Harriet Harman condemns paper's 'smear campaign'

Harriet Harman: "That is an unfair inference and a smear"

Harriet Harman has accused the Daily Mail of running a "politically-motivated smear campaign" against her.

The newspaper has reported that a civil liberties group she used to work for had links to paedophile rights campaigners in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Labour deputy leader told the BBC she had never been an "apologist for paedophilia" and had sought to protect children from abuse during her career.

But the newspaper said she had failed to answer its questions.

From 1978 to 1982 Ms Harman was legal officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties, which was the predecessor to campaign group Liberty.

'Not apologising'

The Daily Mail has questioned the politician, her MP husband Jack Dromey, and former health secretary Patricia Hewitt over their actions while officials at the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) in the 1970s and 1980s and its ties with the Paedophile Information Exchange - a group which spoke positively about adults who were attracted to children.

Start Quote

My work has always been, when I was at NCCL and when I have been in politics and ministerial office, to protect children, especially from child abuse”

End Quote Harriet Harman

Although the body granted "affiliate" status to the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) prior to her appointment, Ms Harman said the NCCL was "an organisation which anyone could apply to join and indeed any organisation could apply to be 'an affiliate' on payment of a fee".

There is no evidence to suggest that Ms Harman, Mr Dromey or Ms Hewitt personally supported the views of PIE.

Ms Harman told BBC Two's Newsnight. "It is not the case that my work, when I was at NCCL, was influenced by PIE, was apologising for paedophilia or colluding with paedophilia. That is an unfair inference and a smear.

"My work has always been, when I was at NCCL and when I have been in politics and ministerial office, to protect children, especially from child abuse."

'Contrition'

Earlier, she released a statement that the newspaper's allegations were "horrific" and she denied all of them.

"The editor and proprietor of the Daily Mail are entitled to their political views and they are of course entitled to oppose what I stand for but they are not entitled to use their newspaper to smear me with innuendo because they disagree with me politically and hate my values.

Start Quote

The belated statements today of Ms Harman and her husband - full of pedantry and obfuscation - failed to answer the Mail's central points”

End Quote Daily Mail spokesman

"I sincerely hope people won't believe these smears... but given the seriousness and the aggression with which the Daily Mail are pursuing me, I feel that I need to put the facts in the public domain."

But the Daily Mail claimed the shadow culture secretary had failed to answer the main charges it had made against her in a series of articles and instead denied allegations it had not made.

"For ten weeks now the Mail has repeatedly asked three leading Labour figures to answer questions about the involvement of the NCCL, a body in which they played leading roles, with a vile paedophile group," a spokesman said.

"The belated statements today of Ms Harman and her husband - full of pedantry and obfuscation - failed to answer the Mail's central points."

'Decency'

Labour leader Ed Miliband had earlier said his deputy was "somebody of huge decency and integrity - I don't set any store by these allegations".

A statement released by Mr Dromey said: "Sexual abuse of children is evil and I have always viewed paedophiles and any group associated with them as evil.

"During my time on the NCCL Executive, I was at the forefront of repeated public condemnations of PIE and their despicable views. Then, when I was elected chairman, I took them on.

"I personally chaired the NCCL conference that, on my recommendation, refused to back by a massive majority a loathsome motion from a leading light in PIE calling on NCCL to support the so-called 'rights' of paedophiles. Indeed, my stand was denounced in a leaflet distributed by PIE to the delegates to the Conference.

"Like many organisations in the 1970s, NCCL had been infiltrated but that was the moment the tide was turned. I closed the conference saying that we had to stand up for the rights of children not to be sexually abused and that adults guilty of abuse were the lowest of the low.

"I was then the first to argue that paedophiles could have no place in NCCL.

"As a lifelong opponent of evil men who abuse children, the accusations of the Daily Mail are untrue and beneath contempt."

Ms Hewitt, who stood down as an MP in 2010, has yet to comment on the story.

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