Geoffrey Dickens

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Geoffrey Kenneth Dickens ((1931-08-26)26 August 1931 – 17 May 1995(1995-05-17)) was a British Conservative politician. He was MP for Huddersfield West from 1979 until the seat was abolished in 1983. He was then elected for Littleborough and Saddleworth and held the seat until his death in 1995.

Early life[edit]

Dickens was born in London and fostered until he was eight years old. He never had contact with his mother afterwards.[1] He was educated at schools at East Lane in Wembley and at Acton Technical College. He suffered polio when he was 13, for which he had to spend two years in hospital.

During his youth Dickens became a heavyweight boxer, sparring with Don Cockell and Henry Cooper. He had 60 bouts, of which he lost 20.[1] He worked as a Design Draughtsman at BSP Industries in Borehamwood, Herts and became a member of St Albans Rural District Council from 1967 to 1974, and was its chairman in 1970–1971. He also was a member of Hertfordshire County Council in 1970–1975.[1]

Dickens was awarded the Royal Humane Society's Testimonial on Vellum after he saved two boys and a man from drowning in the sea off Majorca.[1]

Dickens fought unsuccessfully for Middlesbrough in February 1974 and for Ealing North in October 1974.

Member of Parliament[edit]

He won Huddersfield West in 1979 but this seat was abolished after boundary reviews. He was selected as the Conservative candidate for Littleborough and Saddleworth, which he won in 1983.[1]

Paedophile ring investigation[edit]

Between 1981 and 1985, Dickens campaigned against a suspected paedophile ring he claimed to have uncovered that was connected to trading child pornography.[2] In 1981, Dickens named the former British High Commissioner to Canada, Sir Peter Hayman, as a paedophile in the House of Commons, using parliamentary privilege so he could not get sued for slander. Dickens asked why he had not been jailed after the discovery on a bus of violent pornography.

In 1983, Dickens claimed there was a paedophile network involving "big, big names – people in positions of power, influence and responsibility" and threatened to name them in the Commons.[3] The next year, he campaigned for the banning of Hayman's Paedophile Information Exchange organisation. Dickens had a thirty-minute meeting with the Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, after giving him a dossier containing the child abuse allegations. Although Dickens said he was "encouraged" by the meeting, he later expressed concern that PIE had not been banned.[2]

On 29 November 1985, Dickens said in a speech to the Commons that paedophiles were "evil and dangerous" and that child pornography generated "vast sums". He further claimed that: "The noose around my neck grew tighter after I named a former high-flying British diplomat on the Floor of the House. Honourable Members will understand that where big money is involved and as important names came into my possession so the threats began. First, I received threatening telephone calls followed by two burglaries at my London home. Then, more seriously, my name appeared on a multi-killer's hit list".[2] Dickens' son later said that about the time when the dossier was given to the Home Secretary, the MP's London flat and constituency home were both broken into but nothing was taken, presumably in a search for documents.[4][5]

The Labour MP Tom Watson asked the Home Office in February 2013 for Dickens' dossier.[2] A Home Office review in 2013 concluded that any information requiring investigation was referred to the police but revealed that Mr Dickens' dossier was "not retained".[3][6] After the issue had been raised again by Labour MP Simon Danczuk in July 2014, former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, said the circumstances in which the dossier had gone missing was alarming and recommended an inquiry into the fate of the dossier.[5] Prime Minister David Cameron asked the Home Office Permanent Secretary to investigate what had happened to the missing dossier. Danczuk responded that another internal inquiry was merely trying to limit damage, and that a public inquiry was necessary to retain public confidence.[7] The missing dossier has been linked with ongoing investigations into the Elm Guest House child abuse scandal.[8][9]

Legacy[edit]

The journalist Patrick Cosgrave said of Dickens in his obituary:

Falstaffian” was the word once chosen by John Biffen to describe Geoffrey Dickens. And indeed he had a number of the characteristics of Shakespeare's rotund, indulgent, genial and ultimately disappointed knight. Nobody thought more highly of his capacities than Dickens himself. But he was puzzled with his inability to convince either the House of Commons in general, or the Tory Party in particular of his sterling qualities, and unique insight into all manner of political difficulties. He was once described as the original “rent-a-quote” man, and you could always be sure that, whatever the subject, Dickens would have a view on it, and be convinced that his was the only view that any sane or moral individual could hold. Over the years, he called for bans on cross-bows, dangerous teddy bears, and tabled a Bill to restore capital punishment for some categories of murder.[1]

Michael Brown said of Dickens:

Geoffrey Dickens was a larger than life character: a funny, jovial man who spoke for popular England...Although the press thought his fellow MPs were laughing at him, we were laughing with him. Underneath it all Dickens was a superb constituency man who held down a Tory majority in difficult northern, working-class seats...Over the years the response to that booming voice became more cheering than jeering. What Dickens expounded always read very well in Middle England, and certainly even better in Northern England. As a constituency MP he always brought home the bacon. He was no-nonsense, great fun, and one of the best of all after-dinner speakers. When I was his whip and I pressed him on an issue on which he felt strongly he would not budge. But on occasions when the party really needed his support he was always there.[1]

Tristan Garel-Jones wrote of him:

There was something almost Shakespearean about Geoffrey Dickens. He performed with Bottom-like assurance on the floor of the House of Commons, and in the tea-room...At times he was ludicrous, even disgraceful. Who can forget his announcement to an astonished House of Commons, “I want to do a favour for every woman in this country”? But I can think of few colleagues more welcome to sit down with. Despite the conscious self-deprecation, he was shrewder than he let on and funny and agreeable colleague who carved out for himself a unique place of affection in the House and, I suspect, beyond. Like the mechanicals in As You Like It, there was more to Geoffrey Dickens than met the eye. He belonged to the Trad right. He was an old-fashioned British patriot. I, amongst others, failed to convince him that today's patriotism involves Britain's playing a leading role in Europe. He was not a Euro-enthusiast or an instinctive admirer of Jacques Delors. But my last recollection of Geoffrey was his dogged stamp through the lobby, in his final illness, in support of his government's policy on Europe.[1]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h OBITUARIES Geoffrey Dickens, The Independent (18 May 1995).
  2. ^ a b c d Tory MP warned of powerful paedophile ring 30 years ago, The Independent (22 February 2013).
  3. ^ a b "Home Office under fire over lost paedophile dossier". BBC News. 2 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "Geoffrey Dickens 'said paedophile dossier was explosive'". BBC. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "MP burgled after handing paedophile dossier to Leon Brittan". The Daily Telegraph. 2 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Rowena Mason (2 July 2014). "Ex-minister Lord Brittan under scrutiny over 1980s dossier of sex abuse claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Rajeev Syal (4 July 2014). "David Cameron asks top civil servant to look into Westminster child abuse claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Whitehead, Tom (6 July 2014). "Westminster paedophile ring allegations: timeline". The Sunday Telegraph (London). Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  9. ^ Boffey, Daniel (5 July 2014). "Edwardian house at heart of a long-simmering sex scandal". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 6 July 2014. 

References[edit]

  • Times Guide to the House of Commons, Times Newspapers Limited, 1992 edition.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Kenneth Lomas
Member of Parliament for Huddersfield West
19791983
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Littleborough and Saddleworth
19831995
Succeeded by
Chris Davies