It was not because I knew him, liked him or believe him to be innocent – for I do not know the facts behind the accusations - but it was because once again there is a media furore targeting a particular individual that will wound many people who loved him, possibly unfairly and very damagingly.
Child abuse is the scourge of our age, and it is right that proven perpetrators, alive or dead, are called to account whether it is through denial of liberty or reputational punishment. It is right, too, that possible victims are encouraged to report their experiences in order to help the authorities to arrive at the truth, and this can be achieved only through an appeal to the public using the media. In a case such as Ted Heath’s, then, some publicity about accusations against him cannot be avoided, but it can, perhaps, be managed better.
Already, one prominent, scandalous rumour that was widely reported has been denied at source. It does not mean there are not other claims against him that may prove true, or not, but it demonstrates the need for temperance and consideration in talking about the case. Not only can wild speculation lead to wrong conclusions, but also the friends and relatives watching these events with dismay will feel great hurt. The reputational damage already has been immense, and even if all the allegations are dismissed, Edward Heath will be remembered for being the bachelor Prime Minister who may have liked young boys, rather than being a short term political leader who who took the UK into the EEC and who introduced decimalisation of British coinage. If he is innocent, this would be very unfair. If he is guilty, it would be deserved.
As the investigations into the alleged paedophilia continue, it would serve us all to let them take place without our comment. Gossip helps no-one, and is demeaning, to us and to him.