Briefly – for what now seems a very short time – everyone was saying “We must believe the victims.”
Newsnight’s decision not to run an investigative programme about Jimmy Saville, because all they had was his victims’ testimony, was widely criticised.
On Newsnight tonight, instead, was the more usual refrain: Steve Messham was a “fantasist”, and shouldn’t be listened to. Lord McAlpine’s lawyer talked of bringing legal charges against Newsnight and Alistair McAlpine himself issued a comprehensive denial. Newsnight formally apologised, though it’s hard to see what for: they did not name Lord Alistair McAlpine as Messham’s abuser: nor did they hint his identity in any way.
[But see The BBC, Lord McAlpine and Libel Law for how Lord McAlpine might be able to sue the BBC anyway.]
More to the point, Steve Messham says:
at the time police showed him a picture of his abuser but incorrectly told him the man was Lord McAlpine.
Mr Messham told the BBC that he was “mortified” when he recently saw a real picture of Lord McAlpine and realised his mistake.
Newsnight did not name Alistair McAlpine as Steve Messham’s abuser. Steve Messham did not name Lord McAlpine to the media. The only senior Tory named was Sir Peter Morrison, who died in 1995.