Former home secretary Leon Brittan (right) is to make a statement today about what he knew of the allegations in the Eighties. Photo: Getty
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MPs call for historical allegations of paedophile MP ring to be investigated

MPs are calling for an alleged network of paedophile politicians in the Eighties to be investigated. It's a story that has been under the radar until now.

It’s a story that has been rumbling away in the background for some time, a significant development of which was almost completely muffled yesterday due to coverage of the outcome of the Rolf Harris trial.

Yesterday, the former home secretary Leon Brittan, who served in the role under Margaret Thatcher in 1983-85, was called upon to make public what he knew about allegations in the Eighties of a network of paedophile politicians operating in Westminster.

The MP who called for Brittan to help uncover the truth about these claims is Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, who has recently published a book about a former Rochdale MP and abuser of young boys Cyril Smith, whose crimes he helped expose.

Danczuk was speaking at a home affairs select committee hearing, and claimed that a dossier of allegations about a ring of paedophile MPs was presented to Brittan while he was in office. Danczuk also called for a full inquiry into the historical allegations to help identify perpetrators other than Smith.

He called politics, “the last refuge of child sex abuse deniers”.

Brittan, who is now a Conservative peer, said last night that he will issue a statement this lunchtime “about the handling of such papers in the Home Office”, as the Mail reports. His account could well bring this story above the radar.

I spoke to Danczuk last month, and this is what he told me about the historical allegations:

… there were people out to protect Smith because he was part of a network of paedophiles. I’m absolutely, wholly convinced of that. And more will come out I think in the near future to show that Smith could’ve easily been part of a Westminster network of paedophiles.

He also commented to me that along with a cross-party group of MPs, including Tom Watson, Zac Goldsmith and Tessa Munt, he is working on, “exposing other politicians [of the past] who’ve been implicated in this stuff.”

Although the facts have yet to be ascertained, it will be worth watching how this story unfolds.

UPDATE (11am):

Brittan has issued his statement on the alleged paedophilia in Westminster. Here it is in full:

During my time as Home Secretary (1983 to 1985), Geoff Dickens MP arranged to see me at the Home Office. I invariably agreed to see any MP who requested a meeting with me.

As I recall, he came to my room at the Home Office with a substantial bundle of papers. As is normal practice, my Private Secretary would have been present at the meeting.

I told Mr Dickens that I would ensure that the papers were looked at carefully by the Home Office and acted on as necessary. Following the meeting, I asked my officials to look carefully at the material contained in the papers provided and report back to me if they considered that any action needed to be taken by the Home Office.

In addition I asked my officials to consider a referral to another Government Department, such as the Attorney General's Department, if that was appropriate. This was the normal procedure for handling material presented to the Home Secretary.

I do not recall being contacted further about these matters by Home Office officials or by Mr Dickens or by anyone else.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Ignored by the media, the Liberal Democrats are experiencing a revival

The crushed Liberals are doing particularly well in areas that voted Conservative in 2015 - and Remain in 2016. 

The Liberal Democrats had another good night last night, making big gains in by-elections. They won Adeyfield West, a seat they have never held in Dacorum, with a massive swing. They were up by close to the 20 points in the Derby seat of Allestree, beating Labour into second place. And they won a seat in the Cotswolds, which borders the vacant seat of Witney.

It’s worth noting that they also went backwards in a safe Labour ward in Blackpool and a safe Conservative seat in Northamptonshire.  But the overall pattern is clear, and it’s not merely confined to last night: the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a mini-revival, particularly in the south-east.

Of course, it doesn’t appear to be making itself felt in the Liberal Democrats’ poll share. “After Corbyn's election,” my colleague George tweeted recently, “Some predicted Lib Dems would rise like Lazarus. But poll ratings still stuck at 8 per cent.” Prior to the local elections, I was pessimistic that the so-called Liberal Democrat fightback could make itself felt at a national contest, when the party would have to fight on multiple fronts.

But the local elections – the first time since 1968 when every part of the mainland United Kingdom has had a vote on outside of a general election – proved that completely wrong. They  picked up 30 seats across England, though they had something of a nightmare in Stockport, and were reduced to just one seat in the Welsh Assembly. Their woes continued in Scotland, however, where they slipped to fifth place. They were even back to the third place had those votes been replicated on a national scale.

Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing.

Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.