Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
I have no idea whether Heath was a paedophile or not. If the evidence is produced that he was, then his reputation deserves to sink lower than it already is. I believe he was the worst Prime Minister since the war and on the few occasions I met him I did not find him exactly convivial company. But, and there is a big but here, does anyone deserve for their reputation to be dragged through the mud like his has this week on the basis of, well, what exactly? The word of an ex-rent boy and the word of an ex-brothel keeper, who has now denied she ever accused him of anything.
I continue to believe that victims of predatory paedophiles, whoever they are or were, or how powerful they are or were, should get justice and the knowledge that their suffering is acknowledged by wider society. But what evidence is there against Ted Heath? He sailed his yacht in Jersey, where there was a child abuse scandal. And, er, that’s about it. In August 1961 when he supposedly picked up a 12 year old boy on the A2 in Kent, he spent most of the month in Europe negotiating our abortive entry into the Common Market. His diary apparently shows he was out of the country. The allegation was that the boy was taken back to his Park Lane flat. Except he never lived in a Park Lane flat. His flat was in The Albany, which is half a mile away off Piccadilly. And so it goes on. But the Great British Public are only too willing to believe that all their politicians were, and are up to no good. One caller to my radio show even alleged that the whole British government is made up of paedophiles.
The most sickening sight this week was the policeman who stood outside Ted Heath’s former house in Salisbury making a plea for any of his victims to come forward. Effectively this man was shaking the tree to see what fruit would fall into his lap. This was a disgusting stunt. If he was to do that it should have been done from Wiltshire Police HQ. I realise that if indeed Sir Edward is proved to be the political equivalent of Jimmy Savile, then this item will look rather ridiculous. But I do believe in the concept of innocent until guilty, and if it’s good enough for Sir Cliff Richard (which of course it wasn’t because of the disgraceful behaviour of the BBC) it is good enough for Sir Edward Heath.
In addition, I wonder whether if we did a poll of the British public, they would prefer their money to be spent on rooting our current day paedos in Rotherham and Rochdale, or conducting a very expensive investigation into the past, when the perpetrators by definition can’t be brought to justice. That’s not to decry the just wishes of victims to know that their abusers have been found out and they have been telling the truth all along. All I am saying is that it is sometimes a very difficult balance to strike.
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Tracey Crouch is rapidly becoming a bit of a star in her role as Sports Minister. She didn’t exactly have a hard act to follow. The thing is, as I’ve written before, she knows her subject inside out, as evidenced by her interview on Tuesday’s Today Programme about her new ten year Sports Strategy. I had limbered her up an hour earlier on the LBC Breakfast Show where I asked her why her completely useless predecessor hadn’t come up with any form of sports strategy, let alone submitted herself for any interview. Tracey brushed it aside easily. With John Humphrys she didn’t just brush his questions aside, she trampled on his aching carcass.
Humphrys was in his usual dismissive mood right from the off. He asserted that too much money was being spent on elite sports and too little on ordinary school sport. Tracey was ready for him. “You are confusing two different issues actually, if I may, John,” she hissed. “I think there are two different issues,” Crouch added. “It’s a straightforward question,” Humphrys hit back. La Crouch stood her ground. “And I am giving you a straightforward answer which is that there are two different issues.” Humphrys wasn’t giving up but Crouch hit a winning volley: “I think you’ll find that it’s your emphasis on elite sports,” Crouch said.
In retrospect, Humphrys probably wishes he had ended the interview there. Instead, he hit the ball into his own net when he decided to ask Tracey’s view on the launch of a new strip for Manchester United lady footballers saying “it’s very low cut and people are saying ‘they wouldn’t do that to men, would they?”
The lesson here is never mess with someone who knows far more about the subject than you do. Crouch was unforgiving in her reply. “Manchester United have got a new strip for their women supporters, not for their footballers, because unfortunately Manchester United do not have a women’s football team…”. Cue awkward outburst of breath, otherwise known as a groan from Humphrys – he hates being badly briefed. Crouch then stuck the knife in further. “People will buy it if they want to buy it and they won’t if they feel offended by it.”
That’s called a slam dunk. Memo to self: Never let her do that to me. I do hope Number Ten were listening.
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Oh dear. Zac Goldsmith has pulled out of the Bow Group’s summer reception on Monday. Isn’t it all too predictable how Ben Harris-Quinney’s bessie mate has rushed to his aid on Breitbart to trash Zac Goldsmith by insinuating he was scared of making a ‘keynote speech’? Yet another Bow Group failure for their “chairman” to explain to all the people who had paid £20 for the pleasure – half of them UKIP supporters, no doubt. When will the Bow Group Council finally come to their senses and rid themselves of this turbulent prick?
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Talking of turbulent priests, I see Anjem Choudhary has been arrested. Not before time. Let’s hope that the police case against him is watertight this time. He’s banned from appearing on my radio show on the basis that he is a hate preacher and represents no-one.
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I still can’t bring myself to believe that Jeremy Corbyn will win the Labour Party leadership. Surely the Labour Party isn’t going through a collective nervous breakdown is it? I’ve just gone through the list of the Shadow Cabinet and I simply cannot see that most of them would agree to serve under him. The big question is what happens to him if Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper wins. Would they give him a job, and if so which one? We only have a month to wait to find out.