Police watchdog is investigating claims Metropolitan police covered up child abuse. How do you perceive this scandal, would you say it may have any impact on UK politics especially as we are approaching the elections time?
Simon Winlow, Professor of Criminology, School of Social Sciences, Teesside University
Over the last few years there have been a succession of scandals like this. It’s now clear that, during the sixties, seventies and eighties, very little was done to prevent those with power from pursuing their most obscene and anti-social drives. The collective impact of these scandals has destroyed any faith the British people may once have had that the establishment.
I can’t see this story seriously impacting upon election results. Faith in the political system and in our political parties is at an all-time low. Never before have the British electorate been so divorced from parliamentary politics. Huge swathes of the voting population believe the system to be entirely corrupt. The outcome of course is a culture of deep cynicism. So, with this story, rather than being shocked and appalled at the suggestion of corruption, and rather rising up to demand a comprehensive overhaul of systems of power and patronage in Westminster, the people respond with cynicism and disgust. ‘I knew this kind of thing was going on’ they say. You know what the British public would find truly shocking? If they were to discover that their political representatives were working diligently to improve the well-being of the British public. For them such knowledge would be too much to take.
Bill Jones, Adjunct Professor of Politics, Liverpool Hope University
This is a story going back many years, focusing on Cyril Smith, a morbidly obese (weighing close to 200 kilos!) Liberal MP for Rochdale. Reports that he had been involved in child abuse appeared in the late 1960s and were published in a small Rochdale newspaper. Eventually the story died down but it would not go away. Eventually Smith was exposed, after his death, as a serial child abuser who had used his position as a public figure to abuse boys in local orphanages.
This current story is about a related story suggesting Smith and other MPs had engaged in a paedophile ‘ring’. It is suggested that investigations by the Metropolitan (London) police were halted as a result of pressure being applied at the most senior levels. Earlier stories about such ‘cover ups’ have emerged in the past but this one seems to have more traction and retired officers have confirmed that investigations into the matter were suddenly halted, back in the 1980s, just when progress was being made. Some suggest that the possible involvement of known paedophile, Sir Peter Morrison, Personal aide to Margaret Thatcher, was one of the reasons the emerging story was covered up.
The whole issue has become topical following the extraordinary case of Jimmy Saville, a flamboyant disc jockey and television personality, posthumously exposed in 2012 as a prolific sex abuser and rapist over several decades. Despite several stories of his activities no investigations were carried out during his lifetime as he was regarded as a ‘national treasure’ who raised millions for charity and was a favourite with senior politicians, the police, and the royal family. This scandal badly affected the reputation of the BBC at the time.
Will it affect the election? Probably not unless someone currently prominent in the political world is revealed as being involved. I would say this is unlikely but UK general elections, like those in the USA, involve concerted efforts by all participants to dig and find politically harmful ‘dirt’ on their opponents, so who knows?