A documentary made in 1995 about the role of Whips in Westminster, features an interview with a former Tory whip admitting that MPs would come to him for help covering up scandals, including what appear to be incidents of sexual abuse involving young boys.
Tim Fortescue can be seen in the clip talking about the kinds of personal problems politicians might have, and how whips were on hand to offer damage control for scandals that, as Fortescue puts it, “a member seemed likely to be mixed up in.” Whips would be only too happy to oblige, as the favour would ultimately lead to unconditional loyalty and obedience from the troubled MP:
“And we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points… and if I mean, that sounds a pretty, pretty nasty reason, but it’s one of the reasons because if we could get a chap out of trouble then, he will do as we ask forever more.”
Whilst the language doesn’t automatically imply guilt on the part of those MPs who were mentioned in scandals of different types, there is a strong implication of it, as Fortescue explains at the start of the clip that MPs were encouraged to come to him, and other whips, with the whole truth. This is the key phrase from the clip:
“Anyone with any sense, who was in trouble, would come to the whips and tell them the truth.”
The documentary also features Geoffrey Dickens, an outspoken Conservative MP who was responsible for calling out the government over an alleged paedophile ring operating between 1981-1985, at the height of the Paedophile Information Exchange’s involvement in British politics. Dickens also used his Parliamentary Privilege to call out diplomat Sir Peter Hayman as a paedophile, which was widely condemned at the time. Hayman was confirmed to be a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, and was eventually jailed for child sexual offences.
Dickens is perhaps best remembered for handing over a dossier to Leon Brittan, with the names of every politician who was a member of PIE, and all those involved in child sexual abuse as well. On his meeting with Brittan, Dickens said that he was “encouraged” by the meeting, but later expressed concern that PIE had not been banned.
In 2013, Tom Watson, a Labour politician representing Bromwich East, asked to have access to the dossier. The dossier was never found.
The documentary, entitled, “Life in The Whips Office,” runs to just over 58 minutes and is worth viewing for the revelations, there are several, around child sexual abuse and gender inequality, and for a look at current day politicians as they were when they were green and hungry for recognition.
Fortescue also makes disparaging comments about women in the documentary. When asked about the fact that the country has had a female Prime Minister but no female whips, Fortescue has this to say:
“Well, you’ve got to get your priorities right, haven’t you?”
The Interviewer goes on to ask, “Meaning what? The Whips’ Office is more important than who leads the party?”
And Fortescue replies, “You said it, I didn’t….”
The clip in which Fortescue mentions helping politicians deal with allegations relating to sleeping with small boys starts at 23:35. (We’ve also added it below).
The documentary resurfaced this week in a tweet by Richard Laird, Highland Councillor for Inverness Central, and Deputy Leader of the SNP Group.
With very many thanks to Raul for sharing this tweet with us.