Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: Jeremy Corbyn

Bower on Corbyn

Bower on Corbyn


Padraig Colman

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on March 28 2019.

No one could decide whether he was a skillful strategist or an unimaginative simpleton.

The current political situation in the UK is so confusing that it beyond the most astute and erudite analysts to explain it satisfactorily. As I write this, it seems unlikely that Theresa May can hang on for much longer as prime minister and a motley crew of contenders are queuing up to take over the poisoned chalice she will bequeath.  In such chaotic times, the oracle we often turn to is the bookmaker. According to Oddschecker, which compiles odds from all the leading bookies, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is favourite to become the next prime minister.  Both Betfair and Paddy Power have shorter odds on the Labour leader becoming prime minister than on any Conservative candidate. Corbyn is 6/1 to succeed Theresa May – ahead of Tory contenders including Boris Johnson on 13/2, Michael Gove on 7/1 and Jeremy Hunt at 11/1.

Tom Bower recently published a scathing biography of Corbyn – Dangerous Hero: Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot for Power – which was serialized in the Daily Mail. I acquired the book on the day it was published and also read it in its entirety on that same day. It surprised me that so many people were prepared to express vehement views about the book without actually going to the trouble of reading it. Many thought it could not be true because the Daily Mail was publishing it.

As one who has read it, I can say that, despite the many faults in the book, I am convinced by Bower’s contention that Corbyn is not fit to be prime minister. Theresa May has already proved that she is not fit to be prime minister. None of the other contenders seem capable of organising the proverbial alcoholic carousal in a beer manufactory. Albion luctificus.

Household Maintenance


Supporters of Corbyn have mocked Bower for dishing up trivia about his personal life such as his mismanagement of his personal finances, seeing this rather as a virtue in a committed socialist. This is a man too saintly to be bothered about money. Corbynistas argue that he got in debt because he honored a commitment to personally fund an office and community centre in his constituency. They argue that this was an act of good faith. Corbyn’s second wife, Claudia, would disagree. Claudia was struggling to feed and clothe their three sons. Corbyn’s often tenuous relationship with the truth (as Bower puts it: “If it burnished his left-wing credentials, Corbyn was still willing to lie about trivialities”) is here illustrated by the fact that he has allowed the story to persist that his first marriage ended because his wife wanted their children to be educated at grammar schools and he refused on a matter of principle. (Corbyn himself was educated at Castle House School, an independent preparatory school near Newport, Shropshire, before attending Adams’ Grammar School as a day student. His son subsequently attended Queen Elizabeth’s School, which was his wife’s first choice). Corbyn’s first two wives, according to Bower, both felt emotionally and practically neglected. Corbyn missed his youngest son’s birth as he was lecturing NUPE (National Union of Public Employees) members at the same hospital. Bower writes: “His self-portrayal as a universal ‘do-gooder’ was at odds with his inability to care for his wife, or indeed any female companion. He was quite incapable of understanding.”


It could be argued (it has been argued) that this is all personal and not political. Others might contend that Corbyn could not run a country if he could not run a home and a marriage (or two). We need to find some evidence to decide whether Corbyn can run a country. He has been a member of parliament for a very long time (since June 1983) but has been a lone wolf for most of those 36 years. He has generally voted with the Labour Party but has not been afraid to vote against his party on matters of principle. He has never been a minister in a Labour government or even a shadow minister in opposition. He has only briefly served on three Commons committees. As Bower says: “he had rarely scrutinised legislation in a parliamentary committee, and had never seriously proposed any new law.” How do we assess his ability to run the country? According to Bower, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, “stood not just on the fringe of Labour, but of mainstream British society. Supported by a hinterland of far-left groups, the trio had remained unwaveringly loyal to their dream of radically changing Britain. As the least articulate of the three, Corbyn aroused the least antagonism.”


Practical Politics in Haringey


We could look at his record as a local councillor in the London Borough of Haringey. In 1974, he was elected to Haringey Council at the age of 24, in the South Hornsey ward, and served until 1983 when he was elected to parliament as the member for Islington North. He was responsible for the housing maintenance department. Corbyn’s first wife, Jane Chapman, was chairman of housing, responsible for over four thousand people. Haringey’s housing was in a bad state, not least on the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham. Following the publication of Alice Coleman’s Utopia on Trial in 1985, the area acquired a reputation as one of the worst places to live in the UK. In 1985, there were riots on Broadwater Farm during which a policeman was hacked to death by a rioting mob.


Corbyn’s role as an elected council officer responsible for housing maintenance was compromised by the fact that he was also a trade union organiser for the National Union of Public Employees and the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union. He was in charge of the employment of NUPE members, and at the same time he was their trade union representative organising a NUPE strike against the council. Corbyn, even though he was their employer, joined council workers as a NUPE official on their picket line outside the council’s premises. Corbyn was responsible for the housing maintenance department from which £2 million had gone missing annually for several years in succession. Council employees were both stealing money and inflating their claims for overtime. The district auditor had discovered that Haringey’s caretakers were submitting fraudulent overtime claims and the dustmen had stolen council property. Polls showed that the strikes were highly unpopular with the public, but Corbyn dismissed this, and ignored complaints by local NUPE members that his political agitation was coming at the expense of their private lives.


Robin Young, the Labour whip at Haringey, said ‘You could not out-left Corbyn,’ recalled. ‘He detested everyone who disagreed with him. And he always got others to do his dirty work. Young’s biggest gripe was that “Corbyn played no part in building Haringey’s houses and social services. He just played politics. Jeremy and Jane turned every meeting of the Labour group into a terrible argument.”


Haringey became Britain’s highest-spending local authority, with the highest rates for residents and businesses. While council tenants waited a long time for repairs to their homes. “Labour officials spent huge amounts of public money to promote their political ambitions, and wasted more on illegal projects. Officials in the housing department bought whole streets of private houses by compulsory order, ostensibly for council tenants, used council labour to rebuild them, and occasionally moved themselves into the best”.


“Despite levying London’s highest council tax, the borough had debts that in 1998 would lead it to the brink of bankruptcy. Forty-seven per cent of its residents lived in 35,000 council homes notorious for infestation with crime, drugs, damp and dilapidation because Islington’s unionised labour force refused to undertake repairs, despite threats of dismissal. NUPE, the workers knew, would protect their jobs.” An auditor’s report highlighted tax arrears of £23.7 million, with £4 million missing in uncollected fines.

Bower’s Shortcomings

It should be noted that many reviewers find Bower’s approach unacceptable. I will take Peter Oborne as a specimen case. Oborne is well-known conservative commentator, a Daily Mail columnist no less, and hardly the sort of person one would expect to defend Corbyn. Oborne writes: “The ugly truth is that Bower is not straight with his readers, let alone Corbyn. Again, and again he withholds relevant information, with the result that the Labour leader and his colleagues come over in the worst possible light.” Oborne made many unsuccessful efforts to contact Bower to clarify facts. He did some research of his own: “Again and again, I have been able to prove that his account of events is false, misleading and, in some cases, pure fabrication.”

More criticism of Bower here:


Oborne and others criticise Bower for not citing sources or providing evidence. Bower does mention a name in connection with a subject I know something about. He mentions Liz Davies, the social worker, who blew the whistle on the sexual abuse of children in Islington’s care homes. I had a lengthy correspondence with Liz and with Eileen Fairweather who publicised the scandal in her articles for the London Evening Standard. I know from personal experience that Corbyn did not cover himself with glory on this issue.

I was myself uncomfortable with many aspects of Bower’s book. At the beginning, Bower takes great pains to establish that he was himself a lefty in his youth. He met Rudi Dutschke. The implication is that Bower grew up and abandoned his childish ways and Corbyn did not. At the same he is sniffy about Corbyn’s credentials: “None of those illustrious Marxists who have survived since the 1960s – all intelligent, well-educated, engaged and engaging – recall Corbyn as a major player over any of the four decades before his ascension as leader of the Labour Party in September 2015.” Corbyn made several illegal attempts to get Tariq Ali a Labour Party membership card. Ali does not appear to be grateful. “I shared many platforms with Jeremy,’ he recalled, ‘but I can’t remember what he said except that he was on the right side.” According to Bower, “On the rare occasions when a speech of his was interrupted by applause, he would be so surprised that he would stop and start again from the beginning.” George Galloway said, “His speeches were one mile wide and an inch deep,” One MP described Corbyn’s style of parliamentary oratory as “the single transferable speech”. Andrew Roth, the author of Parliamentary Profiles, mocked Corbyn as “a pastiche of the bearded Spartist fantasist still fighting fights in his own head at least’.


I drew on Bower’s previous books on Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to support my own reservations about privatisation, outsourcing and public/private finance initiatives. In this book Bower seems to assume that it would be ludicrous to renationalize public utilities but does not state a lucid case. He presents a muddled picture when dealing with accusations that Corbyn is anti-Semitic. In his zeal to condemn Corbyn, he often crosses the line by citing criticism of the state of Israel as evidence of anti-Semitism. That won’t do.

Smear Tests

I have noticed a tendency on the part of Corbyn supporters to wiggle away from even justified criticism of their hero by complaining about ‘smears’ and the iniquity of the ‘mainstream media’. In practice, they do quite a bit of smearing themselves. It is unfortunate that Bower’s case against Corbyn is undermined by his own tendency to leave himself unnecessarily open to charges of inaccuracy.

When I shared the first Daily Mail instalment on Facebook, a couple of doughty pillars of the Sri Lankan ‘left’ (they know who they are) defended Corbyn and attacked (without, I suspect, reading the extract, let alone the book) Bower. As do many Corbynistas, they accused the ‘mainstream media’ of distorting the truth about Corbyn. Strangely, most of their venom was directed at the Guardian and the BBC, although the article that was supposed to be under discussion was in the Daily Mail. The gist of the complaint was that the western media told lies about the Sri Lankan government’s successful fight against the Tamil Tigers who wanted a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka. Curious that these opponents of Tamil separatism, these stern critics of western intervention in Venezuela, should be sympathetic to Corbyn who has long been a supporter of Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka. I shudder to think of Sri Lanka’s future if Corbyn becomes prime minister. Bower does not cover this aspect of Corbyn’s support of terrorists (sorry, freedom fighters) in his book but I cover it here.






Islington Child Abuse Part Three

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 22 2016.

Colman's Column3



In previous articles I tried to address the conundrum of why the UK media are taking so little current interest in Jeremy Corbyn’s dereliction of duty during the Islington care homes saga. I worry at the question further in this article.





Derek Sawyer





Derek Sawyer was a Labour Islington councillor until 2006 and was council leader at the time of the inquiries into allegations of sexual abuse of children in care homes in the borough. These allegations had been brought to light by social workers, particularly Liz Davies.  Dr Davies is now Emeritus Reader in Social Work at London Metropolitan University.  At one time, Sawyer served as Corbyn’s constituency agent. Sawyer was a friend from university days and business partner of Derek Slade, who received a 21-year prison sentence in 2010 for brutally abusing twelve boys at St George’s, a military boarding school, in Norfolk, which Sawyer helped him found. Slade wrote English language school text books, under the name “Dr Edward Marsh”, which were published by a company which he set up with Sawyer.




Derek Slade


In 1986, Slade was convicted of brutally beating a boy at a Sussex prep school. Sawyer provided the character evidence that kept Slade out of prison. Four days before the Ian White Report on sexual abuse in Islington care homes was published, Sawyer and Slade co-founded a company, IBEP, to set up schools and orphanages in India and Africa. Slade left them all under a cloud.  The Daily Mail published a story on this but dropped it from the paper’s website after a libel threat. However, Roger Cook was not sued when he did a BBC programme on it, Abuse of Trust.

Abuse survivors at the Indian orphanage were planning to sue him in London’s High Court but the case was mysteriously dropped.

Journalists have been careful not to accuse Sawyer of taking part in abuse or of knowing what Slade was up to.

Sawyer Today

Sawyer achieved key positions on bodies running London’s police, magistrates and probation services. He represented all London’s councils on the Metropolitan Police’s Public Safety Board. He was chair of the London Region Courts Board. He was made trustee of two crime prevention youth charities. He was recently community representative on Islington SNB (Safer Neighbourhood Board).

The difficulties of squeezing information from Islington council are described in detail here:

Corbyn Was Told


No one is accusing Corbyn of perpetrating child abuse himself, but why did he do nothing? If he was such a good constituency MP, (I am a former civil servant who worked in many government departments and can vouch that he was an assiduous letter writer on behalf of his constituents), it beggars belief that he could have been unaware of the horrors that were going on in Islington on his watch.


In fact, we have the testimony of several people that Corbyn was informed of the horrors going on in his constituency. Five social workers visited him and journalist Eileen Fairweather contacted him separately. Some of the victims said that they told Corbyn what was going on and that he promised to do something but didn’t. At the time of the allegations, I was a ministerial advisor on child protection at the Department of Health and saw files which indicated that Corbyn had been told of the abuse.


Matthew Collings asked why the mainstream media were not covering Corbyn’s lack of action on the child abuse. I shared the most recent article I could find. It was published on 31 July 2015 and written by Guy Adams. It gave an excellent summary of the situation and allowed Liz Davies and Eileen Fairweather to state quite categorically that they had told Corbyn “everything” about the child abuse in 1992. Corbyn had said that he had heard similar things from constituents and promised to take action. Davies recalls, “There was no letter. No phone call. I never, ever saw him speak about it.”


Because the article was published in the Daily Mail, Corbyn supporters, some of whom proudly boasted that they had not actually read the Mail article or my article, aggressively and abusively asserted that it must be lies.


These people were, in effect calling Liz Davies, Eileen Fairweather, former victim Demetrious Panton and myself liars for claiming that Corbyn had been told about the abuse and did nothing about it.


Just because You’re Paranoid…


I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. However, there are times when people really do conspire to cover up evil deeds. Particular areas which are prone to this are paedophile rings, military intelligence and Northern Ireland. All those ingredients are mixed up in this brew together with the peculiarities of Labour politics of the 1970s, which shaped the Corbyn we have today. Labour politics at that time allowed PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange, which advocated making sex with four-year-olds legal) to infiltrate the bien pensant community. It is difficult to avoid speculation when the perpetrators are indeed involved in a conspiracy to do horrible things and cover them up. It is unlikely that the establishment is protecting Corbyn himself. However, knowledge of what happened to Colin Wallace (who served six years in prison on a cooked-up manslaughter charge) may induce caution among journalists. I have been in communication with five different journalists who continue to take an interest in this issue. Let us see if they publish anything.


Brick Wall
I have heard speculation that Corbyn may have been stopped from pursuing the matter by people more powerful than himself. I have been told that attempts were made to get stories about the Islington abuse “into the mainstream press last year and earlier this but hit that curious Islington brick wall…. again.” Islington has had more coverage than some other scandals but little is being said about Corbyn’s role.


It is unlikely that the media will take up this story again if there are no new developments. There is not much to add to the Mail article.  Is there a sense of child abuse fatigue? All of the media right now is obsessed with Brexit, terrorism, and the migrant crisis. The Islington embarrassment began over 30 years ago. People felt guilty about letting Jimmy Savile get away with such horrors and then the authorities went too far in the other direction and seemed to be persecuting elderly national treasures. Many allegations turned out to be false.

There are so many worrying aspects to the Corbyn situation that the media has an uphill task covering them all. John Mann MP issued an open letter to Corbyn on July 23 2015, in which he said: “The extent of the abuse was only uncovered through the tenacity and bravery of whistle-blowers, journalists and survivors which led to a number of independent inquiries and the damning Ian White report in 1995”. The gist of John Mann’s argument is that Corbyn is not fit to lead the Labour Party at a time when much attention in Parliament and the media will be generated by the inquiry into historic sexual abuse of children.

No one, except John Mann (who was called an opportunistic fascist pig for bringing it up) seems to care that Corbyn effectively lied to the House of Commons.


“Perhaps most worrying of all are the implications of your question to the Home Secretary on November 3rd 2014. You stated that ‘Finally in my own borough of Islington there have been complaints about Islington children’s homes in the past and the council has investigated them.’  This statement at first glance is non-contentious. However, on reflection it is an extraordinary statement considering the representations made to you in the past that the council was in fact covering up abuse and not listening to the survivors, issues you were challenged on at the time.”

“Your carefully worded excusing of Islington Council in the House of Commons equally demonstrates why it is inappropriate for you to attempt to lead the Labour Party at the critical time of the Goddard Enquiry, as child abuse is the issue that will haunt this Parliament.”

Liz Davies does not agree with everything I write. She does not want conflict with Jeremy Corbyn and would hope to work with him to improve the lot of today’s children and of those now adult survivor of Islington. She told me that what she feels is important right now is assisting survivors in looking for their files, most of which are completely missing, piecing together some of their histories from other evidence, and seeing if any action legal or criminal can be taken or if current children need protection. Let us hope that Jeremy Corbyn does not disappoint her.






Islington Child Abuse Part Two

Colman's Column3


A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 15 2016.



Last week I began to look at the question: why have the English media not given more prominence to allegations that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn did not assist, and may indeed have obstructed, the investigations into allegations of sexual abuse of children in care homes in his Islington constituency?

Liz Davies was a social work team manager in the London Borough of Islington where she exposed wide scale abuse of children within the care system. Dr Davies is now Emeritus Reader in Social Work at London Metropolitan University. For several months in 1989, she had been talking to groups of children she suspected were being abused. She and her co-workers heard of sinister adults preying on children who were lured into private houses or abused in care homes. One house in the community was known to be used as a “brothel” for abusing children. The social workers became convinced a paedophile ring was at work in the area.

This is not the place to go into the details of the scandal. Much useful information can be found on Dr Davies’s blog: There is also a wealth of information here:  The Islington survivors network is currently collating new evidence with more survivors and witnesses coming forward.

Morris Fraser

I noted in last week’s column that particular issues were prone to conspiracies-paedophile rings, military intelligence and Northern Ireland.

Dr Morris Fraser was the senior psychiatric registrar at the Royal Victoria Hospital’s child guidance clinic in Belfast. He also wrote the book Children in Conflict, about how the Troubles in Northern Ireland affected children. In 1971 he had sexually assaulted a member of his Belfast boy scout troop in London. The Metropolitan Police failed to inform the Royal Victoria about his London conviction which also went unreported in the media. Another conviction in New York in 1974 on several counts of sodomy on children went unreported.


Fraser was a member of the Paedophile information Exchange (PIE), which was granted ‘affiliate’ status within the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), a pressure group which was later renamed Liberty. At the time, the NCCL was being run by Patricia Hewitt, the future Blairite Health Secretary now making a fortune from private health care. Also prominent in the NCCL at the time were Harriet Harman, the Labour Party’s acting leader before Corbyn’s election, and her husband Jack Dromey, also now a Labour MP. Henry Hodge, the husband of Margaret Hodge, leader of Islington Council,  a resident of Islington,was chairman of the NCCL when the PIE was granted affiliate status.


PIE was mainly based in Islington and had its international office there. Fraser sent boys to Kincora and took a Kincora boy to his home in Islington to be abused.

In 1988, Fraser co-founded the Azimuth Trust, which gave sailing holidays to dozens of vulnerable boys in Devon and Cornwall as victims for a paedophile ring. He was also one of eight men charged in New York as part of an organised abuse network. Fraser continued to have access to vulnerable children and to sexually abuse them for a period of about 20 years.


A study into Fraser’s activities was recently produced by Irish academic Dr Niall Meehan. Meehan said: “It must be surely assumed that Fraser was allowed to continue his work in return for providing some form of services to the authorities.” It is understood a Freedom of Information request regarding Fraser was turned down for reasons of national security.

Paedophile Information Exchange

Although he was never officially implicated in abuse at Kincora, there seems to have been organised child sexual abuse occurring wherever Fraser lived or worked. A former Kincora resident alleged that he was abused by Fraser, who had extensive links to paedophile groups in England and was close to Peter Righton, the former director of education at the National Institute for Social Work, and a consultant for the National Children’s Bureau.



Righton was a founding member of PIE, which wanted the age of consent reduced to four. Both men contributed to the book   Perspectives on Paedophilia. That book is still available from Amazon ( with a positive review. “An amazingly open and detailed description of a
sequence of pedophile relations, extentively (sic) illustrated with photos.”

Tom O’Carroll is a former chairman of the now disbanded  PIE. In 1981, O’Carroll was convicted for conspiracy  to corrupt public morals because of the contact ads in the PIE magazine and went to jail for two years. A barrister in the case, Peter Thornton, later a QC and senior circuit judge, wrote about it the following year in Rights, the NCCL newsletter. Thornton was critical of the charges, which he said had been “too remote from any tangible misdemeanour” and he suggested that O’Carroll had been convicted on little evidence. In 2002, a nine-month sentence given to O’Carroll for evading a prohibition on the importation from Qatar of indecent photographs of children was overturned by the Court of Appeal. On 20 December 2006, he was jailed for 2½ years conspiring to distribute indecent photographs of children – these were obtained from his co-defendant Michael John De Clare Studdert’s vault of 50,000 pornographic images of children. In December 2015 O’Carroll faced charges of indecent assault and gross indecency against two brothers aged nine and ten and pleaded guilty to one count of indecently assaulting one boy and one of gross indecency with the other. He was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years, placed on the sex offenders’ register for ten years and made the subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order. O’Carroll joined the Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn became party leader in September 2015. He wrote a creepy article about child mascots at sporting events. He said they “must look the part… be lean, well-proportioned, athletic and good-looking”, with “every suggestion” that they have “been favoured by the gods.’” After a series of complaints from anti-paedophile activists, O’Carroll, now aged 70, was expelled from the party only in February 2016. John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, who has campaigned against child abuse, and criticised Corbyn for his inaction on the Islington child abuse, said: “I led the calls this morning for Tom O’Carroll to be immediately kicked out of the Labour Party. Which local branch let him in?”



Former army officers Colin Wallace and Brian Gemmell, who tried to expose the abuse at the care home, have expressed their disquiet at the refusal of Northern Ireland police to reveal what they knew about Fraser. Wallace tried to expose a paedophile ring involving loyalist paramilitaries and politicians in the 1970s, which included him authoring an army memo naming alleged abusers in 1973.

Islington Connections

Fraser lived in Islington in 1990, at a time when paedophile networks had infiltrated Islington children’s homes. This may just be coincidence as he was working at University College Hospital. However, it would not be uncharitable to suspect that he had seen an opportunity to abuse children in Islington. He had also travelled to Turkey, Holland and Denmark to abuse children. In 1993, he was convicted for possession of child pornography.

Another PIE member, Peter Righton, is connected to Islington via the Islington-Suffolk Project, which sent children in care on holidays to Lord Henniker’s estate in Eye, Suffolk. Righton and his partner were invited to live on Lord Henniker’s estate after Righton’s 1992 conviction for importing images of child abuse. (Although there have been no allegations of child abuse on the Thornham Magna estate in Suffolk).

In 1979, John Rea Price,  Islington’s Director of Social Servicesand Peter Righton sat on the same steering committee to establish a course for training staff to work with disturbed young people. Righton went on to become governor of New Barns school working with disturbed young people, and Islington Council were one of the local authorities to place children there. New Barns school was the subject of a major child abuse investigation after Righton’s arrest. Righton lectured on social work at North London Polytechnic in Islington in 1970.When Social Work Today reported Righton’s arrest there was no mention of the fact that he had long been associated with the magazine and had written dozens of articles for it. The magazine also downplayed the connection between the National Children’s Bureau and Righton. In April 1992, just two months before the article was published, John Rea Price was appointed as Director of the National Children’s Bureau, having recently resigned as Director of Islington Social Services after 20 years in post. In October 1992, not long after his departure, the Islington Children’s Homes scandal became public.


White Report

The White Report on the Islington child abuse scandal concluded that there was a culture in Islington council that tolerated sexual relationships between care staff and teenage boys. It also blocked the investigation of people from gay or ethnic backgrounds. “This is a recipe for disaster,” the report said. The report concluded that the ultimate responsibility for the disaster within social services lay with the council and senior officers. The buck ultimately stopped with Margaret Hodge, who had been council leader since 1982.

Corbyn and Hodge

We have the testimony of several people that Corbyn was informed of the horrors going on in his constituency. Five social workers visited him and journalist Eileen Fairweather contacted him separately. Some of the victims said that they told Corbyn what was going on and that he promised to do something but didn’t.

Although Corbyn was the local MP when Hodge was council leader and they were both Labour Party members, they were not close. In June 2016, together with Ann Coffey, she submitted a letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party chairman requesting a vote on a motion of no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership. She said she was tabling the motion because Corbyn had failed to convince Labour voters to vote remain in the European Union referendum and that he “had failed a test of leadership”.


I knew her husband Henry Hodge quite well in the early 80s when he was a prominent left-wing human rights lawyer. Unusually for a solicitor, he later became a judge. He died in 2009. I found him a very likeable companion and agree with an obituarist’s view: “He was a genial, very affable man, with an amused twinkle almost always in his eye. AIT (he was President of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal) stakeholder meetings and the like were made all the more bearable by his self deprecating and humorous chairing.” There was much criticism when Margaret Hodge was appointed the UK’s first Minister for Children in 2003. The Hodges were neighbours and friends of the Blairs and would not share much of Corbyn’s political philosophy. Nevertheless, Islington council was noted for the kind of ‘political correctness’ condemned in the White Report and which Corbyn espouses today.

Although Corbyn said little about the allegations of abuse at the time, Hodge described Eileen Fairweather’s exemplary and courageous investigation as “gutter journalism” and described victim Demetrious Panton as mentally ill.  Panton is now a highly respected lawyer and Labour Party advisor.

A senior media executive alleges that Margaret Hodge has for years used her wealth (although her Oppenheimer family steel fortune has dwindled rapidly because of the attention of vulture funds), influence and patronage, as chair of the powerful Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee and a source therefore of many other stories of interest to journalists, to buy off papers or broadcasters who start to look into Islington. It is interesting to note that Margaret Hodge’s son-in-law, Joe Caluori, is now chair of the Islington social services committee.


More next week on lack of media attention to Corbyn and child abuse.

Islington Child Abuse Part One

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 8 2016.

Colman's Column3


An article I published in Ceylon Today last August has been shared by a few people recently. The article dealt with current UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of action during the Islington care homes scandal which erupted in the late 80s. Corbyn is facing a re-election contest. Despite the fact that most of the parliamentary Labour Party have deserted him, it seems likely that he will remain leader because he has the backing of Labour Party members outside parliament.


Matthew Collings (a British art critic, writer, TV presenter, and artist) raised the pertinent question on Facebook: given his unpopularity with journalists, why have the English media not given more prominence to allegations that Jeremy Corbyn did not assist, and may have obstructed, the investigations into allegations of sexual abuse of children in council-run care homes in his constituency of Islington in north London? Collings said that he took a particular interest in the matter because he himself missed secondary education, receiving therapy instead at the Finchden Manor Community, a haven for disturbed teenage boys. I have canvassed a number of people in ‘the media’ and done some digging around.


There are still many unanswered questions about the Islington scandal. Islington was not on the agenda of Judge Goddard’s historical abuse inquiry because no one submitted it to her. Goddard has now resigned and been replaced by Alexis Jay, who led the official inquiry into the Rotherham scandal, which found that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in the town between 1997 and 2013. She is the fourth person to head the inquiry. How long will she last? The satirical magazine Private Eye has referred to the passing of the baton by Britain’s top female relay team.


An informed source told me that a senior political figure claims that the cross-party silence on allegations about Westminster paedophile rings stems from the involvement of the security services in relation to Northern Ireland. There are connections between Kincora and Islington.


The Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast was the scene of serious organised child sexual abuse and an attempted cover-up. Allegations of abuse first surfaced in 1977. There were credible allegations that the state colluded in a cover up. On 3 April 1980, three members of staff at the home, William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains, were charged with a number of offences relating to the systematic sexual abuse of children in their care over a number of years; they were all convicted.

In April 1990, a writer called Robert Harbinson (aka Robin Bryans) stated in the Dublin-based magazine Now that Lord Mountbatten and others were involved in an old-boy network which held gay orgies in country houses, as well as at the Kincora Boys’ Home. Another writer, Stephen Prior, in his 2002 book War of the Windsors, claimed that rumours had “linked (Lord Mountbatten) with the notorious scandal surrounding the Kincora Boys’ Home…”.“(Lord Mountbatten) was also said to have an interest in what homosexuals call ‘rough trade’ and to be particularly attracted to working-class boys in their early teens.” Mountbatten was murdered by the Provisional IRA in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland  on 27 August 1979.

The Kincora case has become live again because the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) began examining allegations relating to Kincora on 31 May 2016, including claims that there was a paedophile ring at the home with links to the intelligence services. Sir Anthony Hart, chairman of the HIA said possible “systemic failures to prevent such abuse” will be investigated. He said that a number of state bodies will be examined, including the RUC. He also confirmed that MI5 and MI6 will be investigated and both will be legally represented at the inquiry. The then Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said that all state agencies would co-operate with the inquiry. James Brokenshire was appointed Northern Ireland Secretary of State by Theresa May on July 14 2016. We will await news of Brokenshire’s performance on Kincora.

Many years ago, Private Eye alleged that high-ranking civil servants and senior military officers were sexually abusing boys at Kincora. Former army intelligence officer Brian Gemmell said a senior MI5 officer told him to stop looking into claims of abuse at Kincora. He said he presented a report on the allegations to the officer in 1975. “He bawled me out. He was rude and offensive and hostile.”

Another former Army officer, Colin Wallace, suffered worse than rudeness. Wallace said he received intelligence in 1973 to say that boys were being abused, and claims his superiors refused to pass on the information.


Wallace was wrongly convicted of manslaughter in 1981, for which he spent six years in gaol. The conviction was later quashed in the light of new evidence. Paul Foot, in his book Who framed Colin Wallace? suggested that Wallace may have been framed for the killing to discredit the allegations he was making.  During the appeal hearing, a Home Office pathologist, Dr Ian West, admitted that some of the evidence that he had used at Wallace’s trial had been supplied to him by “an American security source”. In June 1998, a former Special Branch officer who was familiar with the Wallace case wrote to Paul Foot saying: “I sincerely believe that Colin Wallace was ‘fitted up’ by corrupt members of the Establishment embarrassed by the events described in the early part of your book”. Alex Carlile  QC (now Lord Carlile), then the SDP–Liberal Alliance’s Legal Affairs spokesman, issued a statement saying: “It is clear that Colin Wallace, a principled man, knew too much about the Kincora Boys’ Home scandal.”

In 1987, a former senior Ministry of Defence civil servant (once described to me by another mandarin as a “tough cookie”), Clive Ponting, said that he had attended high-level meetings with MI5 officers to discuss Wallace. “There was never any suspicion that Wallace was making these stories up or that it was totally unfounded and very easy to rubbish. It was very much a matter that, OK the story was being contained at the moment because he was in jail, but that in a few years’ time he would be back out again and could be expected to start making the allegations again and then that would be a serious problem.”

In the House of Commons, in 1990, the Government admitted that Ministers had “inadvertently misled” (code for “lied”) Parliament over Wallace’s role. Mrs Thatcher wrote: “I regret to say that a re-examination of departmental papers has brought to light information which shows that there were a number of statements in my letters, and in other Ministerial statements and official correspondence, which were incorrect or require clarification.”

In his 1999 book The Dirty War, Martin Dillon claimed that McGrath (convicted of child abuse at Kincora), who was also the leader of an obscure loyalist paramilitary group called Tara, may have been employed by MI5 since the 1960s and was being blackmailed into providing intelligence on other loyalist groups.

The Belfast News Letter reported that files on Kincora were “conspicuously absent” from the routine January 2013 release of 1982 government papers by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) under the 30-year rule.


In a recent item in Private Eye (issue 1425 September 1 2016), it was revealed that thousands of historic files remain suppressed long after the 30-year rule should have released them. This is because the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives is dominated by former diplomats, senior police officers and civil servants and shadowy figures from the world of espionage.


As well as ignoring the Islington abuse, the Goddard Inquiry also set aside the Kincora boys’ home case. Some campaigners had wanted Kincora to be investigated as part of the wider Westminster inquiry into historical child abuse, which they argue has more powers than the devolved HIA inquiry.


I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. However, there are times when people really do conspire to cover up evil deeds. Particular areas which are prone to this are paedophile rings, military intelligence and Northern Ireland. All those ingredients are mixed up in this brew together with the peculiarities of Labour politics of the 1970s, which shaped the Corbyn we have today.


More about Labour Party history next week.

Corbyn and the Tamil Tigers




A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 1 2016.That  article was written for a Sri Lankan audience which did not need to have the awfulness of the Tamil Tigers explained to them. This version for a foreign audience gives more illustrations of Tiger crimes. Presumably Corbyn is aware of those crimes, just as he must have been aware of the atrocities being perpetrated on children in his constituency.

Colman's Column3

Part of the dissatisfaction with Corbyn arises from his tendency to espouse causes which have little to do with the reality of practical politics in the UK itself in 2016. As recently as April 2016, Jeremy Corbyn said he fully supports Tamils in their struggle to achieve self-determination in Sri Lanka.

Corbyn Supports Freedom Fighters

To a certain western mind-set everything is black or white, minorities are always oppressed and discriminated against, governments must be bad, and rebels must be romantic freedom fighters. I recall that in the 1970s, my own trade union in the UK was contributing funds to the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the Tamil Tigers) because they were obviously “freedom fighters” defending the oppressed Tamil minority.

In 1983, Jeremy Corbyn became an MP. In Sri Lanka, 1983 is remembered  with horror for the pogrom known as “Black July”. Thirteen soldiers were killed by the LTTE. Anti-Tamil riots ensued and lasted for ten days with property being destroyed and up to 3,000 people being killed and 200,000 displaced.

Action and Reaction

Over many years before 1983, there had been incidents where ill-disciplined police or military had carried out savage reprisals, rather in the manner of the Black and Tans in Ireland, on innocent Tamils after atrocities by the Tigers – action and reaction. July 1983 was a paradigm shift in terror.


These horrific events left an indelible mark on the Tamil psyche. Atrocities were perpetrated on innocent Tamils all over the country and many fled to the north for refuge. Those who could afford to fled abroad, from where they provided ongoing financial support for the LTTE.

Michael Roberts, a Sri Lankan historian and anthropologist looked back on these events:” The militant movement for separation gathered thousands of new Tamil recruits and a rejuvenation of commitment among most SL Tamils, as well a wave of support in international quarters. Sri Lanka also received pariah status on the world stage.”

Many SL Tamils fled to Tamil Nadu, where those of a militant tendency were trained and armed by the Indian government. Many who might not want to engage in violence themselves fled to Canada, Australia and Europe. Many of them prospered and supported the armed struggle vicariously by providing funding. Many Tamils who remained in Sri Lanka were disillusioned at the futility of trying to defend their interests by peaceful means within the existing state apparatus.

Tiger Atrocities


The LTTE was guilty of many crimes over the thirty years of the conflict. They assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Sri Lanka President Premadasa in 1993. An attempt on the life of President Kumaratunga in 1999 failed but she lost an eye. In that attempt, 23 civilians were killed.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, right, is overcome by emotion at her residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka Wednesday December 22, 1999 after winning a second term in office. Kumaratunga survived a suicide bomb attack on Saturday during her final rally of the election campaign. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

In 1985, LTTE gunmen shot dead 146 Sinhalese civilians and injured 85 others as they were praying at a sacred Buddhist shrine in Anuradhapura. A further 18 people fleeing from that massacre were shot dead in Wilpattu forest. Later in the same year, in Dehiwatta village, 100 LTTE men hacked to death 15 women and children as they were sleeping.

In 1986, an LTTE bomb exploded aboard an Air Lanka flight carrying mainly French, British and Japanese tourists killing 21 (including 13 foreigners –2 British, 2 German, 3 French, 2 Japanese, 1 Maldivian and 1 Pakistani) and injuring 41.


Throughout 1988 and 1989, there seemed to be an LTTE massacre of innocent villagers every day. In June 1990, the LTTE marked the breakdown of ceasefire talks by overrunning police stations throughout the north east of Sri Lanka. The LTTE killed 600 police officers who had surrendered. On June 10, over 400 unarmed police officers were shot dead in police stations across eastern Sri Lanka.

On August 3, 1990, 30 Tigers attacked four mosques in the Kattankudy area, where 300 Muslims were prostrate in prayer. The Tigers sprayed automatic fire and hurled hand grenades at the worshipers. Most of the victims were shot in the back or side. Speaking to the New York Times, Mohammed Ibrahim, a 40-year-old businessman said, “I was kneeling down and praying when the rebels started shooting. The firing went on for 15 minutes. I escaped without being hit and found myself among bodies all over the place.” Mohammed Arif, a 17-year-old student who also survived the massacre said: “Before I escaped from a side door and scaled a wall, I saw a Tiger rebel put a gun into the mouth of a small Muslim boy and pull the trigger.” I do not want to post disturbing pictures of these atrocities but they are available on the internet.



Killings continued on a daily basis over the years. In 1994, presidential candidate and opposition leader Gamini Dissanayake (we know his son-in-law) was killed by an LTTE suicide bomber who exploded herself at a campaign rally in Colombo. Fifty others were killed in the blast and a further 75 were seriously injured.

The deadliest LTTE attack on a civilian target in the history of the group’s operations occurred in 1996. The Central Bank (located in the twin towers of the Colombo World Trade Centre) was bombed and 90 people were killed and 1,400 injured. In 1997, another bombing at the WTC killed 13 and injured hundreds.


In 1998, a Black Tiger squad drove an explosives-laden truck into the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, a major Buddhist shrine, killing seven and injuring 25. The attack took place just days before foreign dignitaries were expected to attend celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of Sri Lankan independence at the temple.

Later that year the LTTE shot down a plane with 55 passengers (including 48 Tamils) and crew while it was flying over LTTE held territory. Everyone onboard was killed.

In 1999, Dr Neelan Thiruchelvam, a Tamil, who was working on a constitutional package aimed at ending the decades-long conflict, was killed by an LTTE suicide bomber.

In May 2000, the LTTE celebrated the holiest day of the Buddhist calendar, Vesak Poya, by detonating a bomb hidden inside an ice-cream box on a bicycle killing 20 people and injuring 75.

In 2001, a 14-man suicide squad attacked an air force base and the adjoining international airport. They destroyed many aircraft, crippling the country’s economy and reducing tourism.

In 2006, the award-winning author Nihal de Silva and seven Sri Lankan tourists were killed by an LTTE land mine in Wilpattu National Park.

In the same year, The LTTE bombed a bus carrying 140 civilians in the north east. The blast killed 68 civilians including 15 school children, and injured 78 others. It was caused by two claymore mines placed side by side which sprayed the packed bus with millions of ball bearings upon manual detonation. Survivors, including school children, of the blast were shot as they ran away.

In the same year, several civilians were killed in an attempt on the life of defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. A suicide bomber in a truck killed 103 sailors on buses going or returning from leave at a transit point and wounded 150 other sailors.  Two people passing the site were killed and 14 others wounded, mostly civilians.

There are many more instances of LTTE cadres hacking to death unsuspecting villagers at home or at prayer, or on buses or trains (often using multiple bombs in several carriages) on the way to work or school.

The LTTE proved efficient at destroying any other Tamil groups that threatened to undermine their dominance. Elements of the “international community” were able to build a false picture of the LTTE as romantic freedom fighters. That is far from reality. The LTTE had always employed forcible recruitment; every family had to sacrifice a child to the cause of Eelam. This gained pace as defeat loomed in 2009 when Corbyn was trying to save the LTTE.  Children under twelve were recruited. Civilians who resisted were executed.

No Ban

As far back as 1998, Jeremy Corbyn was offering support to these butchers. At a pro-LTTE rally in London on February 1, 1998, Corbyn was one of the keynote speakers from the British Parliament and delivered a strong condemnation of the Sri Lankan government. The rally was led by a life-sized poster of the LTTE leader Prabhakaran and was followed by LTTE flags and people shouting pro-LTTE slogans.

In 2001, Corbyn was one of only 17 MPs who voted against banning Al Qaeda from Britain just six months before 9/11. Corbyn, then a backbencher, voted against banning 21 militant groups from entering Britain. The Tamil Tigers were on the list as well as Hamas and Hezbollah.

In 2005 Jeremy Corbyn helped create a petition aimed at lifting the proscription of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. “The Sri Lanka government is carrying out an undeclared war against the Tamil people who have been struggling for more than two decades for the legitimate right to self-rule.” Corbyn was guilty of a conflation here that was also indulged by the BBC, the Independent, the Irish Times, the New Statesman and Le monde diplomatique. The Sri Lankan government was not fighting “the Tamils” it was fighting a brutal terrorist organisation that was oppressing Tamils.

Cease Fires

In 2002, I came to live in Sri Lanka. We had decided it was safe because a cease-fire was in operation. As today, there was a prime minister from the United National Party and an executive president from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. The prime minister then was Ranil Wickremesinghe and the president was Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Today Ranil Wickremesinghe is once again prime minister. The peace in 2002 was an uneasy one – there were checkpoints, soldiers and armed police everywhere. Norway was invited to help with the peace process.

Corbyn explained himself thus: “Twenty-one organisations are due to be banned from operating in this country, causing a great deal of disquiet in the Islamic, Turkish and Tamil communities. That is not because people support terrorism, but because they want to encourage a peace process. They recognise that some of the organisations are currently engaged in ceasefires in their own countries, and are actively engaged in the search for long-lasting peace that will bring about the resolution to conflict.”

The LTTE constantly broke the cease fire. They used the “peace process” to regroup and re-arm. Sections of the Tamil community abroad funded the terrorism.

Constructive Ambiguity

Martin McGuinness made a less than helpful intervention in Sri Lankan affairs when he came here in 2006 and talked with LTTE leaders. McGuinness told Sri Lanka: “The reality is that, just as in Ireland, there can be no military victory and that the only alternative to endless conflict is dialogue, negotiations and accommodation”. Despite the efforts of Corbyn and McGuinness and other members of the international community there was a resounding military victory. Peace still prevails. There has not been a single terrorist incident since May 2009.

To cut a convoluted story short, peace was achieved in Northern Ireland because of exhaustion on all sides and through a process of constructive ambiguity, which allowed all actors to say they had not surrendered. Talks resumed in 1993, after Bill Clinton listened to Sinn Féin. On April 10, 1998, the British and Irish governments formulated the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement.

No Surrender


Prabhakaran never had any intention of compromising. The LTTE fought for 30 years for a separate Tamil nation. A separate state was Prabhakaran’s bottom line which Corbyn still supports today. In May 2011, Jeremy Corbyn addressed a rally that also featured Tamil Diaspora organisations. Also present were Father SJ Emmanuel of the Global Tamil Forum, Ravi Kumar of the British Tamils Forum, Bairavi Ratnabal of the Tamil Youth Organisation and Jan Jananayagam of Tamils Against Genocide. The rally featured swathes of LTTE flags and condemned the Sri Lanka government. Corbyn’s current enemy, John Mann MP, also attended the rally.

There were accusations of war crimes against the Sri Lankan Army.The army claimed that civilian casualties occurred because the LTTE were using them as human shields.

The numbers game and reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Lobbyists for and against Sri Lanka

It is interesting to read the Hansard record of a debate in the House of Commons on 8 Jan 2013. All the usual anti-Sri Lankan suspects were there – Siobhain McDonagh, Paul Burstow, Barry Gardiner, Gareth Thomas, Lee Scott and Robert Halfon.

However, there were some interventions more supportive of Sri Lanka. Aidan Burley questioned McDonagh’s knowledge: “… when did she last visit Sri Lanka and see for herself—at first hand—some of the things that she is alleging are happening there?” She had to admit that she had never been to Sri Lanka: “Just as I have not been to Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and—it has to be said—most countries in the world”.

Ian Paisley Jr told the House: “I have visited Sri Lanka on a number of occasions, both as a private individual and with constituents who had business there, as well as on a cross-party parliamentary trip. My experience was very different from what I have heard from propagandists not in Sri Lanka”. Paisley continued: “I have met both Tamil and Sinhalese families, and their united wish was to present a picture of hope for their country, not a picture of division. It was a community that wanted to move forward.” Paisley described how his Sinhalese and Tamil guides embraced each other and spoke about how they were now new brothers in a new land. “In many aspects, Sri Lanka has made more measurable gains post-conflict than Northern Ireland.”

Adrian Burley had, unlike McDonagh and Scott, actually visited Sri Lanka: “British politicians should understand Sri Lanka’s reconciliation and help it to demine, so that communities can move back to their own lands. I saw that happening with my own eyes; I saw the minefields being cleared through the HALO Trust, and I saw houses being rebuilt and crops being grown on the old minefields.”

James Wharton agreed with Paisley that people he had met in Sri Lanka did not want to talk about the horrors of the past but were more interested in securing their future. “The tone of debate in the House too often worries me, because we focus on what we can do to punish the Government of Sri Lanka…Such things will not damage the Government of Sri Lanka; they will damage progress towards peace and the prosperity of the people who live in Sri Lanka. The tone of the debate here needs to change. We need to work constructively with the Government of Sri Lanka to put pressure where it is due and, where we can, to deliver improvement.”

Corbyn was not interested in the future. He has never been to Sri Lanka and preferred to reminisce about demonstrations he had taken part in thirty years previously. Burley chastised Corbyn and McDonagh and urged them to talk to people living in Sri Lanka rather than their own constituents: “I found a country at peace with itself. That is what we should be debating and supporting: helping Sri Lanka to build a better future for itself, rather than letting extremists in the UK divide it.”



This wedding took place at Kilinochchi on January 27, 2012, The groom was EMD Sandaruwan, a former member of the Gajaba Regiment of the Sri Lankan Army. He had participated in the defeat of the LTTE .The bride was, Chandrasekaran Sharmila, an ex-LTTE child soldier, who had since been a participant in a government rehabilitation programme. There are many such stories to tell. It is not easy to get the western media to listen to them.

Regime Change

Stressing that human rights abuses have not been fully addressed in Sri Lanka despite regime change, Corbyn announced as recently as April 2016: “We as a party, are very committed to the issues of human rights and justice. We are very committed to the rights of peoples, the Tamil people in this case to achieve their self-expression and their self-determination.”

Jeremy Corbyn is proud to have participated in the London rallies in May 2009, demanding that the international community intervene to end the war. “I remember to this date and I am still angry about the utter silence of the majority of the British and world’s media to the demonstration as well as the cause and the issue.”

Child Brothels in Corbyn’s Constituency

Corbyn did not feel interested enough to take action when he was told that children were being cruelly sexually abused in his own constituency of Islington North. In fact, he made a complaint to the Speaker in 1986 when another MP tried to draw attention to the abuse. In his Spartist agit-prop fantasy world, it seemed more important to him to interfere in the way sovereign state thousands of miles away was dealing (successfully) with its domestic terrorist problem. Unlike the UK Labour government, Sri Lanka did not invade other countries.


Corbyn versus Mann

Colman's Column3

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Friday August 28 2015.



I published an article in Ceylon Today recently hung on the peg of Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for the leadership of the UK Labour Party. I specifically dealt with Corbyn’s role in the Islington child abuse scandal of the 1980s and 1990s but my main interest was in the kind of reasoning that goes into political debate.

John Mann’s Case against Corbyn

John Mann MP issued an open letter to Corbyn on July 23 2015, in which he said: “The extent of the abuse was only uncovered through the tenacity and bravery of whistle-blowers, journalists and survivors which led to a number of independent inquiries and the damning Ian White report in 1995”. The gist of John Mann’s argument is that Corbyn is not fit to lead the Labour Party at a time when much attention in Parliament and the media will be generated by the Goddard Inquiry into historic sexual abuse of children. This is not because anyone suspects Corbyn of being an abuser himself but because he was not pro-active in helping the victims or in establishing an investigation and indeed obstructed investigations.

Smearing Mann

Mann’s letter struck a chord with me because I was working on child protection at the Department of Health from 1994 to 1997. I saw files and was privy to discussions about the Islington care homes scandal. I can endorse that the leader of Islington Council, Margaret Hodge, and the local MP, Jeremy Corbyn, were, to put it charitably, less than helpful to the Department’s investigations.

The first comment was that Mann was “not fond of us northerners”. He was born in Pudsey, Yorkshire and educated in Bradford. He represents the constituency of Bassetlaw, which is well north of Watford.

Mann’s opinion of Corbyn was thought to be undermined by the fact that he was supporting Yvette Cooper for leader. He makes no secret of this and surely he can support whoever he likes. But wait- someone else accuses Mann of the crime of “trying to influence the election”. Is that not allowed in a democracy?

Kevin Higgins

Because I agreed with Mann, that meant that I was fair game for smearing too. Kevin Higgins is an Irish poet who I had admired and whom I had thought of as a good (virtual) friend. Although he is an Irish citizen living in Galway, Higgins is strongly campaigning for Corbyn. He thought it was OK to call me a liar who was not to be believed on any topic. He said that I was suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. He called Mann “deranged”. He provided a link beside this assertion, which I thought would provide evidence of Mann’s insanity. The link led me to a very silly poem by Higgins in which he fantasises about Mann while sitting on the lavatory. Who is the mad one here?

Monster Mann

Generally, Corbyn’s supporters content themselves with attacking Mann rather than rebutting his arguments. One called him “Tory Labour lite”. Most think he is not a proper socialist. Some called him a “Blairite”. What is the cause of such hatred?

As I read about him in parliamentary sketches it strikes me that he is one of the awkward squad. I have had a good look at Mann’s voting record in the Commons. The big black marks are that he voted in favour of the invasion of Iraq and against an inquiry into it. On domestic issues, he is very much on the side of the angels, voting against benefit cuts and austerity measures in general. Mann was also vocal in criticising other MPs over the expenses scandal. He was responsible for lodging the complaint that resulted in an inquiry into Tory minister Maria Miller’s expenses claims.

He has organised numerous positive campaigns in his constituency, examples of which include campaigning to save Bassetlaw Hospital Accident and Emergency Department and helping former coal miners to get their compensation. Following reforms recommended by an inquiry he instigated, the number of heroin addicts in treatment in Bassetlaw rose from 2 to 400, and acquisitive crime fell by 75%.

In 2014 Mann was responsible for compiling a dossier of historic allegations of child abuse, detailing allegations about 12 former ministers that may have been involved. He said he believes some of them were “definitely child abusers”.


I once worked with someone who was campaigning against female circumcision and her constant battle cry was that FGM should be “pushed up the management agenda”. Agenda is a vogue word and has become something sinister. However much I might protest that I am just an elderly  gentleman scholar living up a mountain in Sri Lanka, I am often accused of having an ‘agenda’. I have been accused of being sent to Sri Lanka by MI5 to undermine the Rajapaksa government. Others accused me of being on Gota’s payroll. I have been portrayed as a Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinist and a propagandist for the Tamil Tigers. Now I am apparently a dyed-in-the wool Daily Mail Tory out to destroy the Left in Britain.

Someone noted that my article was published in Ceylon Today and provided a link to an article about Sri Lanka being a haven for paedophiles. I think this was intended to smear me as a paedophile.


The distinguished UK writer and TV dramatist Janey Preger wrote that my previous  article was a : “great piece… well-written and well-said”. She tried to share it with former Guardian journalist W Stephen Gilbert. Apparently, he disliked my article so much that he refused to read. How did he know that he disliked it so much if he had not read it?

Timing – Post propter hoc

A pseudonymous commenter (LightShedder) on my blog, after calling me vicious, asserted that Corbyn is on record as having called for an investigation at the time of the allegations. I know that his spokesman said this recently but I can find no record of Corbyn making such a demand in the I980s or 1990s. If anyone can provide me with a link to a contemporaneous call for an investigation, I will humbly eat my toupee. I asked LightShedder to help me with this, saying that I would publicly apologise if evidence is forthcoming. At the time of writing this I have received no response.

Someone referred me to a news item in the Belfast Telegraph about Corbyn calling for a standing commission on child abuse. Another bureaucratic entity might be just what is needed, but I doubt that it would help. The main problem is that Corbyn called for this on August 5 2015 – what did he call for in the 1990s?

One commenter seemed to be saying that because I said that I believed Mann’s allegations after seeing documentary evidence, the fact that I could not now produce this evidence   placed me in the same league as the totalitarian governments of the Soviet Union, China, Iran and the Tudors. This is insanely disproportionate.  My “evidence” is not necessary to the case presented about Corbyn’s lack of action. The issue has been in the public domain for a long time. This is not just conspiracy theorists. Social worker Liz Davies’s testimony is credible.

Dr Davies has been telling the Islington story for 30 years. That does not stop some Corbyn supporters saying “why did no-one mention this before? You are only bringing it up to smear Corbyn”. Because she is quoted in the Daily Mail, someone says it “can’t be true because it’s in the Mail.


Responses to my article brought a rich harvest of flawed thinking. I read those comments with a copy of philosopher Nigel Warburton’s Thinking from A to Z close at hand. Warburton covers the following tricks of bad argument: false dichotomy, ad hominem, referential ambiguity, disanalogy, assumption, bad company fallacy, enthymeme, lexical ambiguity, companions in guilt move. I recommend having the book to hand when reading about Sri Lankan politics too.


My Secret Corbyn Court.

I have been contributing a weekly column to the Sri Lankan English-language daily newspaper Ceylon Today since January 1 2014. Their circulation is small and they only pay me Rupees 3,000 per article (about GBP 14). This is a hobby rather than a career or source of wealth and influence.


My most recent article was prompted by the abysmal level of debate during the still on-going parliamentary election campaign in Sri Lanka. I was particularly exercised by the abusive response given to my friend  Professor Rajiva Wijesinha for his thoughtful contributions to discussion of good governance. I did not have much interest in Jeremy Corbyn, but I thought some discussion by me of his supporters’ reaction to John Mann MP would be of interest to a Sri Lankan readership.


There was only one comment on the print edition of the article. That was from Rajiva himself who commended my efforts.


I then posted the article on my blog. There was only one comment on that.


I shared the blog version on my Facebook Timeline. There was no comment at all on that.


Other people shared my FB post on FB. I think Janey Preger was the first. She thought the article was ‘excellent’ but not all of her friends agreed.


A significant volume of comments only ensued when Raymond Gorman shared it. Most reactions were personally hostile to me. One called me ‘a feckin eejit’. Another posted a link to an article about foreign paedophiles in Sri Lanka which seemed to be intended as a slur on my character. Raymond, decent man that he is, removed it. The general drift of comment seemed based on the assumption that I was a Daily Mail-reading Tory. I have never voted Tory in my life. The last time I voted was to contribute to the Labour landslide of 1997. I have not lived in the UK since 1998. I have no intention of returning but if I do, I have little doubt that I will be voting Labour.


I have never bought the Daily Mail in my life and have only read it online. The only time I bought the Telegraph was when I was stuck in Ashton-under-Lyne during the Thorpe trial and no Guardian was available despite the proximity of Manchester. The Torygraph was particularly strong on salacious court cases. I have rarely read the Times in my entire life and since Murdoch took it over, it has seemed worse that the Sun.  I started reading the Guardian when I was 12. I have never bought the Spectator. I started reading the New Statesman when I was 15. During the 70s and 80s I was an avid reader of Socialist Worker and Searchlight and went on Anti-Nazi League marches and attended Rock Against Racism festivals.


Some FB friends with connections to British journalism suggested that my article should gain a wider audience and I should pitch it to the Times or the Telegraph. I demurred on the grounds that my article said nothing original. An article in the Daily Mail, which I had not read when I wrote my article, covers the same ground as me, and more. Living, as I do, up a mountain in the poorest province in Sri Lanka, I do not have the resources to function as an investigative journalist. I am an elderly gent who enjoys writing and, in his anecdotage, likes to share his experiences and thoughts with a defenceless readership.


The only value I could add to the Corbyn story was that from 1994 to 1997 I worked on child protection for the Department of Health. During that time, the Islington care homes scandal was a hot topic and DoH officials at many levels of seniority were very frustrated at the lack of co-operation from officials at the London Borough of Islington. The council leader was Margaret Hodge. I never met her but I knew her husband Henry Hodge. I thought he was a lovely man and was very fond of him. I did not meet Jeremy Corbyn at any time but I did deal with correspondence from him at various government departments. I read the voluminous files on the Islington scandal and my recollection leads me to support what John Mann MP says about Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to react pro-actively to the allegations of horrendous child abuse.


When I said to Michael Paine: “I know what I know. You vote for whoever you think best”. He seemed to think that I was morally reprehensible. He threw Thomas More at me- the fictional Robert Bolt saint and man of principle rather than the  real -life bigoted psychopath who enjoyed watching heretics sizzle and pop. Paine placed this in context by saying he was not in favour of secret courts. Neither am I. Apparently, because I said that I believed Mann’s allegations because I had seen documentary evidence( that I could not now produce)  placed me in the same league as the totalitarian governments of the Soviet Union, China, Iran and the Tudors. This is insanely disproportionate. I can only repeat that my “evidence” is not necessary to the case presented about Corbyn’s lack of action. The issue has been in the public domain for a long time. This is not just conspiracy theorists. Social worker Liz Davies’s testimony is believable even though it has recently been reported in the Daily Mail.


Back to the Sri Lankan election: President Sirisena has said, People should use their intelligence, knowledge of what happened in the past when casting their vote”. If Jeremy Corbyn has what it takes to be prime minister of the UK, my humble article should not be a bother to him.  Former Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa hopes to become prime minister after this general election. He said about complaints of heckling and hooting at meetings that democratic politics is not for the faint-hearted: “It is part of the package and one should be able to withstand such pressure and such eventualities in politics. I have been booed and even stoned at political rallies in the past but I braved those incidents. If one was scared of facing such situations, one should leave politics”.

Ad Hominem, Mr Corbyn

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Tuesday August 4 2015.

Colman's Column3

I had vowed that I would take a break from writing Colman’s Column until the Sri Lankan parliamentary election was over. However, I have been drawn into discussions about another election, the election of a new leader of the UK Labour Party. The discussions brought out a few issues about the nature of political debate and critical thinking in general, which also have relevance to the Sri Lankan polity. It reminds me of the depressing nature of the responses to Rajiva Wijesinha’s contributions to the Sri Lankan debate; hardly anyone provides a cogent argument against Professor Wijesinha’s points, preferring instead personal insults that would seem immature in a kindergarten.


Surprisingly, the leading contender for the Labour Party leadership as I write is Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing MP for Islington in north London. Although an MP since 1983, Corbyn has previously shown no discernable interest in power or leadership, preferring to espouse human rights causes. He has been a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition. He has been writing a weekly column for the Communist Morning Star since 1983.

I have been a life-long Labour Party supporter. I have never voted Conservative and can envisage no circumstances (a huge bribe or severe torture might be inducements) in which I would ever do so. My sympathies lie with the left of the Labour Party and I would  be a natural Corbyn supporter. I sympathised with the views expressed by novelist Will Self in a recent TV interview when he said many young people were attracted to Jeremy Corbyn because he offered real socialist alternatives to the tired old middle of the road tactics.

Nevertheless, I have a big problem with Corbyn. It is the history of Islington Council and child abuse. John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, wrote an open letter to Corbyn about this and said that Corbyn’s behaviour in relation to the Islington care homes scandal made him unfit to be leader of the Labour Party.

From 1994 to 1997, I was a ministerial advisor on child protection for the Department of Health. I have seen the files. I know what was going on. There were serious and credible allegations that some care homes for children in Islington operated as brothels, with small children hired out for sexual abuse.   Islington Council doggedly tried to obstruct the investigation. The main culprit was Margaret Hodge (former minister for children – the irony!) who now chairs the Parliamentary Accounts Committee but was then leader of Islington Council. She was strongly supported in her obstructionism by Jeremy Corbyn.

The reaction from Corbyn’s supporters to Mann’s charges was disappointing and depressing. Someone whose intelligence, knowledge and compassion I deeply respect asked if “the author” had written a similar open letter to Harriet Harmon and Patricia Hewitt. Both were former leaders of the National Council for Civil Liberties who both became Labour ministers. The NCCL earned criticism during the Islington scandal for seeming to be sympathetic to the Paedophile Information Exchange, an organisation campaigning on behalf of child molesters.  This is what rhetoricians call the tu quoque move; in Northern Ireland they call it “what-aboutery”. The technique involves avoiding dealing with a specific charge by shifting attention to another alleged crime.

Others sought to smear John Mann by saying he was smearing Corbyn. They accused Mann of digging up ancient history to undermine Corbyn’s campaign. One cried in horror that Mann was trying to influence the vote – surely trying to influence the vote is legitimate in a democracy?

As recently as November 2014, Corbyn in effect lied to the House of Commons. He implied that, although there had been instances of sexual abuse of children in Islington, the council had investigated and done their best to put things right. In fact, he knows fine well that Islington Council fought tooth and nail to avoid an investigation. When a report was prepared, they blocked its publication for 20 years. Does the Labour Party want a leader that lies to the House of Commons? What is worse is the foolishness of trying to cover this up. It has been all over the internet for many years.

A Channel 4 report claimed that senior Labour politicians knew what was going on in Islington as early as 1988. Liz Davies, a social worker, became alarmed at the number of children coming to her with stories of abuse. Every morning there was queue of children outside her office. They told of sinister adults preying on children who were lured into private houses or abused in care homes. Davies’s colleague, David Cofie, reported his concerns direct to Hodge. Davies asked for more resources to tackle the problem, but Hodge turned the request down. Davies and Cofie continued their investigations and wrote 15 separate reports. Their warnings still went unheeded, even as they uncovered appallingly serious allegations.

It was Hodge’s successor as council leader, Derek Sawyer, who commissioned the White Report. Ian White was Director of Social Services for Oxfordshire. His report was a damning one and blamed the failures of Islington social services on extreme left wing culture fostered by Hodge and Corbyn. More than 30 care workers were involved in abuse. All but one went on to work with children elsewhere.

The White Report  was completed in 1995 and received a good deal of attention in the media at the time. However, the text was not published until 2014, in heavily redacted form.  Islington Council has been covering up for over 20 years. They shredded every incriminating file, sacked whistleblowers, slandered victims. One of the victims, Demetrious Panton, was sexually  abused from 1978 and his allegations were ignored for ten years. Margaret Hodge said he was mentally ill. He is now 46, a PhD in philosophy and a successful lawyer and, ironically, an advisor to the Labour Party. Hodge eventually apologised for what she had said.

Despite what he told the House in November 2014, Corbyn was deeply complicit in the cover-up. The heroes were the investigative journalists of the London Evening Standard who provided much solid evidence to the Department of Health, which enabled us to force Islington to take action.

At the time I am writing  this article, Corbyn has not responded personally to Mann’s specific charges. An anonymous spokesman issued an official statement: “This is a new low in the leadership election. Jeremy Corbyn has a long record of standing up for his constituents.” It is noteworthy that the statement makes absolutely no attempt to address Mann’s very specific points.

Corbyn promised social workers that he would pass their concerns on to the Secretary of State for Health. There is no indication that he did so. Rather than supporting fellow MP Geoffrey Dickens in his campaign to have the scandal investigated, Corbyn complained to the Speaker about Dickens visiting Islington. On February 17 1986, Corbyn called Dickens “irresponsible” in the House and asked him to unreservedly withdraw his allegations about child brothels in Islington and to make a public apology.

Home Secretary Theresa May has been trying to establish a wide-ranging inquiry into historic child sexual abuse. Two chairpersons have been forced to resign, one because her brother was  a former  minister implicated in cover-ups, another because she was a friend of Leon Brittan, one of the senior politicians under suspicion. The Statutory Inquiry opened on 9 July 2015, chaired by Dame Lowell Goddard QC, a New Zealand High Court judge who had no ties to the UK bodies and persons likely to be investigated.

Mann concludes his open letter to Corbyn: “Your carefully worded excusing of Islington Council in the House of Commons equally demonstrates why it is inappropriate for you to attempt to lead the Labour Party at the critical time of the Goddard Enquiry, as child abuse is the issue that will haunt this Parliament.”







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