

Footnotes

(1) “It’a Brees”, in Private Eye 1492, p. 38.

(2) Wedger says he wants to raise £5,000 for his “Jon Wedger Foundation”. The figure is significant, as associations and trusts etc. in the UK with a “charitable purpose” and/or that exist “for the public benefit” must register with the Charity Commission if they have income that exceeds this amount. Wedger’s “foundation” is not a charity or even registered as a company at Companies House.

(3) “Bumbling Brees”, in Private Eye 1493, p. 13.

(4) The second Eye article also states that Brees had “stopped tweeting” about the book, and is instead “busily re-airing a five-year-old conspiracy theory that accuses the BBC of faking a Panorama report about the Syrian regime bombing a hospital”. New life was breathed into this old claim in February when a BBC journalist named Riam Dalati (who describes himself as “BBC Syria Producer”) suggested on Twitter that

After almost 6 months of investigations, i can prove without a doubt that the #Douma Hospital scene was staged. No fatalities occurred in the hospital. All the #WH, activists and people i spoke to are either in #Idlib or #EuphratesShield areas.

Rather than explain himself or present evidence, Dalati instead decided to lock down his account. However, it seems that he was suggesting that dead bodies had been moved and posed, rather than that people were “playing dead” or similar – he also Tweeted before this that “the ATTACK DID HAPPEN”, but that details were “manufactured for maximum effect”. This previous Tweet was ignored by the Russian Embassy and various “alternative media” bad actors, who instead created a distorted narrative in which Dalati supposedly “admitted” being involved with creating a fraudulent BBC report about a non-existent attack. Wedger has also joined in with this effort, which Brees is also linking with Tommy Robinson’s grievance against the BBC.

According to her book Making the News, as quoted in the Eye, Brees says that her children “never watch these channels [BBC and ITV]… They talk about the Illuminati  in the playground and discuss end of the world theories”.

(5) Watts is of the view that the Lambeth letter means that Private Eye magazine should provide Tarraga with “a GROVELLING apology”. Watts recently met Wedger in London while both were observing the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and he has his own grudge against Private Eye: the latest issue also carries an article identifying him as the unnamed journalist recently criticised by the inquiry lead counsel for publishing embargoed information (“Watts ‘n’ All”, Private Eye 1493, p. 11)

Jon Wedger Promotes Satanic Ritual Abuse Conspiracy Theorist Wilfred Wong

Wong claims that sceptics are themselves Satanists who will be “exposed”

Back in October, I noted self-described “police whistleblower” Jon Wedger’s increasing interest in Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations, following his video interview with Vicky Ash, a supposed “survivor” associated with the evangelical SRA conspiracy theorist Wilfred Wong. Wedger has now followed up with a feature-length livestream with Wong himself, held in the grounds of an unidentified Victorian church in north London.

Wedger’s descent into the most lurid sensationalism was probably always inevitable, but the immediate context here is that Wedger appears to have become increasingly vexed by critics and sceptics online and in the media. He refers in particular to the Hoaxtead Research blog and also to “a periodical” – the latter obviously a reference to the current issue of Private Eye magazine (No, 1492, p. 38), which carries a short article (“It’s a Brees”) referencing his association with the new Edward Heath accuser Mike Tarraga.

Wong helpfully suggests to Wedger that critical journalists and sceptics are themselves involved in Satanic Ritual Abuse and will soon be “exposed”; such a glib explanation is a natural outgrowth of Wong’s unreconstructed 1980s “Satanic Panic” worldview, which extrapolates from various phenomena – the transgressive showmanship of Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey, the existence of the law-abiding Church of Satan, and a few old cases where sexual abusers apparently acted out stereotypical Satanic tropes, for whatever reason – into wild claims about Satanic covens that supposedly exist in “every town and village” in the UK, with all levels of society “infiltrated” by Satanic abusers and killers. Wong’s continuing promotion of the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax is particularly callous, given that he must know of the suffering experienced by parents and teachers who were identified and falsely accused by Sabine McNeill.

Edward Heath looms large in the discussion – Wong believes that Heath was a Satanist prime minister, thus proving the extent of Satanism in the UK, while Wedger, it seems to me, hopes that by continuing to highlight allegations against Heath he will in due course ingratiate himself with Mike Veale, the former Chief Constable responsible for the Operation Conifer fiasco (Wedger claims to be in contact with Veale, but nothing in the public domain shows that Veale has responded to his overtures). Wedger now says that he has found two new Heath accusers: one of these is the aforementioned Tarraga (not mentioned here by name), while the other is a woman who according to Wedger says she was abused by Satanists at parties, but that she had been excluded from one that was just for boys – according to her, this particular party was “being set up for Ted Heath”.

Towards the end, there is also this detail from Wedger (1.16.36):

There was one case, a guy come to me and he was sent to an approved school in east London, and he was abused, and he remembers it was ritualistic, there was Pentagrams on the floor, and it was a caretaker that was doing it. And that was in a residential school, and he was subject to it, as was his brother and many other kids.

The context here is again suggestive of Tarraga, who was raised in care along with his brother, and who attended an approved school. Tarraga was in Harwich in Essex rather than London, although the location is about 90 miles northeast of London. Such a story, though, does not appear in Tarraga’s revised memoir, which was produced under Wedger’s guidance.

UPDATE: The interview has now been advertised by Andrew Cheetham on David Icke’s website. Icke’s own Twitter feed has also promoted it (or rather, used it to promote himself) via one of his lurid memes.

The Caroline Farrow “Misgendering” Controversy

From the Evening Standard:

A devout Catholic and mum-of-five faces being questioned by police after being reported for using the wrong pronoun to describe a transgender girl on Twitter.

Caroline Farrow, 44, has been told police in Surrey want to conduct a “taped interview under caution” after receiving reports she had made transphobic comments online.

The 44-year-old is being investigated under the malicious communications act, and although the interview would be voluntary, she claims she could face arrest if she does not attend.

Farrow is a regular media commentator on Catholic matters; she and her husband are converts from Anglicanism, and because her husband was formerly an Anglican vicar she is now in the unusual situation of being married to a Catholic priest. I noted her intervention in the Alfie Evans case here.

The police investigation has apparently now been dropped after the accuser withdrew her complaint, but there are several points worth noting here.

First, it transpired that despite numerous headlines, the basis for the complaint was not “misgendering” (aka “confundir el sexo”, according to one report in Spanish), but rather rather the crude and polemical terms in which Farrow had described the circumstances in which a transwoman named Jackie Green, now aged 25, had transitioned in Thailand aged 16. Farrow accused Green’s mother Susie Green of “child abuse” for facilitating the operation, which was described by Farrow in reductive terms as a “castration”. These were in Tweets from October that have since been deleted, although Farrow’s Twitter archive goes back some years.

Farrow suggests that she was not made aware by police that the complaint pertained to these Tweets, rather than just “misgendering”. This explanation is not implausible: “misgendering” may have served as the easiest hook on which could peg a “hate crime”, with the Tweets to be introduced during the interview as evidence of a “hate motive”. Equally, however, the police investigating a case of “misgendering” is an easy media story that more readily fits a boilerplate narrative of “PC gone mad”.

The need to establish a motive perhaps explains Surrey Police’s statement to the media:

A thorough investigation is being carried out to establish whether any criminal offences have taken place.

A 44-year-old woman has been asked to attend a voluntary interview in relation to the allegation as part of our ongoing investigation.

This could be taken to mean that the police believe there is a case to answer, and they just wanted to give Farrow the opportunity to put her side of the story before referring the matter to the CPS – but given the paucity of progress since October I think it’s more likely that the police had insufficient evidence to proceed and were hoping that Farrow would have obliged them by saying something incriminating during the interview. This smacks of fishing.

A further point of interest here is that Farrow has more than once herself made complaints to the police about various individuals, alleging online harassment or stalking. Farrow is sometimes subjected to abuse and intrusion, but some of her complaints have been unwarranted and she has had a tendency to portray her interaction with police being a police endorsement of her claims: over the years she has stated that this person or that has been “written to by Surrey police”, or that police have taken “a detailed statement” from her.

One particularly unpleasant instance was after she asked my friend Tim Ireland to investigate the origin of a sockpuppet account that was attacking her – Tim determined that, as it were, the call was coming from inside the house, which prompted Farrow to make a stalking allegation. She was encouraged in this by Nadine Dorries MP, who wanted to revive a failed complaint of her own by involving other accusers.

On her blog, Dorries falsely accused Tim of having caused Farrow to have gone into premature labour in 2012 – Farrow’s own Tweets comprehensively disproved the allegation, but she nevertheless endorsed Dorries’ version. This required her to retcon allegations of harassment she had made against others in 2012 as instead having been due to Tim.

Excurcus

A commentary on the police investigation has been posted online by Barbara Hewson. Barbara argues that Green’s complaint ought to have handled as a civil matter:

Green’s route to the lawful vindication of her good name lies in a defamation action in the High Court, therefore, not via the police.

I have argued before that people should not seek to reintroduce the criminal offence of libel through the back door, by going to the police alleging “hate crime”, harassment or malicious communications. That is deeply regressive.

This is a trend that I have noted previously.

Tommy Robinson Lashes Out at Critic after Lawyer Arranges Service Stunt

From Mike Stuchbery at the Independent:

For the last few months, I have written about the methods used by “Tommy Robinson” to intimidate and harass those who dare to criticise him. I do this because he’s the most visible figure in a surging UK far right, feted by politicians and media figures alike.

Tonight he paid me a visit. Twice.

After tweeting the news that he was about to be served papers for defamation at his home in Central Bedfordshire, I got to see, in response, what his customary “doorstepping” was like for myself.

Robinson live-streamed the incident to Facebook via an associate, and the video can be easily found on YouTube. Robinson repeatedly bangs on Sutchbery’s door and demands Sutchbery come out; he also promises to return night after night, and he boasts that Sutchbery’s neighbours and others in the town will now be aware that his home is the address of a “case” and a “wrongun”. Robinson also told a passerby who recognised him that Stuchbery is “in with all these bondage and these weird sex cases”, which prompted the passerby ask if he was “looking for a paedo”; Robinson does not clarify.

Stuchbery’s Tweet about Robinson being served papers referred readers to a livestream on the Facebook page of a group called “Resisting Hate”. He also noted that “ITV, Guardian & the Daily Mail” were in attendance, and made a jocular reference to Robinson being doorstepped in the same way that he has doorstepped others. (1) It seems that he was afterwards targeted by Robinson primarily for reasons of convenience: Stuchbery happens to live not far from Robinson’s home, and he is primarily an independent writer rather than a journalist who enjoys the backing of a big news corporation – although Robinson claims that he has the addresses of journalists whom he will “expose”, including one he describes as “Mr Daily Mail Reporter” (a reference to this article).

However, I don’t share Stuchbery’s enthusiasm for the way that the lawyer Tasnime Akunjee (var. Mohammed T. Akunjee) turned the serving of legal papers into a media circus. Akunjee’s first and only concern should be for the best interests of his client, the Syrian teenager “Jamal” who says that Robinson libelled him. The serving of papers could probably have been arranged by mutual agreement elsewhere (although the Daily Mail says that Robinson had ignored earlier correspondence), but if it was really necessary to attend Robinson’s address then a regulated and professional process server ought to have been used.

Instead, Akunjee delegated the task to one Dick Coughlan, described in the Independent as a “YouTuber”. Coughlan is a comedian whose appearance is dishevelled; even Stuchbery describes him as “half ratbeast”, and he brought along a Staffordshire terrier. (2) Coughlan’s involvement was obviously meant to provoke, and it is unclear why the date chosen was one on which it had been widely reported that Robinson was away in Finland. Akunjee followed up the incident by promoting Coughlan’s Patreon page on social media, although he later thought better of it and deleted a Tweet on the subject.

Coughlan did not reach Robinson’s address – instead, he handed the papers to a police officer who was blocking the way (reportedly about 50 metres distant from the house). Coughlan approached the officer alone, having handed over the dog to an associate. At one point the name of a nearby road is visible, and Coughlan refers to a house number.

Although there was no contact with Robinson’s family, this is not how things should be done. However, Akunjee and Coughlan’s stunt was an excuse rather than a reason to target Stuchbery – and to send a message that other critics had better be careful.

According to a statement issued by Bedfordshire Police:

We were called to reports of a man causing a disturbance outside a house in Luton at around 10:52 last night [Monday] and again at around 5:21am this morning [Tuesday]. Officers attended and we are now establishing the circumstances around both incidents so we can determine whether any offences have been committed.

UPDATE: Stuchbery has published a message that UKIP’s NEC Elizabeth Jones has sent to supporters defending Robinson’s behaviour. In her version of the story, “5 men turned up” at Robinson’s house and “terrorised his wife and children”. After “finding out who they were”, Robinson “knocked on the one journalist’s door he knew to ask why”. (3)

UPDATE 2: Robinson has now given his version of the incident on the Alex Jones Show. Robinson told the American conspiracy monger that “six men” in masks had reached to his house and scared his children, and that Coughlan had afterwards made malicious comments about his family on Twitter (Coughlan’s account is currently suspended). These men, according to Robinson, were “sent” by Stuchbery, a claim presumably extrapolated from Stuchbery’s support for crowdfunding the legal action.

Robinson also denies any responsibility for what his supporters may do now, and downplays how he conducted himself outside Stuchbery’s house:

I’ve had so many people contact me…, so many people message me saying “we’ll go get them, we know where they live.” I haven’t said a word, but now, I realise I’m probably being set up… I actually went myself to one of these men’s houses, who set up the people to come to my house and I knocked… I went completely on my own and knocked on the door and said “You have been intimidating my children, come outside and answer a few questions.”

Robinson further claims that the following morning he confronted two men in a white van outside his home, who said they were plumbers but eventually admitted to being police officers with recording equipment (he has a video extract of the van). Robinson told Jones that he is being “set up” so that he can be accused of conspiracy to commit a crime; Jones warns him that the government plans to assassinate him and plant a weapon on him.

Footnotes

1. One of those previously targeted by Robinson include my friend Tim Fenton, shortly after Tim criticised James Delingpole for mainstreaming Robinson via a softball interview. There is reason to suspect that Tim’s blog post was specifically brought to Robinson’s attention by someone else for their own reasons, and that this person or persons supplied the address. More on that here.

2. This seems to me to have been particularly ill-considered, especially if Coughlan foresaw a confrontation. Staffordshire terriers already suffer from an undeserved reputation for aggression, and to bring one to what might become a fraught situation where any dog might become frightened and lash out was irresponsible.

3. Liz Jones goes on to relate that at a recent meeting in Durham, 90% of the audience who had come to see her and UKIP leader Gerard Batten said they no longer “listen or view the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky”, and that when “one man said he only watched Russia Today” there was “loud approvement”.

Some Notes on the Robert Hannigan Resignation

From the Mail on Sunday:

One of Britain’s top spy chiefs quit after it emerged that he helped a paedophile Catholic priest avoid jail, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Prime Minister Theresa May was last night accused of a cover-up over the scandal as she knew of GCHQ director Robert Hannigan’s connection to the child sex offender when he stood down in 2017.

…After Mr Hannigan provided a character reference for Father Edmund Higgins at his 2013 trial, the priest’s eight-month sentence was suspended.

…With the Prime Minister’s blessing, he was allowed to resign on January 23, 2017, citing family commitments. Anonymous briefings were given to the media that he would be caring for sick relatives.

…After his conviction, Higgins, who had served at St Elizabeth’s Church in Richmond, South-West London, was defrocked and changed his name to Edmund Black, but continued to offend.

We can only speculate as to why this has come to light now, and why the story was handed to the MoS‘s deputy political editor Harry Cole (1). The first line (and front-page headline) hint at some sort of improper influence, when in fact the supposed “cover up” merely refers to a personal embarrassment that had no bearing on Hannigan’s integrity or competence (it’s not even clear to what extent his character reference influenced Black’s judge, if at all). On Twitter, Cole has further promoted the story in terms of “Despite knowing Hannigan connection , No10 let him resign quietly into lucrative private security sector”.

But why shouldn’t he have been allowed to “resign quietly”? I find myself agreeing with Ann Widdicombe, that Hannigan’s acknowledgement of his error “should have been the end of the matter”, and that “in a more sensible world, of course, there should have been nothing to hide.”

One person who predicted that there was more to Hannigan’s resignation than we were being told was Peter Hitchens, who in early 2017 wrote that

Last week the chief of Britain’s electronic spying agency, GCHQ, quit without warning or adequate reason. Robert Hannigan, we were briefly told, left his ultra-sensitive £160,000-a- year post after just two years for ‘personal reasons’ . Mr Hannigan is 51 and has previously worked as ‘director general of defence and intelligence’ at the Foreign Office. He can hardly have expected the GCHQ job to allow him to spend a lot of time at home with his family. One has to suspect a controversy. (2)

It seems that Hannigan’s discretion was such that he preferred to have this question mark hanging over him than for GCHQ to be responsible for the agency being at the centre of negative publicity.

But discretion is one thing; misleading briefings are another. Even white lies from public officials undermines public trust, and in this instance conspiracy theories flourished. As Jeremy Duns noted in Foreign Policy:

In March 2017, [former CIA analyst Larry C.] Johnson claimed on his blog that Britain’s signals intelligence agency GCHQ — or, as he repeatedly called it, “GHCQ” — intercepted communications within Trump Tower during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. His evidence for this? GCHQ Director Robert Hannigan had resigned three days after Trump’s inauguration. Hannigan announced that he would be caring for his ill wife and elderly parents, but Johnson saw a darker plot in the timing, writing, “I do not believe in coincidences.” Like many a conspiracy theorist before him, Johnson sought out a reassuringly malevolent order amid the world’s daily churn of chaos. The real reason, he surmised, was obvious: The Brits had passed intelligence they had gathered on Trump to the Obama administration, and as soon as Trump was apprised of this, Hannigan had been forced to step down.

Johnson repeated this fanciful claim on the Kremlin-funded network RT, after which it was picked up by Andrew Napolitano, a Trump confidant and pundit for Fox News. Two days later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cited Napolitano’s comments at a briefing, provoking an unusually forceful denial from the Brits.

Another ex-CIA officer, Philip Giraldi (executive director of the Council for the National Interest), promoted the same story at the American Conservative, but focusing on a supposed connection with Michael Flynn.

Perhaps the new revelation will put this old conspiracy theory to bed; but it’s just as likely to be assimilated into an even murkier speculative narrative.

Footnotes

1. Cole was until recently at the Sun, having entered journalism via working for Paul Staines. I don’t have a good opinion of him. His predecessor as Mail on Sunday Deputy Political Editor was Glen Owen, who has now taken over from Simon Walters as Political Editor. Walters, who has moved over to the Daily Mail, produced several MoS articles that promoted Chief Constable Mike Veale and his investigation into Edward Heath.

2. Hitchens’ principle is worth bearing in mind when it comes to other unexpected resignations and retirements, such as this one.