Tom Watson: time’s up for the paedo-finder general

Carl Beech’s lies were enabled by Watson’s vile opportunism.

James Heartfield

Topics Politics UK

This week, a jury in Newcastle found Carl Beech guilty of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one of fraud. The charges relate to Beech’s lurid allegations that a child-abuse ring, made up of a former prime minister, MPs and senior military figures, had raped and tortured him and several other boys. Beech even alleged that some boys were murdered.

These allegations of ‘VIP child abuse’ were so extreme that any level-headed person would have at least considered the possibility that they were made up. But from the beginning, the authorities assumed the stories to be true. Many of those named had their homes raided and were interrogated by police. Lies about them were repeated across the print and broadcast media.

Driving the witch hunt was the Labour MP and now the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson. Watson took advantage of a rule called ‘parliamentary privilege’ to repeat Beech’s allegations in the House of Commons (this protects MPs from being sued for libel for what they say in parliament). In 2012, based on his conversations with Beech, Watson said there was ‘clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No10’. This was a complete and utter lie.

Since the 1980s, there has been an ongoing panic over child sexual abuse. It started when feminist campaigners like Beatrix Campbell linked up with evangelical Christians to warn of a tide of child abuse against children, including ‘Satanic ritual abuse’. High-profile investigations were launched by social services in Cleveland, north-east England, and in Orkney, an island off the north coast of Scotland. These led to dozens of arrests and many children were taken into care. In both cases, the vast majority of the allegations were false.

After Cleveland, organisations of people who claimed to be victims of child abuse started making allegations against public figures. They were indulged by social services and police chiefs who had bought into the notions that ‘children do not lie’, that ‘false allegations are vanishingly rare’, and that everyone should ‘believe the victim’.

Motives of those making false allegations vary. Many accusers are themselves unbalanced and are drawn to the attention that a large investigation brings. There is also a financial motivation. Changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in 1996 increased the amount that victims of crime could claim. Beech fraudulently claimed compensation for sexual abuse in excess of £22,000.

Over the years, a support network of advocacy organisations has been built up. It includes specialist groups like the NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood) and mainstream organisations like the NSPCC. Thanks to these advocates, Beech was invited to give talks on child abuse in schools and for the NSPCC.

In 2011, the now discredited ‘news agency’ Exaro was set up by Mark Watts and Guardian investigative journalist David Hencke. The pair had already decided that the best way to boost their venture was by pushing stories about VIP abuse. Beech pressed all the right buttons. Exaro didn’t just report the ‘news’ of Beech’s claims. Mark Conrad, one of its reporters, was the first to alert the police about Beech’s claims. Conrad even suggested likely perpetrators to Beech, showing him pictures of high-profile figures to choose from. Exaro’s crazed reports were then repeated as good coin by most of the news media.

Senior police figures like Bernard Hogan-Howe gave further credence to the claims. Hogan-Howe was head of the Metropolitan Police when it established Operation Midland to investigate Beech’s claims. At the time, the police insisted that ‘victims’ – a term which is, in itself, bound to prejudice any case – ought to be believed. Detective superintendent Kenny McDonald, who at one point led Operation Midland, said Beech’s claims were ‘credible’.

But while many bear responsibility for boosting Beech’s lies, Watson put himself at the head of that campaign. When the former Tory minister Leon Brittan died, Watson – aware that dead people cannot sue for libel – repeated Beech’s claim, word for word, that the former minister was ‘as close to evil as a human being could get’.

Now that Beech’s allegations have been shown to be untrue, Watson is in the firing line. His responses have been unedifying. He now claims he only met Beech to ‘reassure him’ that the police would listen to his allegations. Pathetically, he claims that he was himself ‘a victim’ of Beech’s lies.

It is hard to think of a less honest answer. Beech was, without doubt, a manipulative and dishonest person. But at every stage he was helped by an enthusiastic circle of supporters, including Watson. Watson used Beech’s allegations to leverage his political career and to damage his political rivals. This was rank opportunism, characteristic of Watson’s cavalier disregard for truth or morality.

That Watson is today unable to admit that he was wrong and instead tries to claim that he is a victim is an all-too-predictable evasion. This man is a disgrace.

James Heartfield is author of The Equal Opportunities Revolution, published by Repeater. (Buy this book here.)

Picture by: Getty.

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daniel hunter

9th August 2019 at 1:23 pm

What a disgraceful write up ! You should be ashamed of yourself son. There was-is and always will be a VIP peado ring of mp’s noncing kids it’s absolutely vile! Further more it wasn’t just what “”nick”” has said … there was reports coming in from all over the country , and lord Janner had already been investigated and found guilty but let off because of his age . Whoever wrote this article is a liar , a arse licker and more than likely a Nonce himself !

Marvin Jones

31st July 2019 at 2:46 pm

Every politician has a banana skin with their names on it, just waiting to be stepped on. AND! it never goes to waste.

James Knight

28th July 2019 at 3:34 pm

And how often are we told that gullible people are emotionally manipulated by fake news and conspiracy theories from populist politicians.

It turns the truly gullible people seem to be Labour MPs and Guardian journalists.

Ian Bland

27th July 2019 at 2:16 am

I’m glad you presented the deeper historical context here, although I would characterise it more that the paedopanic arose from the preceding Sexual Ritual Abuse panic which was itself originally not primarily about sex, or paedophilia per se- the term “grooming” was originally “grooming” people into a cult rather than the sexual seduction of the innocents it is now used for.

I’ve been interested in this since SRA in the 80s which itself was more from my being an atheist worried about Christian extremity in the USA so I feel like (as a mere citizen) I have watched the panic develop and change over time. It runs very deep and is a natural lure for anyone seeking moral high ground which is probably what attracted Watson. In an era when moral values radically changed, particularly regarding sexual matters, we can at least all unite around hating paedos.

So I actually find it hard to single out Watson for his behaviour when the entire Establishment are running with this, from politicians to self appointed paedo-hunting vigilantes.

The real issue here is that this only collapsed because it attacked the Establishment itself. Heaven knows how many men are rotting in jail or living ruined lives due to convictions on unevidenced testimony that would be laughed out of court for less emotive crimes. I saw one case a few years ago of a man (it was on some local newspaper site) convicted for a sexual assault in 1966, when he was 14 years of age. Nobody cares about that case.

Anyhoo, just waffling. Good article.

Tim Wheeler

26th July 2019 at 5:22 pm

My impression is that Tom Watson has been in full-on ‘Undermine & Replace Corbyn’ mode for the last 2 or 3 years. He is an attention-seeker and a victimhood purveyor. Having said that, I have little sympathy for Corby since he decided (just prior to the referendum) to dump his support for 1 person – 1 vote U.K. democracy for temporary peace with the Blairites and a chance at becoming P.M. (what use is a British P.M. who wants Foreign powers and institutions to rule the U.K.?) An ex-Labour voter.

fret slider

26th July 2019 at 10:48 am

Welcome to the #MeToo culture where one is guilty until proven innocent.

Very Labour stuff.

mister wallace

26th July 2019 at 2:45 am

Don’t be silly, made up allegations are much easier to investigate and prosecute than actual allegations of, say, muslim rape gangs.

Keith Ellerby

25th July 2019 at 8:39 pm

The police should never belive nor disbelieve a report about any crime.
It is their job to take the information they are given and investigate as thoroughly as possible so that they either end up stating that they can find no evidence to support the allegation and then drop the subject unless more evidence is bought to their attention, or they find enough evidence to support the allegation when they then pass it to the Crown Prosecution Service for them to decide whether their is enough evidence to put the matter before a court.

Phil Ford

26th July 2019 at 10:08 am

I’d just add that if the names of the accused could be withheld from public disclosure until such time as actual charges are brought against them, on the basis of sufficient evidence, that would be a step in the right direction.

jessica christon

25th July 2019 at 4:21 pm

I referred to Tom Watson as the paedofinder general in the Carl Beech thread, but I should have credited the Monkey Dust cartoon for the name.

“By the powers invested in me by the hysterical uneducated masses I pronounce you GUILTY…”

Michael Ray

26th July 2019 at 6:32 pm

He was the self appointed “Noncefinder General” and as the article says mainly to push his career. Any normal person who read the Carl Beech allegations would have to be dubious & yet Watson and Hogan Howe swallowed it. Just before this court case concluded there was wide hope that Watson would lead a coup to get rid of Corbyn. Caught between institutional anti-semitism and a discredited Watson.

Mark Bretherton

25th July 2019 at 3:24 pm

McDonald’s comment was actually worse. He said the claims were ‘credible and true.’ which was (and is) a disgraceful thing for an investagating officer to say.

gershwin gentile

25th July 2019 at 1:19 pm

It’s a shame that Tom Watson wasn’t so ready to believe the accusations against Lord Janner. Or the police. Strange that. Lord Janner has many complaints against him. 5-0 do jack. Nonce is caught noncing, and suddenly they have no problem investigating.

Danny Rees

25th July 2019 at 12:38 pm

“”They were indulged by social services and police chiefs who had bought into the notions that ‘children do not lie’, that ‘false allegations are vanishingly rare’, and that everyone should ‘believe the victim’.”

This on a publication which complained that the victims of grooming gangs were disbelieved.

James Knight

28th July 2019 at 3:29 pm

Both cases are the same issue: due process and justice corrupted by a political agenda. The fact that millions were spent investigating these crack pot claims while genuine victims were fobbed off shows how poisonous political correctness can be.

christopher barnard

25th July 2019 at 12:22 pm

We should redirect Mr Watson’s energies to places where children are not believed.

Rochdale and Rotherham perhaps.

Michael Lynch

25th July 2019 at 12:53 pm

Couldn’t have put that better myself.

Watson is a vile man and should go immediately. Not that he will of course. He has done immeasurable damage, not just to reputations, but also to those who are genuine victims of abuse. Who is going to believe them as readily in future? Watson is the little boy who cried wolf one too many times.


25th July 2019 at 10:11 am

A key person to ask about all this is DCI Paul Settle. Skeptical from the beginning then edged out of the force

Richard Wheatley

25th July 2019 at 9:21 am

Gordon Brown stole his moral compass!

Jerry Owen

25th July 2019 at 8:33 am

Watson is either a vindictive dirty player in politics. Or Watson is a gullible fool for being taken in by Beech.
Either way it isn’t good, personally I think Watson is vindictive. The reputations of the dead no matter their ideology is tarnished forever.
He should go.

Robert Spowart

25th July 2019 at 8:18 am

Is it not possible that the Powers That Be took action on his claims in the full knowledge they were false and likely to collapse?
Why? To deter people from investigating possibly genuine claims, perhaps?

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