Socialist Appeal - British section of the International Marxist Tendency

Teresa May, the Tory Home Secretary, has announced that there will be a government inquiry into the possible political cover-up of child abuse in the 1980s. But no amount of inquiries or investigations will be able to repair the public’s trust in the Establishment, which has reached rock-bottom levels after years of seemingly endless scandals amongst those at the top of society.

Another day, another scandal. In the wake of allegations of the political cover-up of child abuse in the 1980s, Teresa May, the Tory MP and Coalition Home Secretary, has announced that there will be a government inquiry into the case. But no amount of inquiries or investigations will be able to repair the public’s trust in the Establishment, which has reached rock-bottom levels after years of seemingly endless scandals amongst those at the top of society. The latest revelations only serve to reinforce the stench emanating from the elites – a stench that reveals how the whole system is rotting from the head down.

The allegations began recently with Labour MP Simon Danczuk urging Lord Brittan, a former Tory home secretary under Thatcher, to reveal what he knew about cases of child abuse by senior figures in the 1980s. Danczuk claimed that figures, such as the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith, had escaped prosecution by being "part of a network of people protecting each other". The rich and powerful, the Labour MP asserted, could use their class position to evade prison. At the same time, Danczuk noted, the victims were those most vulnerable: "poor, white, working class boys".

Lord Brittan, it is reported, received a “dossier of paedophile allegations” from the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens who campaigned against child abuse. Dickens’ son, Barry, told the BBC that, “My father thought that the dossier at the time was the most powerful thing that had ever been produced, with the names that were involved and the power that they had.” Mysteriously, 114 potentially relevant documents from the dossier are said to be missing from government records, adding further intrigue to the allegations of cover-up at the top.

The rich and powerful: instinctively protecting the system

Following Simon Danczuk’s comments, a flurry of further allegations of political cover-up have emerged. Most notably were the remarks made by Lord Norman Tebbit, the former senior Tory minister in the Thatcher government, who stated that there “may well” have been a political cover-up of child abuse in the 1980s, with Establishment figures instinctively feeling a need to protect “the system”. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Tebbit revealed that:

“At that time I think most people would have thought that the establishment, the system, was to be protected and if a few things had gone wrong here and there that it was more important to protect the system than to delve too far into it...

"...I think there may well have been [a political cover-up of child abuse]. But it was almost unconscious. It [covering-up] was the thing that people did at that time."

Here we see, with brutal honesty, the rotten culture and consciousness that pervades amongst the ruling elites in society. The cynical attitude of the rich and powerful, straight from the horse’s mouth of Lord Tebbit (a man who famously told the millions of unemployed in the 1980s to “get on your bike and look for work”), is to instinctively protect their own kind – to maintain the stability of “the system” that works in their own favour.

Former Labour MP and health minister, Lord Warner, meanwhile, has stated that, “It is possible that people who were authoritative, powerful in particular communities, did sometimes have access to children's homes.” Most revealing, however, are the comments by Peter McKelvie, a former child protection manager, who said that there is evidence implicating a least 20 prominent figures of child abuse, including many former MPs and government ministers. Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight show, McKelvie asserted that:

“I believe that there is strong evidence – and an awful lot of information that can be converted into evidence if it is investigated properly – that there has been an extremely powerful elite amongst the highest levels of the political classes for as long as I am alive, and I am 65.

"There has been sufficient reason to investigate it over and over again, certainly for the last 30 years. There has always been the block and the cover-up and the collusion to prevent that happening..."

"...We are looking at the Lords, we are looking at the Commons, we are looking at the judiciary, we are looking at all institutions where there will be a small percentage of paedophiles and a slightly larger percentage of people who have known about it but have felt that in terms of their own self-interest and self-preservation and for political party reasons it's been safer for them to cover it up rather than deal with it.” (our emphasis)

As aptly demonstrated by the multitude of scandals over the past few years – from the BBC and the News of the World, to the Stephen Lawrence and Mark Duggan cases, not to mention the outrage of MPs expenses – it can once again be seen that there is one-law for the rich and another for the rest. The powerful elites utilise their social connections, networks, influence and wealth to evade punishment, whilst the poor, needy, and vulnerable are scapegoated and demonised for all the ills in society.

Government calls for inquiry into the government

With pressure building up in parliament and the media as a result of the latest revelations and allegations, Teresa May, announced that there would be full inquiry into the case, with government documents made available and evidence provided from witnesses if necessary.

David Cameron, the Tory Prime Minister, stated that “we’re going to leave no stone unturned to find out the truth.” Meanwhile, promising an inquiry that would take on the establishment, May told MPs:

"Our priority must be the prosecution of the people behind these disgusting crimes. That wherever possible – and consistent with the need to prosecute – we will adopt a presumption of maximum transparency. And that where there has been a failure to protect children from abuse, we will expose it and we will learn from it."

Such impassioned desire for truth and justice is hard to swallow or take sincerely when it emerges from this pair of leading Tory MPs whose government has overseen a whole swathe of scandals - scandals in which their friends amongst the rich and powerful have avoided prosecution, from Rebakah Brooks at News of the World, to the police involved in the Stephan Lawrence and Mark Duggan cases, and the countless MPs who have evaded punishment for their expenses fiddling.

More importantly, if there was a culture of cover-up amongst the ruling elites and the Tory government in the 1980s, why should anyone think that this current government of wealthy, Eton-educated Tory toffs will be in any better position to conduct an “independent” and “transparent” inquiry today? The Tory ministers now reluctantly announcing an inquiry today are part of the same class, the same social network of the rich and powerful that will now face investigation for the crimes of yesterday. The faces may have changed, but the culture of shady backroom deals, wealthy private-club networking, and “instinctive” protection of “the system” remains the same as ever.

Pressure from below; loss of trust in the top

The Tory-led coalition government ministers were initially reluctant to launch a full-scale inquiry, likely for fear of digging up dirt on any chums from the inner-networks of old. Nevertheless, the outrage, distrust, and disgust amongst the public towards the whole political establishment has reached such fervent levels that the government has succumbed to calls for an investigation. After all, from the perspective of this hated Tory government, whose popularity is at rock-bottom levels, it is better to uncover a few skeletons from the past than to sully the image and reputation of those still in power.

As the Guardian commented:

“Ministers had been holding out against such a sweeping inquiry, but, facing charges of an establishment cover-up, succumbed and promised there would be no no-go areas for the investigation...

“...Westminster, still suffering the reputational damage of the expenses scandal, dare not risk the charge of suppressing evidence of systematic child abuse by peers or MPs.”

Who knows what such an inquiry will find and reveal? Perhaps nothing; perhaps a few bad apples will be found upon whom the blame can be placed. Most likely the investigation will be a toothless and superficial exercise of catharsis, designed merely to act as a valve and release the pressure building up on the Tory government and the entire hated political class.

But such an inquiry, whilst possibly abating the heat in the short run, will do nothing to cool the anger towards the entire Establishment that has built up from years of crisis and scandal. This latest scandal is only a further nail in the coffin for any respect or trust that the ruling elites have amongst the wider public – trust that has been eroded by the stream of scandal in the bourgeois institutions of capitalist society, including the police, the press, and parliament itself.

Phone hacking at the News of the World; sexual abuse at the BBC; cover-up of the Hillsborough disaster; manipulation of television footage from the Battle of Orgreave; the murder of Mark Duggan and Ian Tomlinson; the Stephen Lawrence case and accusations of corruption and institutionalised racism in the police; LIBOR and the illegal manipulation of banking rates; MPs expenses; not to mention the omnipresent sleaze amongst the monarchy and the church: there seems to be no end to the scandals that have rocked the Establishment over the past few years.

Why should anyone trust these wealthy ladies and gentlemen who clearly represent nobody but the rich? Why would we expect these out-of-touch politicians to punish their own kind, when they have failed to punish those elites in recent times who have dodged taxes, committed banking crimes, and carried on paying themselves handsomely in bonuses? Why have any faith in a bourgeois political class that is cut from the same cloth as those who reek of guilt?

The mole of revolution

Added to this endless series of scandals is the general sense of anger and injustice that is now present amongst the vast majority of ordinary people as a result of the crisis: a sense of malaise; a profound feeling that something is deeply wrong in society; a questioning of the system that was not there before. Such feelings – unconscious, unformulated, and unarticulated – ultimately all express the same thing: the mole of revolution that is burrowing away beneath the surface; the instinctive knowledge amongst workers and youth that something must change.

The enormous contradiction in society is between this objective need for change, and the complete lack of the subjective factor – of any leadership in the labour movement with a programme that represents a genuine alternative. It is the task of the trade union and Labour leaders, rather than hanging to the tail coats of Tory ministers and bowing to the needs of capital, to offer this alternative by fighting for socialist policies.

The victims of abuse will find no justice from inquiries led by this current rogues’ gallery of bourgeois politicians. Only with the socialist transformation of society can we sweep the corrupt political class aside and put an end to the horrors of this rotten capitalist system and the stench of scandal that it produces.