The allegations against Sir Edward Heath over the last few days have clearly upset some of his friends. Two of those who have spoken out have been Brian Binley who spent 10 years from 2005 as the MP for Northampton South and a spokesman for his charitable Trust, a charity that was established to manage his home, known as Arundells and his papers. As the National inquiry into Childhood Sexual Exploitation is underway and seperate investigations into accusations of Westminster based abuse take place, it seems inevitable that there will be more high profile names linked to claims of child rape. It is vital that people like Brian Binley and the Trustees of the charity realise that their interventions can have wider implications. In the case of Mr Binley it is merely a matter for him as a private individual, although if we hear a string of former MPs defending people who may turn out to be guilty there are potential implications for the reputation of Parliament as a whole. Just as MPs hold a collective place in society and have all sorts of institutional protections whilst in Westminster, the way they and their recently retired colleagues behave in the face of accusations against friends and acquaintances will be seen by some as a reflection of the institution itself. That may be unfair and unreasonable, but when public confidence in politics is low, every action matters.
A much more fundamental problem exists in the protestations from the charitable Trust. The Trustees who include Lord Hunt who was previously a Government Minister are responsible for the reputation of the charity, not for that of its founder. In a sector that has suffered a great deal of recent criticism, much of it entirely unwarranted and some at the hands of the current Government, every charity is being seen as part of a wider whole. It is inconceivable that the Trustees can possibly know whether Sir Edward is innocent or not. In any event it is well outside the scope of the charitable objectives of the Trust to comment on his personal and private life. Some of the relevant objectives are listed below.
The good news is that Sir Edward like all of the other members of the establishment and all members of the public are innocent until they are proven guilty. It would be much more helpful if people like Brian Binley were to promote that principle every time they feel inclined to protect men who have spent most of their lives, and in the case of Sir Edward his estate too, being protected by an establishment that sadly has often failed to protect the most vulnerable and most innocent in our society. We live in a society which needs this principle shouted from the rooftop every time the media and indeed Parliament make statements on the basis of the need for people to prove their innocence to avoid the accusation of guilt.
(1) THE PRESERVATION AND CONSERVATION OF ARUNDELLS AND ITS ASSOCIATED AMENITIES AS A BUILDING OF BOTH SPECIAL ARCHITECTURAL AND HISTORICAL INTEREST BEING THE HOME OF SIR EDWARD HEATH; (III) THE ADMINISTRATION MAINTENANCE AND PRESERVATION OF SUCH OF MY PAPERS AS SHALL FORM PART OF THE CHARITABLE TRUST FUND INCLUDING THE PAPERS RELATING TO MY EARLY CAREER, THE PAPERS RELATING TO MY PERIOD AS LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION AND MY PERSONAL PRIME MINISTERIAL PAPERS (TOGETHER REFERRED TO AS MY PAPERS; (IV) THE ADVANCEMENT OF EDUCATION BY THE FACILITATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT OF ACCESS TO AND THE STUDY AND APPRECIATION OF ARUNDELLS AND ITS CONTENTS BY THE GENERAL PUBLIC IN PARTICULAR IN RELATION TO THE STUDY AND RESEARCH OF MY PAPERS AND THE PUBLICATION OF THE USEFUL RESULTS OF THAT RESEARCH;