It seems important for all of us to understand the meaning of whatâ€™s happened to Harvey Proctor. What was it which liberated the media and the police to behave as they did; to create or fuel the two scandals which wrecked his life?
A few weeks ago, we were getting ready to interview Matthew Parris. Now, Matthew, you might remember from Episode 2, is a man who calls Harvey Proctor â€śhis difficult friendâ€ť. Heâ€™s a former Tory MP from the same era, also gay, so heâ€™s lived all his life around and alongside the question weâ€™re teasing away at in this podcast.Â
Ceri Thomas: It just seems to me as a piece of public brutality, it was quite extraordinaryâ€¦Â
Matthew Parris: Yes, yesâ€¦
Matthew and I were chatting as we were getting ready to record. And he put his finger on something really important.Â
Matthew Parris: Yes, he never helped himself but that doesnâ€™t make it right.Â
Now I guess the obvious thing to say here is that in theory, you shouldnâ€™t have to help yourself. You shouldnâ€™t have to help yourself not be stung by a newspaper, like Harvey Proctor was by the Sunday People in 1986. You shouldnâ€™t have to help yourself not to be a victim of abusive policing, of the kind Harvey Proctor endured through Operation Midland in 2015.Â
But the lesson of Harvey Proctorâ€™s life, what weâ€™ve heard of it so far anyway, is that maybe you do have to help yourself a bit. Now, in a way, but not in that way, Harvey Proctor did help himself: he helped himself from the sort of buffet of unsavoury, racist comfort food that Enoch Powell was serving out. And all through the Eighties he campaigned on a platform that I found â€“ actually, I find â€“ really hard to stomach. A lot of people would go further. They would say it was despicable. It did harm. And as weâ€™ll hear in this episode, he hasnâ€™t changed his mind on a lot of it.Â
But is that enough to put Harvey Proctor beyond the protections the rest of us would scream and shout if we were denied? Is there a kind of bargain for outcasts, or would-be outcasts? You can say thereâ€™s unsayable things, and think thereâ€™s unthinkable thoughts, and weâ€™ll tell you that youâ€™ve got the right to do that. We might even vote for you if you doâ€¦ But that safety net, which is there for people who donâ€™t go too far? Yeah, weâ€™ve taken that away.Â
Iâ€™m Ceri Thomas and this is the fourth and final episode of Pariah, from Tortoise Studios.Â
If youâ€™ve taken a break after listening to Episode 3, hereâ€™s a sort of â€śpreviously on Pariahâ€ť moment. Weâ€™ve charted Harvey Proctorâ€™s life through a rise and two falls. An MP who became notorious for his extreme views on immigration and was taken out by a tabloid newspaper gay sex sting in 1987 and then went through a second shattering scandal in 2015 when Carl Beech accused him of three paedophile murders and the police running Operation Midland said the allegations were â€ścredible and trueâ€ť.Â
Weâ€™ve gone over the mechanics of how, in each case, media coverage forced the police to act and how the reputation Harvey Proctor gained in the Eighties from hiring people for sex, fed into him being an easy name for Carl Beech to drop into the VIP paedophile ring list. And weâ€™ve looked at how past failings to take child sex abuse seriously enough by both media and police, caused an overreaction in 2015 as a way to prove theyâ€™d learned from the Jimmy Savile scandal.
At the end of the last episode, Operation Midland had collapsed and Carl Beech was in jail for perverting the course of justice, fraud and child sex abuse. And we were left wondering, not what had just happened but why. Thatâ€™s the job ahead of us now.Â
I mentioned back in Episode 1 that Harvey Proctor had written an autobiography that was really striking because of the lack of curiosity I thought he showed about himself. He is not one of lifeâ€™s natural navel gazers but he does have his moments.
Ceri: I am just trying to understand whether looking back you think if Iâ€™d done that differently, then maybe that wouldnâ€™t have been so bad?Â
Harvey Proctor: Well, in 1987, after 1987, night after night I would rerun in my mind, almost like video tapes, how I got to the position in 1987 â€“ trying to find a way of the end not being as it was, to have a different ending to the story. And night after night, my innermost thoughts for months â€“ and then less but still continuing for years afterwards â€“ as to how I could have done things differently so that the result was different, so I could continue being a Member of Parliamentâ€¦ And I actually never found a reel that turned out that way.Â
So, itâ€™s not for the want of self-analysis of trying to find a way of doing it differently, it is what it is. And there are compartmentalised parts of my life but as a whole, yes, the extraordinary thing is the merging and the mixture of the parts of my life. As I say, itâ€™s unfortunate for somebody to go through one scandal but in my case to go through two pretty big ones and pretty public ones, is even for me extraordinary.
I am going to bring Alistair Jackson back in here.Â
Ceri: Now, Al, you werenâ€™t with me that time when I talked to Harvey Proctor, but how have you found him? When youâ€™ve tried to make him, to make sense of what he calls there, the merging and mixing of different parts of his life, and how thatâ€™s put him centre stage in those two big scandals?
Al: The first thing Iâ€™d say is heâ€™s not someone who ducks a question. In all the times Iâ€™ve met him, and given some of the treatment heâ€™s had from the media over the years, you could perhaps forgive him if he did but heâ€™s met everything Iâ€™ve asked him head on, like that time when he admitted paying for sex to me, when he said to you, heâ€™d not even thought about sex even with himself until he was 23 â€“ deeply personal stuff but he answers it regardless.Â
Whatâ€™s all the more surprising is that that comes combined with how emotional he is. He answers stuff that he knows will leave him in pieces; I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve met an interviewee who so easily gets emotional and so quickly and itâ€™s not something youâ€™d necessarily expect from Harvey Proctor when you meet him, you know, that buttoned up former Tory MP is actually quite a contradiction to how he becomes when you interview him.Â
But I would say that taking on questions from the likes of you and me regardless of that pain is one thing but Iâ€™ve found that it doesnâ€™t really extend to Harvey Proctor asking questions of himself â€“ you know, the self-analysis. Part of that might be because he thinks he doesnâ€™t need to, he thinks these allegations â€“ certainly the most recent ones â€“ heâ€™s got nothing to ask questions of himself about, they were made up. But I suspect it might simply be that itâ€™s just too difficult for him to go there.Â
So, Al and I went to see Matthew Parris and if you ever set about trying to create a not Harvey Proctor, Matthew would be a good first step. Heâ€™s open and easy company, completely comfortable in his skin, where Harvey Proctor is more sort of tightly wound and reserved.Â
Matthew Parris: I think the lessons of Harvey Proctorâ€™s story are that we are very prone as a society to pile on to somebody, to victimise them, to demonise them and having decided weâ€™re going to do it, we simply donâ€™t let go and it can be almost arbitrary whom we choose to make a â€śbooâ€ť figure. There is usually something about the individual that has in a sense asked for it; Harvey didnâ€™t help himself in lots of ways but there is almost never anything about them that deserves what came and we need to look very carefully, especially now in the age of social media, Harvey would have been absolutely destroyed by the social media if they had existed at the time. We need to look very hard at this sort of mob violence that can take place and of which Harvey is a very conspicuous example.Â
Ceri: Yeahâ€¦ You mentioned before, you said he didnâ€™t help himself and I can see, looking at him, of course homophobia must have played a critical role in what happened to him. He probably didnâ€™t help himself because his political views probably opened up another flank of vulnerability as well, so he gave two different catchments of people a chance to demonise him. But what did you have in mind when you said that he hadnâ€™t helped himself?
Matthew Parris: He was completely unclubbable. Harvey would never come and join you at a table or go in for a drink with people, as far as I know. He never opened up to anybody, he never confided in anybody, he was a cat that walked entirely alone but some of his political remarks made you wonder where he was on the political spectrum. At that time, I think it was the National Front were a great bogey organisation as far as the public and the press, liberal opinion, were concerned and Harvey, so far as I know, never flirted with the National Front, had nothing to do with the National Front and would not have been part of that movement but he would say the kind of things that you would sometimes hear from them and people didnâ€™t like it.Â
So that was the scenery, that was the backdrop, as Harvey Proctor walked onto the stage back in the day to make himself famous campaigning on immigration.
â€śSince 1979, the figure is over 130,000. Of course, Mr Chairman, we congratulate my parliamentary and ministerial colleague, Mr David Waddington on having reduced the 1982 figure to just over 30,000 â€“ the lowest level since the official statistics were compiled. But it still implies on present trends, in the next decade, a further quarter to a third of a million. I believe it to be in the best interests of black and white alike to say enough is enough.â€ťHarvey Proctor speaking about immigration as an MP
Ceri: What was it about immigration that made you feel so strongly about it?
Harvey Proctor: I think it was the logic of it. The logic that a small country as the United Kingdom was and is, a country more densely populated than India or Pakistan or Sri Lanka, would you believe, could not physically take the large numbers of people that were coming in year after year after year and at the same time, politicians â€“ often Labour ones, although Iâ€™m not making a party political point here â€“ were criticising lack of housing, lack of schools, lack of social provision and yet could not see the connection that it was all about numbers.Â
Ceri: But in the end you were wrong, werenâ€™t you, we could take them?
Harvey Proctor: Iâ€™ll leave others to judge whether I was right or wrong. There are some opinions on which Iâ€™ve revised my opinion but not that one. I believe, with Enoch I think, that youâ€™ve seen nothing yet and that the consequences of that migration will be with us now for years to come. There is one hope I think, and that is mixed marriages, and there may come a time when mixed marriages and the mixing of peoples at that close family level will eradicate the fears that I still have now of conflict, conflict on a racial basis that I would have no truck with, donâ€™t support, donâ€™t advocate at all, but which I fear might come andâ€¦
Ceri: But thatâ€™s my point, it hasnâ€™t happened, has it? Enoch in 1968 said in 15 years, he reported the views ofâ€¦ the Black man will have the whip hand in 15 years, that didnâ€™t happen. He predicted race riots because he was looking across at the United States and seeing those â€“ we havenâ€™t really had those.
Harvey Proctor: Well, weâ€™ve had some.
Ceri: Weâ€™ve had a few but come on.Â
Harvey Proctor: And I have to say, if I have an argument with the media, that sometimes the media do not immediately place race at the basis of a riot when it obviously appears on the surface to be so.Â
Ceri; But weâ€™re sitting here now, 53 years after The Rivers of Blood speech, where as you say, Enoch Powell is making warnings which are similar to the ones youâ€™re making now, that the worst is still to come â€“ surely those 53 years have to count for something and if we havenâ€™t hadâ€¦?
Harvey Proctor: Well, they do, and in the sense where they count for something is that I believe there has been progress on mixed marriages, I think there are more mixed marriages now and in Enochâ€™s day it was unclear I think when Enoch was making that speech, the extent to which there would be cross-marriages, butâ€¦ which I support andâ€¦Â
Ceri: But the risk to you in making that argument is that mixed marriages takes you dangerously into the territory of colour, doesnâ€™t it, but you say youâ€™re not racially prejudiced. What mixed marriages do is get rid of the colour problem because weâ€™ll all become a bit more alike.
Harvey Proctor: But itâ€™s blindness not to realise that other people can take colour into account. Because Iâ€™m saying that I donâ€™t, doesnâ€™t mean to say I can absolve myself of the responsibility ofâ€¦Â
Ceri: But you canâ€™t keep saying â€śitâ€™s not me, itâ€™s themâ€ť, can you? You canâ€™t keep saying â€śIâ€™m not the problem here, Iâ€™m not prejudiced, I donâ€™t operate on the basis of colour but Iâ€™m worried that other people might.â€ťÂ
Harvey Proctor: No one has ever accused me of being colour prejudiced or racialist in my personal dealings. They have criticised what Iâ€™ve said and I have to say I havenâ€™t had such a long conversation on immigration and racial matters for years and years and years as weâ€™re having today, and so Iâ€™m having to think things through as we talk and some things, I think, probably were wrong. I think what was wrong, if any feelings came about, that there was going to be one horrendous cataclysmic civil war. I think that is wrong.Â
Ceri: And you thought that was possible?
Harvey Proctor: I think Enoch certainly did. I think I was influenced by his opinion of the time that potentially that could happen but Iâ€™m trying to both place myself now and also try and place myself what it was like when I was making speeches on these matters. But I donâ€™t have a constituency to represent, Iâ€™m not representing anyone other than my own view. Iâ€™m not going out there and making political speeches but youâ€™re asking me a question and Iâ€™m giving you an answer to the best of my ability. Some of these questions have been asked for the first time in many, many years.
Ceri: Understood, yes.Â
Harvey Proctor: But Iâ€™m trying my best, Iâ€™m trying my best to articulate them and not to upset you with my views or to upset you in the sense that I havenâ€™t changed some of the views that you might have thought might have been appropriate to change.Â
Thereâ€™s truth, of course, in what Harvey Proctor says at the end there. Heâ€™s not out on the campaign trail making speeches these days; Iâ€™m talking to a man who put his views on immigration in the fridge when he stopped being an MP in 1987 and heâ€™s only taken them out now to warm them up for me. But I suppose I was looking for some help from him, so I could talk to my younger self, the one who would have hated Harvey Proctor and say, â€śYou donâ€™t need to hate, people will change, theyâ€™ll mellow. If nothing else, events will change them.â€ť
Matthew Parris: Disgrace, when it falls on a man, can change him and Harvey, having seen what itâ€™s like to be in complete disgrace, almost the worst kind of disgrace that can occur to you, accused of child sex and all that sort of stuff, I think has probably grown as a person from being an outcast. Being cast out teaches you things and so I would expect Harvey to have mellowed quite a lot as he gets older and mellowed partly because of all this. And perhaps become, if not a more tolerant, at least a person with a wider view of humanity and of sinfulness and of redemption and all those things. Itâ€™s quite a good teacher. I really like people whoâ€™ve been disgracedâ€¦Â
Someone who has been disgraced, there is going to be something human, something understanding, something tolerant about them that you are less likely to find in someone who has never been touched by any sort of scandal.Â
I donâ€™t know if disgrace has changed Harvey Proctor â€“ two disgraces actually. I didnâ€™t know him when he wasnâ€™t disgraced but he hasnâ€™t mellowed on immigration, thatâ€™s clear. Heâ€™s not the first person Iâ€™ve met whoâ€™s defined their purpose, their role in life, as being about something â€“ itâ€™s immigration for him â€“ and when youâ€™ve latched on to that thing, inexplicable as it may seem to the rest of us, I think it can become too important to give up but the thing Harvey Proctor didnâ€™t want his life to be about, his sexuality, well on that things do look different to him in the rear-view mirror.
Harvey Proctor: I think in retrospect, I was ill-advised to go to Sir David â€“ very good at handling the media and very good at his mitigation speech but I think, probably, in 1987 I should have pleaded not guilty.
This Is one of the pivotal moments in Harvey Proctorâ€™s life, when he was charged with gross indecency after a tabloid sting.Â
Harvey Proctor: Here we are, what 30â€¦?
Ceri: 34 years later.Â
Harvey Proctor: 34 years later, and probably thatâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve admitted publicly that I was wrong and things might have been different.Â
Itâ€™s that zombie of a question, the one that will never die: was he better off fighting for his rights as a gay manâ€¦ or when the trial for gross indecency came along in 1987, did he have to accept that the law and society were just the way they were? Least said, soonest mended, as he likes to say.
Harvey Proctor: But to balance that, my mother was still alive, my brother was alive and theyâ€™d both been through hell for a year or more because of the allegations in the mediaâ€¦ but perhaps I should have used the trial in 1987 to have stood up for homosexuality, to stand up for the differentiation in the age of consent â€“ 21 as it was in the homosexual case and 16 in the heterosexual case â€“ and certain lacunas in the law surrounding that which I go into in the book but I wonâ€™t here.Â
Ceri: And to shine a light on the press because you were set up, werenâ€™t you?
Harvey Proctor: And to have battled through that and basically say, what Iâ€™m supposed to have done, what I actually did do, whatever else it was, was not gross and was not indecent. And I may have lost in court but I might have gained in certain segments of public opinion and that might have helped the homosexual cause into the future. Iâ€™m saying that now all these years later; there has always been with regard to me and my homosexuality, a balancing judgement amongst those who might be the most supportive of reform of homosexual law of the time and that of my views on immigration.Â
Matthew Parris: You canâ€™t really, I think, question Harveyâ€™s courage because in some of the causes that he aspires, some of the things that he said about immigration and all the rest, he knew that he was inviting pariah status and he got pariah status within the Conservative Party and outside it. So the man obviously didnâ€™t lack courage.Â
I think that Harveyâ€™s, the way he handled his sexuality has a more complicated explanation. He was, is, an intensely private person, he really didnâ€™t think it was anybodyâ€™s business who he loved or what he did and he was made, I think, not just angry but a sense of burning defiance that anybody should ask him questions about this private life and I donâ€™t think that was only because he didnâ€™t want it to come out, I think he is that kind of person. Of course, he had a mother too and I donâ€™t know what she knew but there may have been reasons why he didnâ€™t want to come out but it wasnâ€™t a lack of courage and it was certainly greatly bolstered by his angry sense of his own privateness and the wrongness of other people intruding on it.Â
Harvey Proctor: I may have been naĂŻve, but it never occurred to me that what I do in my personal life mattered a damn to anyone and what I did in my bedroom should not matter to anybody else as long as itâ€™s legal.Â
Trying to make sense of what Harvey Proctor has been through, thereâ€™s another idea that keeps coming back to me. Could it be that the first ordeal he went through, that massive intrusion into his sense of privateness, the public shaming in 1987, had been the sort of unconscious collective means to an end, a way to send a message, like a horseâ€™s head in his bed on behalf of all of us.
Ceri: Let me put to you a sort of counter-argument, I donâ€™t love this argument but let me put it anyway and see what you think. There would be an argument that what happened to Harvey, that he went out on a limb, that he presented himself in a way as the sort of heir to Enoch Powell, he picked up with Enoch Powell when Powell had already been thrown out of the Conservative Party or thrown off the Shadow Cabinet after 1968. As you sayâ€¦ within the Conservative party and not a member of the National Front but the Conservative Partyâ€¦ We collectively had decided then that that was the kind of voice that we didnâ€™t want in mainstream British political life and that in the end, by any means necessary, he was thrown out of it. I guess some people listening to this will be saying, look, he got what he deserved, we made it clear we didnâ€™t want those kinds of views in the centre of British politics and off he went.Â
Matthew Parris: Harvey never wanted to just meld into the mass, the background, the mainstream of politics, he wanted to stand out. I think in some ways he wanted to be a rogue politician; I donâ€™t think he minded being the object of detestation for his political views. Iâ€™ve even wondered sometimes whether he sought that sort of notoriety, he just ended up being an object of detestation for different reasons.Â
Is there anything in the theory that the establishment, so to speak, just saw him as dangerous and wanted to get him one way or the other? I donâ€™t think there is. There was no conspiracy, there never are establishment conspiracies and the readers of the People may well have shared Harveyâ€™s views on a number of political issues. I think the attitude of the establishment towards Harveyâ€™s political views is useful in explaining why no one came to his defence but I donâ€™t think it explains why he was attacked.Â
Ceri: I wasnâ€™t suggesting it was a deliberate policy but I think you might argue that the system has a way of just ejecting people who donâ€™t fit, who step beyond the boundary and maybe he somehow fell victim to that.Â
Matthew Parris: The political mainstream has its way of casting off people who it thinks are either dangerous or a bit nutty, and I suppose Harvey sailed a little bit close to the wind in that respect but he would always have been regarded as a bit of a renegade, a right-wing renegade within the Conservative party but what happened to him went way beyond that and I really donâ€™t believe was intended by anybody.
Ceri: Now, Al, you and I started out setting ourselves the question, what was it about Harvey Proctor which means he keeps being drawn back into the crosshairs like this? What have you ended up thinking about that?
Al: Well, I guessâ€¦ After looking at this for some time with you, Iâ€™d say the starting point for me is a disconnect between the actual detail of what actually happened to Harvey Proctor in the 80s with that conviction for gross indecency and how it was reported at the time. The process of being convicted for gross indecency has, I would say, put a label on Harvey Proctor that was written in really glaring terms; not just a gay man but also a violent man, that label has him down as a nasty man I would say and weâ€™ve discovered through this process, havenâ€™t we, that the detail is more complicated.Â
He was deceived as to the age of the men in that tabloid sting by the newspapers but perhaps you have to say, one of the reasons all that was written so glaringly, so brutally, was how Harvey Proctor was presenting himself. He was the very image of a Tory MP on the far right of the party and also unrepentant. You know, hanging on until a general election, rather than resigning straight away, as soon as the tabloids got hold of him; pleading guilty, yes, but never quite publicly having to say heâ€™d done anything wrong. But there it was, there was a label there I would say, written very glaringly and then 30 years or so later, someone like Carl Beech turns up, he was looking around for people to accuse of part of this murderous fantasy and there it is, that label, to be picked up and help him make those allegations and I think that is what happened.Â
Ceri: And I guess, thinking about, hereâ€™s Carl Beech coming forward with that story that we now know is completely made up. Then here he was pointing at Harvey Proctor and maybe to the police looking into it, that looked like evidence because they were the cuttings from 1987.
Al: Yes, and I would say back in 2015 it went a bit further than that. The police were saying not only was that conviction there to be looked at, on the record, there were things in that police file to do with that conviction that went further. They were sort of saying in the background that there was an air of violence that went beyond the charges there, all adding to that picture that this was a man who might have been capable of doing some of the things that Carl Beech was saying, so it kept it going.
Ceri: And to be totally clear and totally fair to Harvey Proctor, none of that is true, is it? We havenâ€™t had any evidence that there was anything that was left out of the â€™87 trial or not tested in court in any way.
Al: Thatâ€™s right and Iâ€™d go further than that and say the police themselves, when they eventually looked into that file of evidence, they quickly came to the conclusion it would be a struggle to lay those charges now and actually, there wasnâ€™t anything else in that police file pointing to violence, pointing to under-age men, so again you can put that down to unsubstantiated rumours but unfortunately for Harvey Proctor, you still tend to hear it, particularly from journalists. There was something in the 80s about Harvey Proctor that was not quite got to the bottom of.
Iâ€™ve mentioned a couple of times that when you ask Harvey Proctor to look back over his life and try to make sense of things, he finds it quite hard and maybe Iâ€™d find it hard too if Iâ€™d lived the life heâ€™s lived. So, what about looking forward instead. Aged 22, coming out of university with all those dramas and traumas ahead of him, how might it have looked from there?
Harvey Proctor: I think it would have been astonishing, I would have felt astonished that my life would have gone in the route that it took but I think if Iâ€™d known I was going to become a Member of Parliament, Iâ€™d have thought, other things being equal, that I probably would have continued being a Member of Parliament for my entire life. So, the idea that my personal proclivities, sexual or personal other things, could have got in the way of that would have baffled me I think, because I was so wound up in politics, liked politics, liked principles and policies and developing principles and policies, that I couldnâ€™t have believed that my personality would have got in the way of that.
Ceri: And if Iâ€™d said to you at that age that you would become a hate figure and thatâ€™s what liberated these things that have happened to you, the 86/87 investigation and court case, I think it allowed Operation Midland. Can you have imagined becoming a sort of hate figure on a national scale?
Harvey Proctor: No, I certainly couldnâ€™t believe that, that anyoneâ€¦ that I would have had that power, the word isnâ€™t ability but that that would have happened, no, a very much quieter life really.Â
At the start of this podcast, I was wrestling with a way to balance the political choices Harvey Proctor made with the damage we have inflicted on his life. Sitting in front of him, seeing him sometimes crying and always rather broken by his experiences, itâ€™s impossible not to be moved and actually shamed by what heâ€™s been put through but you have to try to do the impossible at the same time. You have to hold in your head the ordeals that someone isnâ€™t in the room must have gone through, I mean someone growing up feeling the sharp end of the prejudice that was fed by the debate about immigration and repatriation that Harvey Proctor stoked. Now, honestly, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll ever really be able to sit in front of that person, someone who can tell me for sure that their troubles were caused directly by Harvey Proctor but thereâ€™s not a doubt in my mind that theyâ€™re out there somewhere. Words, harsh words, have consequences.Â
Harvey Proctor is probably right, that if it hadnâ€™t been for the sex scandal, heâ€™d still be an MP now but when I hear the kinds of things he was saying back in the 80s and his tone of voice, I canâ€™t find it in me to muster enough sympathy to feel sorry that he was away from the political scene for those long decades.Â
Hand on heart, I donâ€™t think this country would have been improved by him having the microphone from 1987 onwards but then you get right to it. Harvey is not a murderer, he said that at the beginning of this podcast and of course, itâ€™s true but if he was a murderer â€“ to borrow from Al Capone â€“ Iâ€™d want him done for murder and not tax evasion. Iâ€™d want him taken out head on, not in a cloak and dagger operation.Â
So, funnily enough, if heâ€™s still prepared to take Enoch Powell as his role model, so am I. Enoch Powell was side-lined from British politics but not by skulduggery, not by a tabloid sting, it was done sort of correctly, you could say. He was marginalised in the Conservative party and then slowly he became quieter, less important.Â
Thatâ€™s what I mean, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™d want for Harvey Proctor too. For him to have ended up in the cottage in the fields, by all means, but after weâ€™d carefully dismantled his arguments, shown up the holes in everything he believed, made him irrelevant not notorious. Itâ€™s a big ask to take the slow route, particularly if someone is doing damage quickly but if the rest of us are going to learn anything from Harvey Proctorâ€™s life, itâ€™s hard to see a better lesson, if weâ€™ve learned one at all.
Matthew Parris: I donâ€™t think weâ€™ve learnt anything from this and Iâ€™m sure it will happen again and it may be happening now. Weâ€™ve got all the â€śbooâ€ť figures now and we just tear them to pieces and whether or not they deserve to be torn to pieces will depend on the individual caseâ€¦ but we wonâ€™t be checking ourselves and thinking, I must be careful what I say about Ghislaine Maxwell because look what happened to Harvey Proctor, no. Weâ€™ll say, Harvey Proctor, no, that was wrong, poor guy. Ghislaine Maxwell? Oh, no, no, no, thatâ€™s different.Â
Ceri: Completely differentâ€¦
Matthew Parris: Itâ€™s always going to be different with a victim thatâ€™s immediately within our focus.Â
Harvey Proctor: Iâ€™ve done what Iâ€™ve done, Iâ€™ve said what Iâ€™ve said and Iâ€™m here now when I thought I might not be. And you never know how long youâ€™ve got. Certainly, Iâ€™m now 74, so who knows, itâ€™s always an achievement to wake up in the morning really!Â
Ceri: You could have a third of your life left, couldnâ€™t you?
Harvey Proctor: Well, one never knows, but the whole of it has been an extraordinary experience and I have experiences that are good and the bad ones I would not wish on my worst enemyâ€¦
It doesnâ€™t seem fair to ask Harvey Proctor to look back without asking myself to do the same. Iâ€™ve been wondering, what would I tell my younger self, the one who cheerfully hated him? In the end Iâ€™d say, be careful with that stuff, hate. Youâ€™re going to find out you canâ€™t spray it around cheaply. It may not be you, but itâ€™ll end up costing someone a lot and, Iâ€™d say, a strange thing is going to happen when youâ€™re older. Weâ€™re going to make it a lot easier to hate, weâ€™re going to industrialise the whole business through social media and make it a thousand times more dangerous and once you let hate out into the world, what Iâ€™ve learned is that a blindness can come upon institutions that matter a lot more than you do. The media and the police will do terrible things, if you give them permission. So, donâ€™t do that.
Pariah is produced by Hannah Varrall. The sound design is by Karla Patella. Itâ€™s written by me, Ceri Thomas, and by Alistair Jackson.Â