The Curious Case of the Mandarin’s Memory

By Tim Tate.

When the Duff letter emerged on Thursday last week, I e-mailed Lord Armstrong to ask five fairly straightforward questions.   They were:-

  1. Whether you recall receiving this letter ?
  2. What you did with the information ?
  3. Whether you passed on the allegations concerning this MP in question to the Prime Minister and/or the Chief Whip ?
  4. Whether you made any attempt to speak with MP yourself about the allegations ?
  5. Whether, in more recent times, you informed the Home Office and/or its recent internal enquiries about the existence of this letter ?


He did not reply immediately, but was apparently willing to give some kind of statement to the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. He told the Telegraph:


My official business was the protection of national security. I have to stress that there was nothing like evidence in this case. There was just a shadow of a rumour. It’s impossible to take investigative action on shadows of rumours. . . If there is some reason to think a crime has been committed, then people like the cabinet secretary are not to start poking their noses into it. It’s for the police to do that.


And he told the Mail:


I thought MI5’s actions were correct at the time. I think they were right to report the rumour, they were right to make what inquiries they could and they were right to come to the conclusion they did. I think if there was evidence it would have been properly examined at the time. I don’t think this is a matter of important people being protected. You can’t pursue inquiries unless you have evidence on which you can base the enquiry. A shadow of a rumour is not enough.


This afternoon, Lord Armstrong finally sent a response (from his House of Lords email account) to my five questions. It appeared that in the three days since he had spoken to the Telegraph and Mail, his memory had suffered a catastrophic failure. He wrote:-


 I am afraid that I do not remember receiving Sir Antony Duff’s letter, or what I did when I received it.   It is now a long time ago, and there were a lot of other things going on at the time.

Yours sincerely,

Armstrong of Ilminster


Sir Robert famously brought into public usage the concept of being (as he put it during the 1986 Spycatcher trial) “economical with the truth”.    But the question of what actions the second most powerful civil servant in the country took about allegations that one of the most senior Tory politicians was a paedophile is too important to be left to this sort of evasive nonsense.

Lord Armstrong thus joins the lengthening list of the great and good who must be summonsed to testify at Lord Justice Goddard’s Public Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.    A little robust cross-examination might do wonders to help the noble Lord recover his powers of recollection.

Tim Tate Blog 26/07/15

Lord Armstrong talking to Tom Bateman (Radio 4), 31st January 2015 about Sir Peter Hayman:
The Needle


Filed under Abuse, News

14 responses to “The Curious Case of the Mandarin’s Memory

  1. I’ve only just read this. This has really cheered me along. Thank you

  2. Tim, I want to thank you for your continuing efforts and for doing the right thing. Than you.

  3. pandapops

    The myth of “keeping things covered up for national security” really does need debunking now. Keeping things covered up is one of the biggest threats there can be to national security, not the other way round.

    If a story of a hypothetical abusing MP was allowed to be published, arrests made, due process followed etc, then there is nothing that either the state or that particular MP can be blackmailed for. It is the covering up that creates the opportunity for blackmail and the risk to national security.

    Our secret services have continued to fuel this HUGE threat to our security for over 40 years by suppressing truth and allowing the abuse and cover-ups to continue. They are not fit for purpose and really need to explain why they think that leaving the opportunity for blackmail of public figures is more in the interests of national security than removing the chance of blackmail by simply telling us, their employers, the truth.

    Once they are forced to admit that cover-ups actually increase, rather than decrease, the threat to national security, we will get a little closer to the real reasons they prefer to hide the truth from us.

    • Owen

      National security is not preserved by the systematic sacrifice of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, those entrusted to its care and protection. Kincora, its cover-up and a sequence of other abuse scandals and cover-ups have eroded the legitimacy of the modern state.

  4. Terry

    Lord Armstrong is one of the links in a paedophile circle , clean London up and crime would be lowered by 45% if not more .

  5. Jack

    Dear Lord Armstrong how can the Police investigate something if you don’t tell them about it ?

  6. Think he is on record for suggesting that security comes before anything else
    Which might explain something as he was at cabinet meetings when kincorra was brought up.

  7. Sabre

    A shadow of a rumour is intelligence and not evidence, Armstrong’s business was the protection of national security, the ‘shadow’ would have lead to further intelligence gathering to do otherwise would have been abnegation of the duty to protect national security. What Armstrong really means is mind your own business what we have is not for public consumption.

  8. joekano76

    Reblogged this on Floating-voter.

  9. BarrieJ

    These people, people like Armstrong are so confident of the support of the machinery of state, that they are able to respond with thinly veiled arrogance and contempt to any question put to them. He knows he’s not on trial and has already been reassured that he never will be. The establishment have won every battle we’ve fought with them and we’re going to be very disappointed if we think they’ll lose this one. The odd ‘old goat’ (preferably deceased) will be thrown to the wolves and that’ll be it.
    Our state is rotten.


  11. dpack

    a shadow of a rumour is where one starts rather than where one stops if one needs to know or wants to know .if one hits a variety of dead ends one still files those “just in case” a further detail puts any of them into a meaningful context.

    as to economical with the truth it is their trade.