There has been an interesting and, for me, pleasing development in the case of the Paedophile Information Exchange and the National Council for Civil Liberties.
We have now settled down to the expectation of something new every day, which suggests seriously bad management by the Labour Party. Tony Blair's old supremos Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell would never have let it get this far.
There has been an interesting defence of the NCCL by Brendan O'Neill in the internet magazine spiked , which is written by what appears to be a group of left-wing libertarians, if such a thing can exist. O'Neill says that NCCL was right to affiliate with P.I.E. because people shouldn't be censored from expressing their views, whether one agrees with them or not.
To a large extent, as a Libertarian, I agree with this. I have had enough cases where my views have failed to see the light of day because they were 'inappropriate'. You may remember Rod Liddle being told, when he wanted to put a Eurosceptic on a panel show, 'You don't understand, Rod, these people are simply mad'.
But the NCCL appear to have gone further than merely allowing P.I.E. to spread its opinions. They seem to have actually campaigned for them, which is quite, quite different. The new development is Patricia Hewitt, former Labour cabinet minister and then head of NCCL, replying to a letter from a schoolmaster.
That schoolmaster was my old tutor at St Paul's, Philip McGuinness. Philip was fortunate to have gone through life with a strict set of values as to what was right and what was wrong. He wasn't everyone's cup of tea, and certainly not every schoolboy's, but in later life I rather envied him, as I envy those who have no doubts about religion, one way or the other. I have always been wracked with doubt, on almost every subject under the sun.
Philip wrote to Patricia Hewitt:
"I cannot help but think that you do not support civil liberties at all. Your aim is questionable in the extreme. Are you aiming for the destruction of society, for the enslavement of the individual, for the destruction of family life? Is your object to shatter prospective individual happiness at an early age?
....Your title is a shame and a masquerade. There must be some very twisted minds and pernicious malcontents behind your organisation if this is the sort of thing you advocate".
Hewitt had written in a press release
"NCCL proposes that the age of consent should be lowered to 14, with special provision for situations where the partners are close in age, or where consent of a child over ten can be proved."
Her reply to McGuinness suggests that the police should not get involved if there has been consent and the press release suggests that consent could be given at 10 years old..
She and the NCCL seem not just to be giving a platform to P.I.E. but campaigning for it.