I agree with Harriet Harman that she is being smeared, but I struggle to feel as sorry for her as I should. She who lives by the sword shall, with a bit of luck approximating to karmic justice, perish by it. It is simply delicious that a women who has worked so tirelessly to undermine liberty and the rule of law is now in need of both. She doesn't seem as keen on 'the court of public opinion' now that she faces 'trial' herself.
Harman was one of the puritanical Left's Witchfinders in the scandal surrounding the allegations of under-age sex (but not paedophilia in his case) involving Jimmy Savile and other 1970s celebrities. Yet as in-house lawyer at that time to the National Council of Civil Liberties (now Liberty) she saw no need to advise her client that it was a problem to have the Paedophile Information Exchange as an affiliate. Indeed she seems to have worked on some of the outrageous papers supporting some of PIE's positions that NCCL published at the time. One might wonder how a newly-qualified solicitor found herself in such a role, but that's another issue. NCCL was pretty much a captive of the Labour Party and young Harman was already firmly on the left, where ideology always takes priority over talent or expertise.
Mysteriously she won't accept that her failure to give such advice was a mistake. I didn't qualify until 1982, so she is senior to me in our profession but I would certainly have acted differently in her place. Nor do I know any colleagues of that vintage who would not. I don't think the sexual mores of Britain changed very much between the mid 1970s and the early 1980s, but that's irrelevant according to Ms Harman. She has loudly insisted - when it suited her political position - that they haven't changed in forty years.
That's hypocritical nonsense of course. We are talking of the era of The Little Red Schoolbook; an era of profound sexual upheaval. I still have my copy somewhere; a relic of my time as a teenage leftist in Harman's era at NCCL.
Not even the Daily Mail mentions now that PIE originated as a special interest group of Outright Scotland or that it merged with Paedophile Action for Liberation (itself an NCCL affiliate before the merger) - an offshoot of the South London branch of the Gay Liberation Front. It's not too surprising (if you are not an hypocrite who refuses to acknowledge that times change) that paedophiles, gay and straight, should have latched onto the gay movement's campaign to normalise what were then 'alternative' sexualities. Nor should a non-hypocrite seek to smear the gay movement for its failure - in those heady, underfunded, radical days, to differentiate as precisely between 'correct' and 'incorrect' attitudes as it now expects of others. It had not yet won the victory that now allows it to demonise those who fail to keep up with its ever-changing thought-crimes.
It really was a different world, in short, and the currently rather prudish Left have been foolish to intensify their attacks on the Catholic Church and Savile's showbiz circles by saying that it wasn't. As His Grace points out in the linked post;
The thing is, Pope Benedict XVI spent much of his pontificate issuing profuse expressions of remorse and repentance on behalf of his church for the heinous acts of paedophile priests and the post-conciliar hierarchical conspiracy of cover-up. And the BBC is still apologising over its 1970s "groupie" culture of misogynistic permissiveness and predatory paedophilia. Both institutions are horrified and appalled - 40 years on - that they did nothing to protect so many vulnerable victims over such a long period. But at least the perpetrators are now being held to account - one of them even post mortem.
These institutional apologies have not protected either, of course, from the relentless smears of the Left. Yet, for all their failings, neither the Catholic Church nor the BBC ever sought to justify the misconduct or, still less as the NCCL did, to argue that it should be normalised.
Conservative commentators are reacting to this story in a generally gentle and seemly way. Iain Dale is taking the Milliband line. The Spectator is magnanimously pointing out that
There is no continuity of between the positions Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt adopted in the 1980s and their thought today. In office, Harman led a group of Labour women politicians who worked to make the law friendlier towards rape victims. Hewitt, Harman and Harman’s husband Jack Dromey (who was at the NCCL at the time) have not campaigned to reduce the age of consent to 14 or 12, or to abolish it.
I am glad that the non-Left is being reasonable and refusing to make the kind of vicious demands for intemperate action that characterise 'righteous' leftists when they taste the blood of political opponents. It does them great credit and I hope voters notice. That said, the Daily Mail has really done no more than pick up Harman's and Dromey's own discarded grenades of hypocrisy and political dishonesty and lob them back into their trench.