The sex abuse witch hunt: conflating Lord Rennard, Cardinal O’Brien and Operation Yewtree
SEX-abuse scandals are replacing kiss’n’tells as tabloid fodder. Sensation swirls about the LibDems’ former party chief executive Lord Rennard. Women say he acted “inappropriately. There is a claim that Rennard repeatedly “brushed a woman’s leg at dinner. Another says he propositioned her. She “” the offer to join him in his room.
At first, Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said he had no idea about any of it. The allegations made on Channel 4 News were news to him. By Sunday, however, Clegg’s memory told him that he had known about Rennard’s alleged “indirect and non-specific concerns” since 2008. Moreover, LibDem chief of staff Danny Alexander had had confronted Rennard over such matters.
Rennard denies that meeting with Alexander. He says he received “no complaint or allwgation about his behaviour”.
As a result of the accusations – all unproven and unchallenged in any court of law (and wht crime?) – the LibDems are mired. Saying someone of a high-profile has sexually abused you is enough for that person to be front-page news and the institutions in which they work shaken.
The Daily Mail says the LibDems are “engulfed in a scandal”.
Is it a scandal? A man is accused of being a creep, touching up women and leching. Is that a scandal fit to rock an entire party? Rennard resigned form his LibDem role in 2009 on health grounds. But panicky Clegg went on LBC radio to tells everyone:
“He left on health grounds but of course the issues of his inappropriate behaviour were in the background.”
He adds that he never investigated because the women “just wanted the inappropriate behaviour from Lord Rennard to stop”.
The current story is that what went before was all allowed in its day. In the 1970s and before could grope women with impunity. Only, that’s not true. If you felt up a woman before these enlightened times, when historical sexual abuse is the big news story, you were a pest, a creep and a lech. Rennard might have been a dirty old man. What’s changed is not the morals but the conversation.
Rennard does not sit alone in the stocks. He follows Jimmy Savile and the Operation Yewtree purge that saw police arrest Jim Davidson at the airport in full view of everyone. You might not like reactionary Davidson, but you should feel a pang of sympathy for his being set up by the police’s PR department. Anti-gay campaigner Cardinal Keith O’Brien is not just a powerful man accused of “inappropriate” conduct – and gross hypocrisy – for attempting alleged “inappropriate” acts with priests, he is portrayed as Jimmy Savile’s pal. Every story of sex abuse is being conflated. The effect is to diminish the individual case, and create a witch hunt. Savile raped children. O’Brien is accused of “inappropriate” behaviour towards adults. Both have victims. But the alleged offences are not in the same league.
But if you’ve got a vested interest, they might be.
Colin Macfarlane, the director of gay activist group Stonewall Scotland, wants a full inquiry:
“We trust that there will now be a full investigation into the serious allegations made against ex-cardinal O’Brien.”
The allegations are made by four unnamed priests (one is now retired). We don’t know any of the details. Is it a serious crime to try to seduce a man, as seems to be alleged? What is a full inquiry? And at what point do the police take over?
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, had her angle to promote:
“Compromised by his own sexual misdeeds, it’s hard to imagine that O’Brien has properly handled paedophile priests.”
Touching a priest suggestively is equatable with raping a child?
Isn’t that in some way conflating homosexuality with paedophilia? Whose the bigot now?