We are all lizards now. Or at least, if you are a journalist working in Westminster, that’s what it seems most of the internet thinks this week. Since the alleged establishment paedophile ring was blown open over the weekend, culminating in the Home Secretary yesterday ordering an inquiry into child abuse committed by the upper echelons of British society, the conspiracy theorists have been out in force.
“Why haven’t you named them?” is the most repeated demand screamed through the keyboards of self-appointed nonce-catchers. “Very telling how you have been silent about all this,” say other, more pensive types. One particularly fun tin foil hat wearer seems to have us all sussed: “you are refusing to cover it… you looked the other way… you are keeping quiet to protect them”.
An amateur internet sleuth with fewer detective powers than Phillip Schofield needs only a few minutes of investigative googling to find a list of names of politicians, pop stars, doctors, royal employees and spooks accused of being paedophiles. There exists on several easy-to-find conspiracy theory websites a grainy image of a handwritten note containing a host of household names. Anyone can find it, published on fringe blogs whose editorial stance might be described as eccentric.
Another website carries the testimony of a man who claims that, when he was a child, he was sexually abused by a serving Cabinet minister. There is another current politician who, when you type his name into Google’s search bar, is linked by the automatic search suggestions to Elm Guest House, the vice den at the centre of one police investigation.
So why has the mainstream media, which I suppose in this context must include new media like this publication, declined to publish the names? For most people, I hope the answer is obvious. But it clearly needs explaining to large number of others.
A list of names posted by a blogger who believes that the Heysel football stadium disaster was organised by Tory MPs to silence child abuse victims, does not constitute evidence. Someone on Twitter who believes that there was quite literally a Jewish conspiracy to protect paedophiles, does not constitute evidence. A man who believes the Queen Mother was a reptilian overlord descended from aliens, who claims that former Prime Ministers colluded to cover up Rolf Harris’s crimes, does not constitute evidence. Even if he was right about Jimmy Savile.
I am not saying the allegations of a Westminster paedophile ring are untrue. It is clear that there are lines of inquiry that are worthy of investigation. It may well emerge, after that investigation, that all of the names doing the rounds online were child abusers all along. What is clear at the moment, however, is that we do not know.
In 2012, Schofield and ITV had to pay Lord McAlpine £125,000 in damages after a note alleging the late Tory peer was a paedophile was inadvertently shown on television. Sir Peter Bottomley, a Conservative backbencher, yesterday told the BBC that he was one of the accused. He denied the claims, reminded his audience that he had won a six figure libel action against the Mail on Sunday some three decades ago, and warned anyone making the same claims now that they would face a similar fate. Last year, a man was arrested by the police for falsely claiming that he had been abused as a child by Ken Clarke.
Hundreds and hundreds of journalists are working on the Westminster paedophile ring story as we speak. We cannot name the politicians being accused of child abuse yet, because we have no evidence. If evidence exists, it will be found and the names will come out. Those thirsty for the truth just need to be patient.