Thursday, February 28, 2013
Fury as 'Liberal' leader attacks journalists for exposing sex scandal he and his party covered up
Nick Clegg launched an extraordinary attack on the media yesterday for exposing the Lord Rennard scandal. The Deputy Prime Minister accused journalists investigating a cover-up of being ‘self-appointed detectives’.
His ill-judged remarks shocked Tory and Labour MPs, who said he should focus on getting to the truth.
And Alison Smith, a former Liberal Democrat activist who went public with groping claims against Lord Rennard last week, said Mr Clegg was wrong to attack a ‘free press regarded by most as important in a democracy’.
In another twist, the Mail has learnt that senior Lib Dems were attempting to silence whistleblowers only this week.
On Monday, Lord Stoneham, who was the party’s director of operations at the height of the claims against Lord Rennard, made an ‘aggressive’ telephone call to a former party activist who claimed she saw the peer molesting a young woman a decade ago.
He was apparently furious she had contacted this newspaper to complain that her allegations had been swept under the carpet.
On another black day for the Lib Dems:
* A former party frontbencher said she sounded the alarm about Lord Rennard directly with Mr Clegg;
* David Cameron told him he must ‘get to the bottom’ of the allegations;
* Lord Rennard broke his silence to insist he was innocent and claim he had never been confronted with any complaints;
* A Lib Dem councillor claimed she had been molested and knew of nine other victims referred to as ‘Rennard’s red hot babes’;
* Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb was drawn into the affair by an alleged victim;
* Party officials met detectives who have been called in to assess whether criminal acts may have taken place.
The affair started when former Lib Dem activists went public with claims of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard, who retired as the party’s chief executive in 2009 – ostensibly on health grounds.
After initially denying he knew about the claims until shortly before three women made allegations on Channel 4 News, Mr Clegg admitted he had asked his then chief of staff Danny Alexander to probe ‘non-specific concerns’ about Lord Rennard in 2008.
It has since emerged that Mr Clegg’s office failed to act on specific and detailed allegations of misconduct by the peer made in 2010.
Yesterday Mr Clegg, speaking outside his south-west London home, called for detectives who are now reviewing the claims to be allowed to do their job.
He said: ‘I understand there are many people who appear to want to act as self-appointed detectives trying to piece together events that happened many years ago.
'But the only way that we are going to get to the bottom of the truth, the only way we are going to ensure that the women whose allegations were broadcast on television last week are properly listened to, the only way were are going to establish exactly what happened and who knew what and when, is by allowing the two investigations that I established immediately after the Channel 4 broadcast to do their job and, indeed, to allow the police, whom we have now approached, to do their job as well.
'And in the meantime I cannot – and my party cannot – provide a running commentary on every shred of speculation about events which happened many years ago.’
His intervention drew a stinging response from Miss Smith, who wrote on Twitter: ‘Clegg slams “self-appointed detectives”, otherwise known as the free press. Regarded by most as important in a democracy.’
She added: ‘They covered up a massive scandal, and now they don’t want people asking questions.’
She also dismissed the idea that the allegations had been timed to damage the party leadership ahead of a crucial by-election in Eastleigh, which will take place tomorrow.
Toward the end of last year, she and some of the other alleged victims of Lord Rennard’s unwanted advances agreed to go public with their story, and told the party at the end of last month that they had done so.
Therese Coffey, a Tory MP and member of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said: ‘It is only through the power of the free press and TV that these allegations have come to light. Instead of trying to divert attention by blaming journalists, Nick Clegg should be focusing on getting to the unvarnished truth.’
Conor Burns, another Tory MP, said: ‘Only someone with the genius of Nick Clegg could have a sex scandal that doesn’t involve sex and turn it into a leadership crisis.
Mr Clegg would have to answer fewer questions from the press if he put out a statement that he could stick to about what he knew and when.’
Labour MP John Mann, who wrote to police asking them to investigate, claimed Mr Clegg treated the Rennard accusations as an issue of ‘political management’.
‘The real issue is why didn’t Clegg and the Liberals do the appropriate thing in dealing with this as serious allegation, rather than as political management,’ he said.
Mr Clegg’s aides insisted he had not been attacking broadcasters in his remarks but rather Conservative-supporting newspapers he believes are revelling in the scandal.
'Homosexuality is a ticking timebomb for the Catholic Church'
You forbid men from having wives and children so you get men who are not interested in that
An openly gay former Dominican friar insisted today that homosexuality is the ‘ticking time bomb in the Catholic Church’ and that homosexual men are ‘massively over-represented’ within the Church.
Mark Dowd, who is now a journalist, said research for his 2001 Channel 4 documentary Queer and Catholic suggested that at least half of people attracted into seminaries in the priesthood are gay.
His comments came as the former leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, said the scandal-hit Catholic Church must undergo renewal and reform.
Mr Dowd told CNN: ‘When you have this culture of secrecy and guilt and repression, you have conditions which foster the potential for blackmail and for manipulation.
‘This is a very unhealthy stage for the church, because basically when you have secrecy, you have lies - and when you have lies, people often are put in terrible pressures of being compromised.’
Meanwhile, the Cardinal said the successor to Benedict XVI would need to be able to tackle reform of the Roman Curia, the Vatican departments which govern the 1.2billion-strong global church.
Last weekend Italian newspapers published claims of homosexuality and blackmail within the Church, with one allegation centering around a secret ‘gay cabal’ of priests, reported CNN.
But veteran Vatican journalist Marco Politi said this idea was ‘rubbish’, adding: ‘Here in the Vatican, there are monsignors who have love affairs, with women and with men. But they hide it.’
Mr Dowd added: ‘I've got my own experience of being in religious life myself. And I can tell you that gay men are massively, massively overrepresented in Catholic life. There's nothing wrong with that.
‘The problem is that a lot of them are told that they are intrinsically unhealthy according to church teaching. And that's not a very appropriate state of affairs if we're talking about psychosexual health and emotional maturity.’
'I've got my own experience of being in religious life myself. And I can tell you that gay men are massively, massively overrepresented in Catholic life'
Free speech means we should all have a say about homosexuality
A tolerant country is also one that does not try to shut down debate on controversial issues
Last weekend, my wife and I went to a musical staged by an amateur company for which our youngest son performs. In truth, without that family connection, the show – called Zanna, Don’t! – is not one that we would have normally booked to see. It is set in an alternative world where homosexuality is the natural order of things and heterosexuals are discriminated against. But if this sounds like heavy-handed gay rights propaganda, it was nothing of the sort: the songs were tuneful, the lyrics thoughtful and the dance routines terrific. It was a highly enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
With what I assume is mock irony, the writers describe the musical as a fairy tale and its theme is the oldest of them all: falling in love. When a man and a woman break the taboo against different-sex relationships, they are shunned by the rest of society. You get the point. This is precisely the sort of bigotry that gay people have had to put up with for centuries.
In my lifetime, homosexuality has gone from being illegal to the acme of cool. But something else has happened, too. Everyone is now required to accept this state of affairs whether they like it or not; and if they don’t they are certainly not allowed to say so. It is the flip-side of the point the musical was seeking to make: anyone who questions the officially acceptable view is howled down. Occasionally, they are arrested and threatened with trial for expressing what is essentially an opinion, albeit one that it is no longer fashionable to possess.
Now, you might think it is right to muzzle such people because, in reality, they just don’t like gays and are hiding their disapproval behind a spurious religiosity. In some cases that may be true, but it is not the issue here: this is about free speech. Just as gays are entitled to extol their own sexual identity, so people who take another view, on whatever grounds, should be allowed to say so, shouldn’t they?
This question will tomorrow be tested in the High Court following controversy over an advertising campaign on London transport last year. In the run-up to the mayoral elections, the gay rights group Stonewall took space on the sides of London buses to run the slogan: “Some people are gay. Get over it.” A Christian ministry called Core Issues Trust (CIT) decided to pay for its own campaign with a poster that read “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” The aim was to advertise the ministry’s contention that it was possible to lose homosexual inclinations and that therapy was available for those who felt they might not be gay after all.
That is clearly a controversial statement. Yet people who have lived as heterosexuals and repressed their homosexuality are praised when they “come out”. Is the alternative, however unlikely, not possible? And even if it isn’t, why can’t you say that it might be? None the less, the CIT poster was banned by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, which is why the matter is going before the courts this week. Dr Mike Davidson, a director of the trust, who describes himself as “ex-homosexual”, says he has been denied the freedom to express his views on the legitimacy of therapy for those dealing with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction. He certainly has a case: if Stonewall can have their say, then why can’t his organisation?
This is by no means an isolated affair. Official disapproval, even the criminalisation, of opinions that a few decades ago were mainstream attitudes poses a significant threat to free speech in this country. After all, who is to decide what is the “correct” view to hold? In this case it was Mr Johnson, who called the CIT poster “clearly offensive”. He added: “London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance.” However, this tolerance does not, it would appear, extend to free speech. Once you start to shut people up for expressing opinions that are not officially approved then you are on a very slippery slope. Transport for London might have taken the view that the Christian poster was offensive, but the same could be said of the Stonewall campaign.
A few years ago, there was another bus‑based spat, this one between atheists and believers over whether God exists. Both sides were allowed their say, though the humanist poster, “There’s probably no God”, left open the possibility that there might be, just in case. Imagine if someone – Boris – had taken the decision that only the atheist poster could run, on the grounds that the scientific evidence of a deity could not be produced. There would have been justifiable outrage.
There is an argument that the CIT poster served to reinforce prejudice against homosexuals by implying they can be “cured”. But, as Dr Davidson said on the Today programme on Monday, people who say they no longer want to live as gays are being accused of “internalised homophobia” when they are merely choosing their own sexual identity. Isn’t that what the gay rights movement was all about?
We are in danger of replacing one brand of narrow-mindedness with another. Increasingly, the courts are being dragged into disputes between people who hold different opinions in what is really an attempt to close down debate on particular subjects. This is the very antithesis of free speech and unless there is an attempt to stir up hatred and violence, the fact that some people may dislike or object to what others say should not be a matter for the law, or for official censorship.
Black British judge caught in a stupid lie
Britain's top black female judge is being investigated by police for allegedly lying about her involvement in leaking the Chris Huhne speeding points story to the press, a court heard today.
Constance Briscoe, a friend of Vicky Pryce, was arrested after telling police she had not been in contact with the media about the story, when it later appeared that she had, Pryce's retrial heard today.
Pryce, 60, denies perverting the course of justice, claiming Huhne coerced her into taking three points for him in 2003.
Last week a jury failed to reach a verdict in Pryce's trial, prompting a retrial at Southwark Crown Court which started yesterday.
The court has heard Pryce, helped by Briscoe, told journalists about the story to get revenge on Huhne after he left her for PR adviser Carina Trimingham in June 2010.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC today read jurors a statement from Detective Inspector Martin Passmore explaining why certain people had not been called as witnesses in the case.
'Ms Briscoe has provided statements to the police in this case but during the investigation it became apparent that she may have lied about her involvement with the press and that she denied having any contact with the Mail on Sunday or any other media organisation in relation to this story,' his statement said.
'Ms Pryce has not been arrested or interviewed in relation to that allegation. For this reason Ms Briscoe has been arrested and is currently under investigation by the police.
'Ms Briscoe could therefore no longer be relied upon as a witness of truth and on October 2, 2012 the Crown Prosecution Service took the decision not to call Ms Briscoe to give evidence in the case.'
Yesterday Mr Edis told the court Ms Briscoe was a friend and neighbour of Pryce.
'She was a neighbour of Vicky Pryce in those days and I think she had also had a difficulty in her marriage and they appear to have got closer to each other,' he said.
'The two of them appear to have cooked up a plan to go and see the press about Huhne and taking points. They started it together by approaching a man called Andrew Alderson.'
Mr Alderson was a freelance journalist working to provide the story to the Mail on Sunday, the court heard.
Mr Edis said Pryce and Ms Briscoe told Mr Alderson that Huhne had passed speeding points to constituency aide Jo White.
Vicky Pryce arriving in court today
The court heard Pryce (left), helped by Briscoe, told journalists about the story to get revenge on Huhne (right) after he left her for PR adviser Carina Trimingham in June 2010
'Vicky Pryce and Constance Briscoe went to see Alderson and the story they were giving him was it was Jo White who worked for Huhne in his constituency in Eastleigh,' he said.
'The story they were giving the papers was Jo White took points for Huhne when he had nine points.
'Well, of course, that was a complete lie because the person who took points for Huhne when he had nine points was her (Pryce).'
The jury was told about emails between Ms Briscoe and Mr Alderson, and Mail on Sunday news editor David Dillon.
One email from Ms Briscoe to Mr Dillon on December 30, 2010, explained that the 'relevant person' had been 'bullied and pressurised' into taking Huhne's points.
It said: 'Finally, you will appreciate that I have no particular interest in this story save that I have been asked to act as an intermediary on behalf of the relevant person.'
Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott - who published the story in May 2011 after Pryce confessed to her in March that year - yesterday told the court that although she knew the Mail on Sunday was aware of the story, Pryce had not told her that Ms Briscoe was acting as an intermediary for her with the rival paper.
She said she was not aware the barrister had any dealings with the Mail on Sunday, but knew she was a close friend of Pryce.
In his statement, Det Insp Passmore said neither Mr Alderson nor Mr Dillon would be called as witnesses in Pryce's trial.
'Mr Dillon and Mr Alderson have both declined to provide a statement in this case,' he said, adding that their 'journalistic material' was protected by law.
'As far as I am aware there is no basis in law for the police to compel Mr Dillon and Mr Alderson to provide a statement or to enter court to give evidence in this case.'
Former energy minister Chris Huhne pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and resigned as MP for Eastleigh at the start of the first trial and will be sentenced once this trial is over.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.