Harriet Harman rejects Daily Mail paedophilia 'smears'
Labour figures accused of working for civil liberties group with links to paedophile rights campaigners
LABOUR deputy leader Harriet Harman has accused the Daily Mail of running a "smear campaign" against her, after the newspaper described her as a "paedophilia apologist".
The newspaper claims that she, her husband MP Jack Dromey, and former health secretary Patricia Hewitt previously worked for a civil liberties group that had links to paedophile rights campaigners in the 1970s and 1980s.
From 1978 to 1982, Harman was legal officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), the predecessor to campaign group Liberty, which had ties with the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) – a group that spoke positively about adults who were attracted to children.
NCCL granted "affiliate" status to PIE from 1975 to the mid-1980s, but there is no evidence to suggest that Harman, Dromey or Hewitt personally supported the views of PIE.
Last night, the Labour deputy leader said the Mail's allegations against her were "horrific" and denied all of them. She told BBC Two's Newsnight she had never been an "apologist for paedophilia" and had sought to protect children from abuse during her career. She added that there had been nearly 1,000 affiliated organisations when she was at NCCL, of which PIE was one, and anyone could apply to become an "affiliate" on payment of a fee.
However, this morning one of Harman's aides said she "expresses regret for the existence of PIE and NCCL involvement with PIE before she joined".
Dromey has also said that he was at the forefront of repeated public condemnations of PIE and their "despicable views", and said he personally chaired an NCCL conference at which the council refused to back a "loathsome" motion from PIE to support the "so-called 'rights' of paedophiles".
Hewitt, who stood down as an MP in 2010, has yet to comment on the story.
The Daily Mail dedicated its front page to the story again today, complaining that Harman and Dromey still "won't say sorry". A spokesman for the newspaper described the couple's statements as "full of pedantry and obfuscation" and said they failed to answer the Mail's central points. "As for smears," he added, "it is a newspaper's job to ask awkward and controversial questions – questions that in this instance are still awaiting a satisfactory answer."
Shami Chakrabarti, current director of Liberty, the new name for NCCL, has previously issued an apology for the links with PIE.