Pants on your head at dinner & Operation Midland

This post is about two trends in UK Society. On the one hand a childrens’ Summer Camp where  games include “children wearing their pants on their head at dinner” which seems to show an attitude of lack of awareness of dignity in connection with children which hasn’t changed one jot since the 1920s. On the other hand; Operation Midland, a recent police operation in which establishment figures were investigated for grave crimes of child sexual abuse and murder – purely on the word of a single phantasist.

Pants on their heads

This is an article in the Guardian about a children’s Summer Camp in the UK.

The author sings the praises of the camp – which charges £450.00 per week paid for by parents or local authorities (or apparently ‘subsidised’ by the charity – which means by whoever funds it).

Such articles invariably act simply as  PR for the business. Many journalists confuse promotional copy with reportage. This is probably why the journalist can write:

Games range from wearing your pants on your head at dinner

Without any critical comment.

Actually I picked up on this because it seems to me an example of a pattern. This is the day and age of Safeguarding. Anyone wanting to work with young people is rigorously vetted. There is a constant anxiety even fear of being accused of something. To take one example of many; I attended an interview for a role as a teaching assistant in a school. The recruiter told me that the last man she’d placed had put his hand on a student’s shoulder; this had been reported as an ‘allegation’ and he had been investigated for weeks. (I didn’t progress the application). This is the day and age when on the word of an obvious sexual phantasist a leading pillar of the community and war hero can have his home raided by police, his ill wife frightened, and his name dragged through the mud – and left to stagnate there for months  [1] This is the day and age when a leading “children’s charity” can run a national campaign of radio adverts all about children and their pants; the “Pants rule”: “Your underwear covers up your private parts and no one should ask to see or touch them” – thus sexualising every child in the country. Justified on the grounds of how great the the threat is from sexual abusers. [2]

And so; a “children’s charity” where children “wear their pants on head at dinner” seems quite strange. But it isn’t strange when you understand that all this concern about child sexual abuse is fakery on the surface; smoke and mirrors. Underneath, attitudes amongst those who run childrens’ charities and so on don’t seem to have fundamentally changed. Hence children “wearing their pants on the head at dinner” can pass without comment. But the journalist can still tell us about the “stringent” training process for camp counsellors.

Operation Midland

This was the hugely expensive police operation which saw several high-profile establishment figures accused of child abuse and, in some cases murder of children. [3] The police operation went on for months and cost £2 million. [4] The entire exercise was based on the uncorroborated claims of one phantasist.

During the course of the “investigation” lurid details of the claims were published in the press. Even during the eventual trial of the phantasist on the charge of perverting the course of justice the Guardian continued to print his ludicrous claims in detail. Right up until the moment of his conviction. Such is the power of the “victim is always right” ideology.

The claims were obviously the work of a phantasist. Anyone reading them could see this. The claims also grew and developed over time; as each new preposterous claim was apparently believed by the police (who at one point described the claims as “credible and true”) another one would be hatched.

The question then is – why did the police progress with this nonsense for so long? One explanation for this is given by Lord Bramhall – one of the victims of Operation Midland. Lord Bramhall says that he was told by the police:

We knew almost at once that none of these appalling things applied to you, but we could not stop making you a suspect for another 10 months because we would have been accused of not investigating properly

And this is probably it. The police had to be seen to be investigating. [5]  If attitudes towards child sexual abuse had really changed, fundamentally, the police would precisely not need to be seen to be investigating every case however spurious just so as to be able to say that they are investigating. They would want to devote resources to cases which merited investigation. They would be able to stand up and refuse to be drawn into the world of a deranged phantasist. They can’t – because it is all about appearances. Likewise, if attitudes towards young people had really changed since the 1950s childrens’ charities would not be organising camp games where children “wear their pants on their head” – and, if they were, then journalists writing about the camp in progressive newspapers would question it.

We live in a frightened society. A society which has lost its bottle. Accusations swirl around and everyone cares solely about how they are perceived, rather than about substance. It isn’t very healthy.



Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer