Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Cyril Smith: Our Part in His Downfall!

As today Simon Danczuk launches his book at Danczuk's Deli
on the Walk in Rochdale, John Walker, the former editor
of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP), below
accesses how in November 2012, Northern Voices finally helped
to bring the Cyril Smith story out into the public domain:
NOW revelations about the Cyril Smith child sex-abuse case have emerged on almost a daily basis from when the issue was re-aired in November last year (2012).  So much so, that many people may now be switching off, feeling that they have heard enough, and that they've already concluded that he was a no good fat old paedo – end of story. 

For me, however, there are two key long term lessons to be leard, and Northern Voices and its principles are central to both of them.  Firstly, there is the constant need to be vigilant about the abuses of power, and the need for them to be exposed; and secondly the immense importance of the the continued existence of a genuinely free, independent, and fearless local and radical press.

I won't rehearch the many Smith related tales to have emerged recently; but most of them concern the abuse of power and bullying by those in authority of vulnerable people.  As I have argued before in Northern Voices, the most despicable thing about Smith's treatment of his victims was not so much that he molested young boys, but the way he chose his victims, and the abuse of authority he exercised in his self-gratification.

So, Smith paraded himself as a man of the people and defender of the downtrodden.  But it was the very downtrodden that he chose to abuse; boys who were vulnerable because of their status, as residents of children's homes.  He compounded that disadvantage by his sexual molestation of them and added insult to injury by threatening them, if they revealed what he'd been up to.  With the taunt that nobody would believe their word against that of an important person like him.

Rather than defend the disadvantaged, he increased their problems and reduced their self esteem by his actions towards them.  He used his power and authoryty to bully others into preventing enquires into his behaviour, and so escaped, time and again, to continue to perpetrate his abuse.  It was cant hypocrisy at its worst....
This bullying included the use of court injunctions, threats of libel action, arm twisting of law officers, leaning on MPs, public officials and other politically influential people, locally and nationally etc. to give him cover....  Thus, one of the many perversions to emerge from the murky Smith case, is that the paid upholders of civil society, themselves, became accessories to his abuse and continued disgraceful and criminal behaviour. 

How many victims would have been spared if initial enquires into Smith's activities had not been covered up by others in authority, who abetted Smith for their own suspect motives.  

Continued vigilance of the actions of the powerful is an important guarantor of long-term freedom; and Northern Voices' exercises this on a regular basis, much to the changrin of many of those subsequently exposed by its efforts. 
Which brings me to my second point.  The role of Northern Voices, as part of that long tradition of a radical press, that has never been afraid to call into question abuses of the powerful.   

I write as one of the editors of RAP (Rochdale's Alternative Paper), which first published the allegations about Smith's sexual abuse of the residents of Cambridge House hostel, in 1979.  We published well researched and impeccably sourced details of Smith's sexual abuse, cleared, word by word, by three different sets of lawers.  We were very aware of the legal and financial consequences of getting anything wrong, publishing as we did five days before Smith stood as the local candidate in the general election of that year.   

Smith moved into bullying mode and slapped a poorly worded injunction on us.  We were inundated with requests for copies of the paper from the national press.  There was not a serious national news outlet that didn't have a copy, and knew that we had compelling,legally cleared, material to back our claims.  Smith bullied them into inaction.  

All bar one [failed to follow up the story].  Private Eye alone, repeated the story in 1979.  And like Rap, invited Smith to sue.  He was silent on the matter, and ended up paying RAP's legal costs to get the injunction struck off, and dropped to matter, a couple of years later.

I would arue that there is not a serious national political journalist in Britain over the age of 50 who has not been aware of the Smith story for thirty years.  Yet none of them has ever taken the case up leaving it to RAP, Private Eye.. [and] Northern Voices... 

The recent re-emergence of the 1979 RAP story owes its appearance to Northern Voices.  This magazine kept the Smith story running and led to Westminster political blogger, and former Rochdale lad, Paul Waugh picking it up,last November.  Working with the ex-RAP editors Northern Voices was able to track down two of the 1960s Cambridge House victims, today, and introduce them to Paul, who ran the story on his national blog.  This provided grist for Simon Danczuk's mill, who revitalised the story by 'outing' Smith's antics in Parliament in November (2012).  
Excerpts from John Walker's lead story in
Northern Voices No.14 published in June 2013.


Anonymous said...

What 'downfall' ?. He's dead and gone.

bammy said...

Dead, but not gone! He is very much alive in the media as we can't help but notice. Even a member of the Socialist Party told me recently he was reading Northern Voices, because he was interested in the evidence of an establishment cover-up with regard to Smith and others.