As the revelations about the sordid past of the building formerly known as Elm Guest House in Barnes unfold, the tabloids have decided that this time they might as well get with the story, rather than let the broadcasters and upmarket papers steal a march on them and reinforce the feeling that they are totally incapable of doing investigative journalism nowadays.
What's f***ing wrong with changing my mind, c***?!?
So both the Mail and Mirror have carried pieces on events in south west London, and the Mail takes the prize for its headline: “Timebomb at Elm Guest House: Pop stars, a bishop and a top politician appear on a list seized by police investigating child abuse at the London hotel in the 1980s”. Not quite “Nude vicar and teapot”, but top marks for entertainment value there.
The Mirror has run an altogether more sobering article, telling how young boys were plied with cheap beer (Party Sevens, for goodness’ sakes!) before being forced to dress up before their encounters with a variety of men, one of whom was a “fat politician” who was not Cyril Smith. The sobering part is that the brother of the man interviewed had previously taken his own life.
It’s interesting to see the coverage, coming on the back of much work from Exaro News and former Guardian man David Hencke, which has followed the Police investigations (Operations Fairbank and Fernbridge), and which in turn was prompted by the Commons intervention of Labour MP Tom Watson. Because the Mail took a very different line immediately following Watson’s statement.
First up after that Commons speech was the Mail’s unfunny and tedious churnalist Richard Littlejohn, asserting that Watson had appointed himself “Nonce Finder General”, that he had claimed a prominent Tory had been involved in the North Wales care homes scandal (he hadn’t) and suggesting he had been behind Philip Schofield’s questioning of Young Dave on This Morning (he hadn’t).
This was followed up by an article suggesting that the Labour leadership was distancing itself from Watson (it wasn’t), and a hatchet job by Andrew Pierce asserting “many colleagues now feel he has overstepped the mark” (none named, and none will be, as that was made up). Then phone hacking is asserted to be Watson’s “personal crusade”, which is easier than crediting the Guardian.
Now, all of that has been forgotten, and what Watson actually asked for in his Commons intervention – a further investigation into the activities of Peter Righton – has replaced the misinformation. Why that could not be done at the outset is a mystery known only to the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his closest acolytes. It’s not as if the Mail lacked the resources to check the story.
But more rejoicing at one sinner repenting, and all that.