Just as the British establishment thought it had buried the Lord Greville Janner child abuse story it is coming back to haunt them in the most unexpected ways. For one of Janner’s closest political associates and stoutest defenders has been filmed by a tabloid newspaper hiring young male prostitutes and asking for drugs.
When the news broke this weekend “family man” and father-of-two Keith Vaz MP immediately owned up and resigned from his prominent position as chairman of the House of Common’s most powerful watchdog committee.
Vaz was groomed and supported by Lord Janner early in his career. The two were “minority” Labour MPs in neighbouring Leicester constituencies (Vaz’s parents are from India); they were close political allies and thought to have shared many confidences. They were both enthusiasts of mass Muslim immigration and deprecated the Leicester White community’s angry resistance. Vaz became a community leader for Leicester Muslims while Janner became the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews — the most prominent position in the Anglo-Jewry community.
Although not a Muslim himself, Vaz has stood shoulder to shoulder with the Islamic community and has done his part in ensuring that Leicester became one of the first towns in Britain to go majority non-white. In 1989 he led a march of thousands of radical Muslims calling for Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” novel to be banned. According to Wikipedia, he described that occasion as “one of the great days in the history of Islam and Great Britain.”
In 1991 Janner’s name came up at the trial of a care worker who was accused of abusing boys in his care (my account of this is here). The Judge in that case had bent over backwards to rule out evidence implicating Janner. In particular the Judge ruled out the accused’s statement in court that “One child has been buggered and abused for two solid years by Greville Janner.” Another witness also told the court that Janner “regularly sodomised” him when he was in care, aged 13.
In the House of Commons it was Keith Vaz MP who rose to assure fellow MPs that his old friend was “the victim of a cowardly and wicked attack.” In the same speech Vaz suggested the law be changed so that prominent people could not be accused in open court.
Now, of course, we know very different. The Greville Janner affair was dragged into the open in the face of tremendous official obstruction and indifference. When it finally exploded two years ago one jaw-dropping revelation followed another. It turned out that police investigations had been mysteriously derailed, three chances to prosecute had been missed, there had been love letters from Janner to one boy. A second judge even helped Janner in a cover-up. Dozens of former residents of Leicestershire homes for boys came forward to claim that they had been abused by Janner in a scandal that went back four decades.
This fresh scandal will bring a renewed focus on the accusations that swirled around the former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews because of his connection to Keith Vaz. The only part of the Keith Vaz story that is doubtful is the suggestion that it “will shock Westminster.” In fact lurid stories and rumours around Vaz have been circulating for years and this rent boy episode would be one of the milder ones. No doubt this will be followed by a flood of other revelations. The influential Guido Fawkes website has suggested
It is widely known around Westminster that Vaz — who owes his career to Greville Janner — was the unidentified MP in this Sun front page from last year.
The headline on that Sun front page says “Top Labour MP is paedo” but does not name anyone. It is likely that some journalists will be asking again why Keith Vaz protected Janner. Vaz has refused to respond to inquiries on this.
As one of Britain’s most prominent minority politicians Vaz’s name has never been far from controversy. He is seen as someone who sails close to the wind. He has been accused of expenses abuse, taking undeclared financial donations, helping to fix passports for Indian billionaires and much, much more.
These new revelations will also be embarrassing for another close friend of both Lord Janner and Keith Vaz. As Speaker of the House of Commons, the daintily flamboyant figure of John Bercow is privy to more inside information than most. The Guido Fawkes website has said that a year ago he fully knew that Vaz was under police investigation for drug use and “historic” sex crimes. The website says that Bercow protected Vaz. Not only that, but Speaker Bercow appears to have gone out of his way to do some backstage string-pulling so that Vaz would be appointed to the plum job of chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee; the rum manoeuvring on this can be found here. The relevant material is from Col. 915 onwards. The Parliamentary language may be obscure but MPs are complaining that Keith Vaz appears to have been parachuted into an important position and neither they nor the press have not been given the chance to scrutinize the appointment. Also — and very unusually — Keith Vaz was the sole nominee. Vaz has resigned from this position. Doubtless Bercow will be facing questions as to why he was so eager to get Vaz this job.
This comes at a pretty unfortunate time for those in the political and legal establishment who wanted the Greville Janner affair buried and out of the way. Janner’s death, aged 87, just before Christmas last year seemed to end the proceedings and leave the whole matter conveniently unresolved for good.
But the accusations against the co-founder of the Holocaust Education Trust were so appalling, the stink of an establishment cover-up so overpowering, that some kind of hearing was necessary, to give the 22 accusers an opportunity to state their case in open court. To this end it was decided that a little-used procedure, called a “trial of facts,” would be held to hear the evidence. In this procedure a jury would be asked to decide — without pronouncing whether Janner was guilty — if the abuse had taken place. Not ideal then but, if nothing else, it would also bring closure and create an impression there had been at least some attempt at justice.
There was much institutional resistance from the legal establishment. Prominent Jewish legal figures like Jonathan Caplan QC and David Pannick QC were not alone in being willing to defend the DPP’s original decision not to prosecute.
So, in the end, even this grudging concession was not to be. Instead the “trial of facts” hearing was dropped and instead the Janner case was bundled into the massive and much more wide-ranging nationwide inquiry into historic institutional sexual abuse.
This was bizarre. For this huge UK-wide inquiry was tasked with not only looking at historic sex abuse by Muslim rape gangs preying on children from local authority care homes but it would also investigate the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, National Health Service, schools and so on. And now it will also include the case of Greville Janner.
This melange is totally unwieldy and unmanageable, but perhaps that is no accident. The powers-that-be are keen to nuance sex abuse scandals with the wrong kind of ethnic overtones into a broader caseload. That way, the unmistakeable racial contours of say, the Muslim rape gang assaults, could be submerged into a national picture and the authorities will be able to show that, taken overall, it is White men who are responsible for most of Britain’s rape and child sexual abuse.
The insistence that there is no racial component to the child rape epidemic in northern English towns has long been an article of faith for police chiefs and politicians such as in Manchester where an assistant police chief said “the case was not about race,” but “adults preying on vulnerable young children. It just happens that in this particular area and time, the demographics were that these were Asian men.” It is a variation of the strategy adopted by Labour politicians such as Rotherham’s Sarah Champion MP who said that White men were the main sexual offenders in the UK overall.
But still the Greville Janner affair has a long road ahead of it. From the outset this nationwide inquiry has been plagued by bad luck. The first two chairwomen had to resign when it was discovered they were too close to the institutions they would be investigating. (But given the wide-ranging nature, was there any legal figure in Britain who was free of such connections?)
Eventually the government secured the agreement of a New Zealand judge called Lowell Goddard to steer the inquiry on a huge salary. But the hapless Judge Goddard may not have appreciated the disapproval of the legal establishment to the whole affair.
Soon there were newspaper stories that the scope of the Goddard inquiry needed to be reined in. There were complaints about the cost, there were off-the-record briefings to the media that Goddard herself was “autocratic” or that she made too much money and took too much time off. There were rumours that she was clashing with government lawyers and civil servants over exactly how much independence she would have. At the beginning of August she became the third chairwoman to step down — or was fired, depending on which story you read.
Separately, but at the same time as this was happening, the Janner family was stepping up its own campaign to have the Janner proceedings halted.
Lord Janner had always been stoutly defended by his children; Daniel Janner QC, Marion Janner OBE and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner. They have promised to spend his entire £2 million estate in the fight to clear his name, if that is what it takes. They are lucky in that, unlike the victims of Rotherham, for example, the media are hanging on their every word.
On 26 July of this year The Times ran a long story headlined “Janner family snub unfair abuse inquiry” in which “sources close to the Janner family” revealed that they had twice refused to take part in Judge Goddard’s proceedings and branded them as unfair because the accused man was not there to answer for himself. Five days later, The Sunday Times decided there was still enough mileage to run pretty much the same story from the same angle. The result was another big article headlined “Janner’s son hits out at macabre child sex inquiry.” In this article Daniel Janner complained bitterly about being interviewed by the police. Perhaps unwisely, Daniel Janner agreed to do this excruciating interview with Channel 4.
Daniel Janner’s assertion of his father’s innocence seems not to have been dented by evidence that Greville Janner lied about his relationship with a convicted paedophile who was part of a paedophile circle.
The BBC have also been happy to place their resources at the disposal of the Janner family. In a fawning interview last month, the BBC generously devoted time to the emotional objections of Janner’s daughter Marion. A BBC platform was also found for the most prominent Janner daughter, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner. She is a British media personality and can often be found sounding off on BBC outlets on her many causes which include Holocaust remembrance, stamping out anti-Semitism, flooding Britain with refugees and so on. Just over a year ago, at the height of the Janner child abuse scandal, this memorable clip shows how the BBC gave her airtime to celebrate her father’s role in Holocaust remembrance.
It was curious that the BBC should celebrate Janner in this way, given the accusations that continue to swirl around him. The BBC have never seen fit to celebrate the charitable works of their own departed DJ Jimmy Savile in similar fashion. This is despite the fact that Savile also is the subject of sex abuse accusations not much different from those in the Janner case.
The Huffington Post also gave Rabbi Janner-Klausner a huge amount of space in which she seemed to place the blame for the campaign against her father on anti-Semitism.
“It has been dire,” she says, giving a hint of the toll the allegations have taken. “The Janner family has experienced the most putrid, toxic anti-Semitism. It is extreme stuff. It is beyond comprehension. Vile, vile fascist anti-Semitism. This is full on lunacy. And it reminds you that it is there.”
Today, long after the story broke, accusers are still coming forward to tell their stories. They include respectable businessmen and men with their own families. Even a male Jewish historian has given evidence to the police about how he was once propositioned by “respectable family man” Greville Janner when he was in his twenties.
The publication of lurid details of the evidence against Janner, a pillar of the Anglo-Jewish community, a former vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, the Jewish Leadership Council and many other communal organizations, must have been embarrassing for the Jewish community. But there is no danger of a rapid conclusion to this case. At a preliminary hearing it was announced that the beginning of proceedings will be delayed until 2017 — at least.
But if anyone thought the Greville Janner case was going away, the renewed attention on Keith Vaz will have changed that. In the days ahead there will be much interest in Mr Vaz’s history and habits and that is a road that goes back to Leicestershire in the 1980s.