Cast your mind back to the early days of the phone hacking saga: after the Guardian broke the story in July 2009, much of the press either declined to cover it, or suggested it was a “non-story”. Some singularly clueless pundits even concluded that what turned out to be a newspaper – the now-defunct Screws – engaged in criminal activity, was in fact Labour payback for Damian McBride.
Typical of the latter point of view was Tim Montgomerie, who told at ConHome “On Andy Coulson, the BBC is dancing to Labour’s tune” (the article has, to preserve the credibility of its author, since been removed), and in a Comment Is Free piece asserted that “The attack on Andy Coulson is politically motivated: a desperate bid by Labour to get payback for the ousting of Damian McBride”.
Given this less than fruitful line of argument, and that stories of historic child sex abuse in and around the Westminster Village have extended to all the major political parties of the time, one might hope that today’s pundits would stop and think before playing the same card deployed so woefully wrongly by Monty over phone hacking. But that hope would be misplaced when it comes to Charles Moore.
Moore, the self-appointed carrier of whatever sacred flame may have been handed down by the spirit of Mrs T, under the headline “What the Dickens? These inquiries into historic cases of child abuse are just symptoms of fear”, suggests that he is, as ever, right, and that Dickens could not have been, because he supposedly couldn’t pronounce “paedophile” correctly.
And then Moore sells the pass: “it is about the coming general election. It should not escape notice that Mr Danczuk is a Labour MP whose particular skill is beating Liberals. Tom Watson, one of the great self-appointed commanders in the children’s crusade, is a well-known Labour attack-dog against the Tories. Labour love a narrative of an evil past in which Margaret Thatcher ‘tore the heart out of communities’ and ‘threw millions on the scrapheap’”. And there’s more.
“If [Labour] can persuade people that [Mrs T’s] cronies were a gang of sex criminals, they will be able to terrify David Cameron’s Conservatives away from policies that made her win all the elections she contested. Paedophile accusations give them good cover because they do not sound party political”.
Even allowing for the vaguely paranoid tinge of Moore’s sentiments, the idea that the push for an Inquiry into child sex abuse in and around Parliament could be some kind of organised Labour plot as part of a General Election strategy is so far-fetched as to be risible. Yet, as with phone hacking, there is, perhaps inevitably, someone prepared to wheel out the left versus right argument once more.
It was wrong then, and it is wrong now. Charles Moore should be ashamed.