The front pages: Were parliamentary paedophiles protected?

  • 7 July 2014

Most of Monday's papers take on the story about claims of a "Westminster paedophile ring" from their Sunday counterparts.

Lord Tebbit
Lord Tebbit told the Marr show that the culture of "protecting the establishment" was wrong

The Times is among the many news outlets that prominently feature Lord Tebbit's claims, made on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, that "there may well have been a cover up" shielding powerful people suspected of abusing children.

His comments come as the Home Office is accused of "sitting on evidence for 35 years", the paper continues.

Four potential new leads from 1979 have been passed to police, following a search of files.

The paper adds that "the four newly uncovered cases lacked credibility" according to civil servants who had been tasked with looking into the claims.

The Daily Mail says the affair is "extraordinary". It says Home Secretary Theresa May will face questions from MPs over accusations that "politicians, the police and even her own officials" have suppressed allegations of wrongdoing by VIPs for decades.

The paper says campaigners want to see a full "Hillsborough style" inquiry into the claims, with an independent board of experts scrutinising all the available documents.

In its opinion column, the Mail says David Cameron must act fast to set up an inquiry as "the stench of an establishment cover-up" is becoming "overpowering".

It points out that a full judicial inquiry and 195 police officers worked on the probe into hacking of phones and emails and payment of public officials by the press, yet only seven detectives are investigating the claims about politicians.

The paper writes: "Can the prime minister not see that what is alleged is the ugliest kind of corruption?

"For if these claims are true victims were doubly betrayed - first by their abusers, then by the criminal justice system supposed to protect them."

The Daily Mirror writes that the PM will be "on the wrong side of history" if he continues to duck calls for an inquiry.

"Once again, Mr Cameron's poor judgement is an issue as he goes against public opinion."

In the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh wonders what has happened to the 114 files of potential evidence missing from the Home Office.

"Someone, somewhere is on record as deciding to dispose of them. We need to know who. And why," he adds.

The Independent reveals that a dossier of accusations made against eight "prominent people" by the late MP Geoffrey Dickens had been passed to the director of public prosecutions in 1984, but these documents are also missing.

The Guardian's comment says "it is always possible that this case is the product of well-meaning but overheated imaginations."

But the paper adds: "But there is so much evidence from the continuing cases of historic sex abuse that shows how shame, humiliation, and fear of being disbelieved deter victims from coming forward."

The Daily Telegraph says police have tracked down one man who claims to have been sexually abused as a child by a "senior political figure"

But it says the man, who made a statement 30 years ago, has so far refused to give a formal interview to detectives.

Writing in the paper, Lord Tebbit says the process of inquiry must be followed to its conclusion regardless of whose "reputations it trashes".

"It is vital that the public feel able to trust their leaders again," he explains.

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New steps

Plans to bring in measures which some have dubbed "a snooper's charter" make the lead story in the Guardian.

The paper says ministers are "poised" to pass emergency laws requiring phone companies to keep a log of everyone's calls, texts and internet usage.

The new proposals - prompted by the threat of domestic terrorism, partly posed by jihadists returning from Syria - could require "the retention of all data tracking everyone's use of mobile phones and the internet, including every web page visited", the paper says.

The Guardian says the emergency legislation would require all-party support, but is viewed with some scepticism by Labour and Lib Dem MPs.

It says Labour would likely seek a "sunset clause" requiring the legislation to reviewed after a set period, while Lib Dems have vowed they will not back a return of the communications data bill, the original "snooper's charter" that was struck down in Parliament before it could be passed, in 2013.

The Guardian quotes a Home Office spokesperson as saying "the retention of communications data is absolutely fundamental to ensure law enforcement have the powers they need to investigate crime, protect the public and ensure national security.

"We are carefully considering the European Court of Justice's judgement on data retention and are currently examining potential new steps."

In its leader column, the Independent writes that "heightened anxiety about national security does not justify the hasty adoption of yet more anti-terrorist laws".

The paper continues "the point is that the authorities already possess laws aplenty to monitor people, and the powers of government to deal with terrorism have increased enormously in recent years.

"We are entitled to ask what more laws they truly need and whether it is worth paying the price for them.

"Invariably, each of the Acts nibbles away at individual freedoms and the right to privacy, stifles whistleblowers, stops the mouths of investigative journalists and silences probing questions."

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Whisky

The Daily Telegraph reports claims that some businesses in Scotland feel they have been "threatened with retribution" by the SNP for speaking against independence.

The claims will be aired in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, the paper says.

It adds that "intimidation" has come at the highest level, the firms claim: from the office of Alex Salmond, the First Minister.

A former head of the scotch whisky trade association claims an SNP politician "tried to tell the organisation to 'stay out' of the debate," the Telegraph adds.

Unidentified Scotch whisky bottling plant
It has been claimed that some scotch whisky distillers have received "intimidating" approaches from pro-independence campaigners

The Scottish government tells the paper the claims are "totally false".

Alex Salmond crops up in the Independent, where he accuses David Cameron of "playing roulette" with Scotland's future in the EU.

In an article written for the paper, Mr Salmond says that support for EU membership is higher in Scotland than in the UK as a whole, and that the PM's attitude to the community risks dragging Scots "to the exit door" against their will.

"David Cameron's dance to that UKIP tune is a clear and present danger to countless thousands of jobs across Scotland today," Mr Salmond argues.

The Independent notes that support for independence rises to a level where it is neck-and-neck with those against a break-away in polls when Scottish voters are asked to envisage a post-EU Britain.

Still on Scotland, the Financial Times says the nation suffers a "large and persistent productivity gap with the rest of the UK".

Quoting research from Durham University Business School, it says Scotland's private sector was 11% less productive than the UK average over the last 20 years.

The FT says the findings suggest a post-independent Scotland "would have a lot of ground to make up" and productivity growth "is the biggest determinant of living standards".

The Scottish government tells the paper that Scotland is the third most productive part of the UK, after London and the south-east, but a "re-industrialised" Scotland would address any lag.

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Gumby

Once again, the progress of the Tour De France through Yorkshire captivates the papers.

A stunning picture of the riders struggling up Haworth's near-vertical main street is reproduced in many newspapers.

The Daily Mirror notes one jocular Tyke dialect sign that greeted the peloton as it climbed Sheffield's notoriously steep Jenkin Road: "Ey up, what's up with thee. I rode up this as a nipper."

Whilst welcoming the vast turnout of fans - at least two million turned out again on Sunday for Stage Two of the race - some riders have felt their ears, as well as leg muscles, are in danger.

British cyclist Geraint Thomas is quoted in the Mirror as saying "It was great to race on home roads but it is dangerous at times.

Spectators of the Tour De France in Yorkshire
The owners of this spectating pooch clearly adjudged him to be "King of the Mountains"

"My ears are ringing: it was like being in a disco for four hours."

The Guardian pictures spectators wearing masks depicting former British cycling chief David Brailsford, one with polka-dot face paint, another in a Monty Python "Gumby" outfit and - even better in this writer's opinion - a dog wearing a yellow race leader's jersey.

Mr Brailsford will be pleased to learn of one Tour side effect chronicled by the paper - a renewed interest in cycling.

The paper quotes Sheffield spectator Ateeb Hassein, who says "my two friends haven't ridden a bike since they were kids, but after coming here they said they're going to start again."

The Daily Mail notes that "every village on yesterday's route had a street party atmosphere. Parish churches sold tea and cake, pubs held Tour De France beer festivals and farmers cashed in by turning fields into car parks and camp sites."

Spectator Greg Turner, from Staffordshire, tells the Mail: "People down south wouldn't do it like this."

The paper reports that even French tour legend Bernard Hinault was astonished by the numbers watching, even in remote moorland roads, and said he'd seen nothing like it for 40 years.

The Financial Times reports that the Tour's success has encouraged Wakefield council leader Peter Box to call for independence for Yorkshire.

The Daily Express's leader column hails the "colour and excitement" of the great race and eagerly awaits Monday's Cambridgeshire to London stage.

"Hopefully after today's stage, it won't be goodbye - just au revoir," it adds.

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