Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Harman 'fails to answer charges'

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman has rejected claims of alleged links to paedophile rights campaigns in the 1970s
Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman has rejected claims of alleged links to paedophile rights campaigns in the 1970s

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman was accused of issuing a denial "full of pedantry and obfuscation" by the newspaper that made allegations about her historic involvement in paedophile rights campaigns.

The Daily Mail claimed the shadow culture secretary has failed to answer the main charges it has levelled against her in a series of articles and has instead denied allegations it has not made.

It follows Ms Harman's decision to release a detailed statement accusing the newspaper of a "politically-motivated smear campaign".

A Daily Mail spokesman said: " For ten weeks now the Mail has repeatedly asked three leading Labour figures to answer questions about the involvement of the NCCL, a body in which they played leading roles, with a vile paedophile group whose actions are currently being investigated by the police.

"The belated statements today of Ms Harman and her husband - full of pedantry and obfuscation - failed to answer the Mail's central points and deny allegations the Mail has not made.

"More pertinently they have failed to utter a word of contrition or sorrow about the NCCL's closeness to the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, an organisation that validated the activities of a monster like Jimmy Savile. Nor do they utter a word of apology to the victims of PIE."

Ms Harman issued a statement earlier insisting she had "done nothing wrong" and condemned the allegations as "horrible and untrue".

"They have accused me of being an apologist for child sex abuse, of supporting a vile paedophile organisation, of having a relaxed attitude to paedophilia and of watering down child pornography laws," she said. "These are horrific allegations and I strongly deny them all of them.

Ms Harman and her MP husband Jack Dromey broke their silence after the newspaper ran a series of stories about their actions while officials at the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) in the 1970s.

The body granted 'affiliate' status to the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), and is said to have lobbied for loosening of laws. Former health secretary Patricia Hewitt, who was also involved in the NCCL, has also faced accusations, but not commented.

Ms Harman said: "In recent days I have been the subject of a politically-motivated smear campaign by the Daily Mail...

"This is not the first time the Daily Mail has made this horrible and untrue allegation. And, this is not the first time the Daily Mail has attacked me.

"The editor and proprietor of the Daily Mail are entitled to their political views and they are of course entitled to oppose what I stand for but they are not entitled to use their newspaper to smear me with innuendo because they disagree with me politically and hate my values.

"I sincerely hope people won't believe these smears - I suspect even the Daily Mail doesn't believe them to be true. But given the seriousness and the aggression with which the Daily Mail are pursuing me, I feel that I need to put the facts in the public domain."

Ms Harman denied that she had ever supported lowering the age of consent to 10, scrapping the law on incest, or sought to water down the law on child pornography.

She went on: "The Mail have tried to make me guilty by way of guilt by association."

Labour leader Ed Miliband heaped praise on Ms Harman earlier today, insisting he did not "set any store" by the claims.

"I know she has a long and proud record of being on the right side of all of these issues," he said.

In a separate statement, Mr Dromey - a shadow home affairs spokesman - said the allegations were "beneath contempt".

"Sexual abuse of children is evil and I have always viewed paedophiles and any group associated with them as evil," he said.

"During my time on the NCCL Executive, I was at the forefront of repeated public condemnations of PIE and their despicable views. Then, when I was elected Chairman, I took them on.

"I personally chaired the NCCL Conference that, on my recommendation, refused to back by a massive majority a loathsome motion from a leading light in PIE calling on NCCL to support the so-called 'rights' of paedophiles.

"Indeed, my stand was denounced in a leaflet distributed by PIE to the delegates to the Conference.

"Like many organisations in the 1970s, NCCL had been infiltrated but that was the moment the tide was turned. I closed the Conference saying that we had to stand up for the rights of children not to be sexually abused and that adults guilty of abuse were the lowest of the low.

"I was then the first to argue that paedophiles could have no place in NCCL.

"As a lifelong opponent of evil men who abuse children, the accusations of the Daily Mail are untrue and beneath contempt."

Ms Harman repeatedly sidestepped questions over whether it had been a mistake to allow PIE to be affiliated to the NCCL.

She told BBC 2's Newsnight "anybody could join the NCCL simply by paying a fee" but insisted PIE had been "pushed away by 1976".

"NCCL was an organisation where any organisation could pay their affiliation and join it and that's the way it was. It didn't have an expulsions policy," she said.

Asked "yes or no" if it was a mistake to allow the affiliation, she said: "On the basis that it has created, somehow, a sense that NCCL's work was therefore tainted by them, yes, obviously that is a very unfortunate inference to happen. It is not the case that my work when I was at NCCL was influenced by PIE, was apologising for paedophilia, or colluding with paedophilia, that is an unfair inference and it's a smear."

Pressed on why she would not just say it was a mistake for any link to have been allowed with PIE, she replied: "Because they were challenged and they were pushed aside from their views having any influence on NCCL."

Ms Harman attacked the Daily Mail claiming it was "not above producing photographs of very young girls".

"This is the Daily Mail aggressively trying to completely reshape the facts of a situation 30 years ago," she said. "It is ironic that they are accusing me of supporting indecency in relation to children when they themselves are not above producing photographs of very young girls, titivating photographs, in bikinis."

She added: "I think if there is anybody who has over the years supported indecency it is much more the Daily Mail than it is me and that's the frank truth of it."

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