This is clearly what people in the trade call a hatchet job. It’s written by two journalists: one, unfortunately, called David Rose; the other, rather more identifiably, called Bob Woffinden. More background to this complex and unclear situation, with corresponding links, can be found at the moment over at Tom’s place.
The only thing I’d add to Tom’s piece, which I don’t think I found included, is this story which came my way via Ally Fogg’s Twitter feed this evening:
Can anyone confirm that the David Rose who wrote the hatchet job on Messham in the Mail today is same DR writing here? newstatesman.com/politics/2007/…
The link and story it directs us to, written indeed in 2007 by a certain David Rose, admits quite openly to the following introduction to a deeper world of editorial collusion:
My secret life began, as if scripted by P G Wodehouse, with an invitation to tea at the Ritz.
The call came at the end of the first week of May 1992. I was the Observer’s home affairs correspondent, and at the other end of the line was a man we shall call Tom Bourgeois, special assistant to “C”, Sir Colin McColl, the then chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. SIS (or MI6, as it is more widely known) was “reaching out” to selected members of the media, Bourgeois explained, and over lunch a few days earlier with McColl, my editor, Donald Trelford, had suggested that I was a reliable chap – not the sort, even years later, to betray a confidence by printing an MI6 man’s real name.
I suggest you read on to get a full flavour of what was about to happen – though I suppose even the most naive of us out here might already realise the essence of the game …
- that just over a week ago a man – who most are prepared to admit was seriously and sexually abused in his youth whilst under the care of the state – should speak up in public to the BBC‘s “Newsnight” programme, and then proceed to retract his accusations …
- that the “Newsnight” journalists should fail to properly check the story having previously dropped an investigation into Jimmy Savile’s activities in the same organisation …
- that another man who was pinpointed by some in the mainstream and social media as having been one of the abusers, Lord McAlpine, should then have to issue this statement, denying – before he had actually been officially named by anyone of repute – that he had done anything of which he could be reasonably accused …
- and then that two journalists, one of whom has the same name as a host of other selfless individuals sadly labouring under public suspicion through mere association, should proceed to destroy what little reputation the accuser apparently had in any case …
… well, it does seems all rather weird, to borrow a term going the rounds at the moment.
In fact, there’s far more weirdness in all of this from the establishment side of things than anything a clearly sad and suffering survivor of sexual abuse could ever promulgate.
Just to underline two finally salient points. Firstly, as Tom reminds us in another piece he posted today:
The fact of the matter is it wasn’t the BBC that wrongly implicated Lord McAlpine in the child abuse scandal.
It was North Wales Police.
Abuse victim Steve Messham – and the widow of another victim – told Channel 4 News that they were shown a photo and wrongly given Lord McAlpine’s name by police when they were interviewed by them in the early 1990s.
Now I’m aware that the McAlpine family tree is fiendishly complicated but it’s an extraordinary mistake to make on the part of the police – which is why it’s even stranger that the harsh, critical light of opprobrium is being concentrated in the direction of the BBC (and on Steve Messham too) and not in the least bit on North Wales Police.
Further to this point, you can find more from a couple of days ago from the BBC itself here:
A victim of sexual abuse while he was a resident of a north Wales care home has apologised for making false allegations against a Conservative politician.
Steve Messham said police had shown him a picture of his abuser but incorrectly told him the man was Lord McAlpine.
Secondly, Lord McAlpine’s own carefully couched statement already linked to above had this revealing sentence in its very first paragraph (the bold is mine):
“Over the last several days it has become apparent to me that a number of ill-or uninformed commentators have been using blogs and other internet media outlets to accuse me of being the senior Conservative Party figure from the days of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership who is guilty of sexually abusing young residents of a children’s home in Wrexham, North Wales in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
In a document I am sure was so obviously parsed and approved by his lawyer, that he should choose to say “the senior Conservative Party figure [...] who is guilty of sexually abusing young residents” and not choose, for example, to say “who it is alleged was guilty of sexually abusing young residents” is surely revealing in itself.
Now I may be reading far more into this than is fair. It may be true that – under Thatcher – we lived in a policed state and not a police state (more here). But whilst the least shadow of a doubt remains, it is clear – at least to me – that something feels as wrong now as it did a decade ago during the lead-up to the Iraq War.
That furious pitter-patter of guilt-ridden establishment brogues was never louder or more worrying than today.
From banking to the BBC, from Murdoch to the police, from MPs’ expenses to democratic deficit, from the destruction of public services to the reconstruction of private-sector graft … well, little it now seems is out of the frame of our suspicions.
Little it now seems is too incredible.
Who can we turn to? Who can we trust? Who can help clear up this mess? Who has the moral authority and right?
These are the questions our politicians need to answer. These are the issues of the day.