A first-time voter in 2020 will have been born some 15 years after Harvey Proctor left the Commons – after pleading guilty and being fined for gross indecency charges. And, like most first-time voters in 1987, the year he was convicted, is unlikely to follow Conservative politics. So there is no reason why he or the overwhelming majority of younger people then, now or in the future should know anything whatsoever about the political relationship between Proctor and Edward Heath. Many of our readers (being enthusiasts for Tory matters and having long memories) are better-informed. They are well aware that Proctor was a devotee of Enoch Powell – and that the sulphurous relationship between the two men was mimicked by that between their followers. Heath and Proctor would scarcely have been on speaking terms when the latter joined the former in the Commons in 1979.
It is this detail that hammers the final nail in the coffin of the contemptible charge against both men – that, together with others, they abused a man called “Nick”, whose murder Proctor sought and Heath prevented. There may or may not have been a child abuse ring consisting of members of the “Establishment”. But if there was, I will eat a top hat if either man was part of it.
Anyone who has conjured up such allegations, as preposterous as they are nightmarish, is plainly in a very bad way and has a claim on our sympathy – but not as much, surely, as Proctor himself. “Nick” has not had a raid on his home in connection with the toxic charge of child abuse leaked to the media by the police. “Nick” has not lost his home and his job as a result. “Nick”, unlike Proctor, is protected by anonymity and dignified by the title of “victim” – which he may or may not have been in other contexts, but which Proctor certainly is in this one. This egregious tale of the ruining of an innocent man is yet another reminder (as if we needed it) of the diminished condition of the police. They are too cash-strapped to send a policeman round to your house if you’ve been burgled…but can somehow find the resources to organise a photoshoot outside Heath’s former house.
On reflection, it is a wonder that the police did not find a helicopter to fly above Proctor’s home on that original raid, as they did over Cliff Richard’s – before leaking that, too. His questioning as part of Operation Midland is a classic back-covering exercise. The police missed Cyril Smith. So because some people were guilty it follows that everyone may be guilty.
And so it is that Proctor was questioned for six hours, he says, without being informed of the allegations against him. That first-time voter will also have no grasp of the culture, political and social, within which he pleaded guilty to those gross indecency charges back in 1987. I am no friend of Proctor’s – politically or otherwise. Indeed, I spoke in opposition to a motion on voluntary repatriation, which he himself proposed, at a Party Conference during the early 1980s. But it is worth that young voter grasping that Proctor would not be charged with the offence now as he was then. The male prostitutes in question were under the age of 21, which was the age of consent at the time for gay sex. Furthermore, it was clear from the evidence at the time that Proctor believed them to be of consenting age. The concept of an era in which there were no “Out” MPs may be ungraspable to some people today, but it was real and Proctor was part of it: the age of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
It is strange seeing Proctor on screen in 2015 – still sounding eerily like Powell, after all these years. Some will argue that he should not have dragged the names of others into the same spotlight of which he himself complains. And perhaps, politicians being as they are – I should know; I was one – a surreptitious part of him is somehow enjoying being back before the cameras and and microphones.
But either way, he is right. This claim against him is risible. Those who make such charges should be called complainants, not victims. The police are in a bind: press on with this investigation, and they further injustice; drop it, and they will be excoriated, rightly, for pursuing it in the first place. The abuse in this instance is not by Proctor, but of him.