January 04, 2020
(This is a First Draft/Appetizer of what is intended to be a more comprehensive post on this topic)
Of the many mysteries that have perplexed people over the last 12 years over the McCann case perhaps the most intriguing of all is how did a bunch of unexceptional British doctors manage to garner such unprecedented support from the Great and (not so) Good of British Society? Anyone who has had the pleasure of requesting help from the Foreign Office whilst abroad, even in moments of dire emergency will know that the default position is “we won’t lift a finger to help you”. On the odd occasion, when the media elevates someone who is photogenic enough into the national consciousness politicians will reluctantly be goaded into helping, but typically they will seek to do the minimum they can get away with. Not so with the McCann’s. For them no expense was spared. Ambassadors – normally so aloof from such matters were dispatched, PR gurus were seconded from 10 Downing Street and Prime Minister in Waiting Gordon Brown was speaking to them by telephone personally and repeatedly. Gordon Brown had a reputation as a dictatorial leader and once the power soon to be was so fully and publicly on-board, one can assume that every official was eager to curry favour and do their best to assist.
Gordon Brown seems to have gone way beyond helping a “Good PR” family and though he was fastidious enough to maintain plausible deniability, his interventions seem to me to have strayed into “Perversion of the Course of Justice” territory as opposed to “Sticking up for Brits Abroad” as it has been portrayed. Perhaps his Rubicon was when Eddie and Keela did their thing and it was clear to anyone who had been paying attention that the McCann story was rapidly falling apart. That this conclusion had reached British officialdom was confirmed by the memo leaked by wikileaks from the UK ambassador to his American counterpart admitting in admirably diplomatic language that their goose, if not fully cooked was certainly basting in the oven.
This view will most certainly have been conveyed upwards to the Foreign Office and then to Brown – given the critical importance and obvious interest of Brown it may well have been conveyed directly. At this stage the politically expedient tactic would have been to distance oneself from the McCann’s at a rate of knots. If they had gone down it would have been embarrassing but not much more. If Brown had been taken in, well so had many others.
This is not what happened though. To my mind there were at least three probable interventions. I am not suggesting that there were direct requests or orders, it is much more probable that pressure was applied in the normal manner of British politics. Assistants, journalists and the like would be used to leak the view that the PM wanted things to pan out in a certain way and the recipient of such information was left to conclude whether he or she wanted his/her career to move on to ever greater heights or whether perhaps a sojourn in urinal management in Scunthorpe might become suddenly available.
The three areas where I think Gordon Brown put his thumb very firmly on the scales were:
Getting the initial draft of the FSS report on the DNA evidence resumarised to the effect that the take away headline was that the DNA was merely “inconclusive”.
Persuading the Portuguese that if they didn’t de facto can the case and lift the arguido status of the McCann’s, they may find the British Government less than fully cooperative in their efforts to get the Treaty of Lisbon ratified by the 31 Dec 2007 end of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU and thus have this key piece of EU legislation named after the Portuguese capital.
Visiting Beaumont Leys police station (where the McCann case was to be coordinated) just 3 days after the McCann’s return to the UK, supposedly to quench Brown’s new found, but never repeated fascination with “Community Policing”.
I will discuss each of these important items in separate posts.
To be clear, there is no firm, bullet proof evidence of these interventions, however even if I am only half right, Brown went way beyond the realms of appropriate Prime Ministerial behaviour in getting the McCann’s off the hook.
The next question we shall address is Why?