26 Feb

Confessing other people’s sins

Harriet Harman has refused to apologise for having been closely associated with the National Council for Civil Liberties in the 1970s when the NCCL had links to the Paedophile Information Exchange, I still cringe when I recall those days. It was the decade following the student riots in Paris and the USA. Anarchic nihilism was everywhere. There were more fringe leftist parties than you could throw a hammer and sickle at: the Socialist Workers, the Revolutionary Marxist Current, the International Marxist Group and so on. One published a newspaper called Spectre which always carried a slogan above its masthead: “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism.” And “oppression” was the word ever on the lips of the radical chic. “International capitalism” and “the ruling class”  oppressed wimmin, blacks, workers and students especially – despite the fact that university tuition was free and most received generous maintenance grants. Harriet, as a member of the coy, trendy very middle class agitprop subversive NCCL, was the original radical chick: a posh gel slumming it among the proles.

PIE hijacked this loony left bandwagon and claimed that denying sexual relationships between children and adults constituted the oppression of children. Sane voices pointed out: “No – it’s child molesters who oppress children.”

I was a philosophy undergraduate at Liverpool University at the time and the long-haired, beaded flower-power lumpen intelligentsia were in full sail. “Man” was another of their favourite words. They ended every utterance with it, rather as Dr Johnson ended his sentences with “Sir.” They smoked pot and regarded Bob Dylan as a poet and a prophet.  One of the most puerile of their antics – puerile even for a mob that turned puerility into a  pop art form – was to claim that the university authorities were holding “secret files” on them all. It never occurred to them to ask why anyone in his right mind would want to to store information about this riff raff. What would such information say about them: thick, spoilt, infantilised, petulant, paranoid, lazy. So they would cut lectures and instead hold “sit-ins” in the senate building and thus prevent the office workers from working. (They must have forgotten they were supposed to be on the side of the workers). I remember the Vice Chancellor offering to throw open the administration centre and the riff raff could see for themselves there were no secret files. Came the reply, “Ah no – that’s because they’re secret!”

Forty years on and sister Harriet still has the same mindset. I’m sure she’s among that great horde of politically-correct tribunes who insist that we all apologise for stuff we didn’t do – like the slave trade, the persecution of homosexuals and blacks. I wonder they don’t ask Italian ice cream sellers to apologise for the fall of the Roman Empire. But when it comes to apologising for something for which she did have responsibility – being a leading light in the NCCL which had connections to the PIE – Ms Harman keeps her trap firmly shut.

I wish she would make a habit of it.