“Here is the intellectual and emotional antecedent of ‘creation spirituality,’ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s assertion that evolution has become a spiritual inevitability in our time. Suddenly mere schooling found itself elevated from its petty, despised position on the periphery of the known universe into an intimate involvement in the cosmic destiny of man, a master key too important to be left to parents.”
— John Taylor Gatto, Underground History of American Education
So where does all this leave me? Do I think my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, my father, were involved in/victims of the sexual abuse of children disguised as sociological research and/or radical leftist reform? Or simply that they were that way inclined? Or was my grandfather only trying to brush shoulders with those people and groups he recognized as having the power and influence that he so desperately coveted for himself? And at what point does the line, once reached, get crossed?
While I was researching all this, I got hold of copies of letters between Alec Horsley and Bertrand Russell, as well as a couple sent to Victor Gollancz and the rather cursory replies from his secretary. The impression I got overall was of a man trying a little bit too hard to gain the ear and the support of “great men,” to enlist them to his cause (ostensibly that of world peace). Alec mentions several donations he has made, or is willing to make, to these men, in tandem with invitations for them to attend various meetings or lunches which he is setting up in the name of the cause. (It’s never specifically stated, besides that word “peace.”) He is fobbed off by Gollancz (who suffered a broken limb around that time, and at one point uses it as an excuse), and even by Russell, who does at least agree to meet with my grandfather, while declining to be a public spokesperson at one of his events.
It is easy for me to relate—to imagine my grandfather’s plight, trying to gain the attention and approval of powerful men and being kept out of the “club.” Of course, this is very much at odds with the picture which has been emerging, via all of the material gathered here. But then, it may not be either/or.
I once asked conspiracy researcher Kris Millegan about the possibility my grandfather was an intelligence operative. His response was this:
“You have spooks and then you have the folks that spooks influence. Basically intel. ops operate with deceit and subterfuge. Even if you’re a spook they lie and compartmentalize. You are only told what is needed. If you want someone to go from A to B, if you can get him to go there without even knowing you exist is great. If you have to tell them to go from A to B, you never tell them the right reasons. So many that are involved are simply played, and are not under orders. Most that get involved do it for all the right reasons, god and country, but are used by higher-ups. I find the final agendas come from the secret societal system, beyond the nation states that they have captured.”
This may be true in a larger sense also. I can imagine my grandfather—and in a very different way my father—pursuing his lofty social goals, making connections to people higher up than himself, and slowly, over time, learning that those in power operated in very different ways to how he had imagined, that the line between criminal activities and political ones was not only invisible, but non-existent. I can imagine him realizing, in slow, steady increments, that, in order to be able to move in those circles of power where he could be most effective, he would first have to cross that non-existent line, and participate in activities which would have been abhorrent to his Quaker moral sense. And then discovering, over time, that these seemingly heinous activities were not merely the perks of the powerful, but also, in some strange and alien sense, the means to some “higher” goal that was, at least to some degree, in accord with my grandfather’s own goals. Why else would a socialist who claimed to be interested in the plight of the common man associate with social engineers like Russell and Acland (who claimed to have the same goals, and perhaps actually did); or with criminals like Jimmy Boyle? Why else would he give large amounts of money to semi-clandestine organizations like the Round Table?
In Dandy in the Underworld, my brother writes how Alec’s house “set the scene for the first business meeting between Gordon White and James Hanson, both of whom became Lords (and later were known as “Lord of the Raiders”).[ref] Hanson and White were controversial figures who were notoriously devoted to making a fast buck using any means necessary. White was written into the script of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street as Sir Larry Wildman (played by actor Terence Stamp), and Hanson went Hollywood in his own way, having affairs with Audrey Hepburn, Jean Simmons, and Joan Collins. If these were the sorts of people my grandfather considered desirable bed-fellows, clearly his political and ethical principles were a lot more “flexible” than we grew up believing. And, by all accounts, Alec’s personality was anything but a “liberal” or compassionate one: he was unanimously described by his children (and by my mother) as a bully.
One of the things his bullying was in service to was achievement. He pushed all his children (but especially the males) ruthlessly to excel, whether it was at tennis or at school. Perhaps he practiced the Fabian evolutionary theory of stress? Henry Stewart remembers when he was working on News on Sunday, the radical newspaper he helped my father to found in 1987:
“One of the investors was Alec Horsley, founder of Northern Foods. (His son, Nick Horsley, was Chair of the company.) I remember we were taking a group of investors round the company a month before launch. One of my colleagues was explaining the finances and said “The break even is sales of 800,000 copies a week.” This outraged Alec. Though he was all of 85 at the time, he grabbed my colleague by the lapels and forcefully stated ‘Break-even is not the point. Don’t you dare talk about break even. The aim of a business is to make a profit.’”[pdf]
Alec’s core values can also be gleaned by the legacy he left behind him, that of Northern Foods, which, under the steerage of my father and then Lord Haskins, became one of the largest food corporations in Europe and was, indirectly at least, via its partnership with Marks & Spencer, a major supporter of Zionism, as well as an early adopter of GMO food. This is very far from Alec’s supposedly humble origins as a Quaker and a man of the common people.
The “official” record (Wikipedia) states that my father “took early retirement due to a rare genetic wasting disease.” The truth, as always, is more complex. In 1986, he tried to change horses and pursue his first ambition of writing/journalism, by helping to fund the radical tabloid News on Sunday. The project was a disaster. When my father tried to return to chairing Northern Foods, Haskins, who had taken over in the interim, refused to let him back in. This at least was the version we all heard in my family. Only then did my father retire to Barbados. His prime of power and influence was in the early 1980s, when Northern Foods was at its peak and I was venturing into the troubled waters of adolescence. My memories of my father from this time are of a man sitting in his armchair with a drink, hiding behind the Sunday paper, seemingly terrified of any kind of meaningful contact. Naturally, his awkwardness transferred to me and I found it excruciatingly difficult to be around him. The trouble he had walking, or even getting out of his chair, only added to the pain I felt on seeing him.
It was also during this period (1980-83) that my father served as chairman for a consultative group on industrial and business relations at the BBC—a fact I only recently found out by reading his Wikipedia page (recently created by unknown persons), which cites The Guardian obit. This is the same BBC that “turned a blind eye to the rape and sexual assault of up to 1,000 girls and boys by Jimmy Savile in the corporation’s changing rooms and studios.”[ref] By which I don’t mean to suggest that my father was one of those blind eyes, only that, once again, the proximity to abuse is striking.
My strong sense, regarding my father and all of this intrigue, is that it relates directly to why he always hated his own father and never forgave him, even after Alec had died. Of course, there was the bullying from an early age, which presumably had a lot to do with my father ending up taking over the mantles of Northern Dairies and turning it into Northern Foods (as well as his futile attempt to escape that fate by traveling around North America and marrying my mother). But I suspect there was a deeper reason for the recrimination, one that related to that wolf in sheep’s clothing, and to my father’s own slow, inexorable journey of discovery, regarding the true nature of power and the price of aligning with it. The power originally represented by the world which he had set out to reform, and the power that was slowly revealed as the legacy which he’d inherited. Simply put, if in some sense my father was deceived into picking up the family business and “the Horsley cause,” under the impression that it was a means to bring about social reforms for the good of all, what must he have gone through on beginning to realize that the ends being served were those of the ruling class and always had been, and that the common man was—as made explicit in Bertrand Russell’s scientific manifesto—never meant to be anything but eggs for an elitist omelet?
The wolf would seem to be more nakedly apparent in the career trajectory of my father’s successor as chairman, Lord Haskins. Haskins went from Northern Foods (where he strongly advocated the adoption of GMO products) to being a key player in Tony Blair’s New Labor government. Before that, in 1997 (while still at Northern Foods), Haskins was placed in charge of something called The Better Regulation Task Force (BRTF), a program set up by New Labor “to free business from ‘red tape’ [and] save bosses from what they see as ‘unnecessary’ restrictions on their profits.”[ref] The BRTF was also involved in reviewing the standards in hospitals and care homes:
-Fit Person Criteria: a review of the criteria used to judge people’s suitability for certain occupations-Early Education and Day Care
-Long-term Care: We said in May 1998, “It is essential that a clear distinction is made between mandatory requirements, focused on the safety and protection of those in care, and benchmark – or as we describe them, ‘aspirational’ standards.” (The Better Regulation Task Force report PDF download, emphasis added)
After the Islington care home scandal of 1993, there can be no doubt that the Labor government was fully aware of the sexual abuse that had been occurring in care homes, and while Jimmy Savile’s predations within the NHS hospital system weren’t exposed until 2015, they were ongoing in the 1990s. The question of whether the BRTF was involved in a genuine clean-up or merely a cover-up is one that clearly needs to be raised. In Statism by Stealth; New Labour, new collectivism, Martin McElwee and Andrew Tyrine, MP, write:
The state’s regulatory role has also been greatly extended in care homes and private hospitals. The Care Standards Act 2000 sets out all the areas in which Ministers may now make regulations – for private hospitals, care homes and boarding schools. It sets up the new Care Standards Commission, empowered to regulate all private and public care homes. While care homes have long been subject to some degree of regulation, the new Commission enjoys unprecedented powers. Persons wishing to become care workers will have to register with another new body, the General Social Care Council (emphasis added).
Haskins was Chairman of BRTF from 1997 to 2002. He became a Baron of the British Empire in 1998, and was recruited by Blair as “rural tsar” in 2001. The steps—or initiation rites—he had to take to make the transition from CEO to the House of Lords are unknown, to me at least. Nor do I have any plans on asking him.
Haskins also belonged to the Centre for European Reform (CER), a lobby group which, according to a well-referenced article at Wikispooks, is closely associated with the American Enterprise Initiative and Atlantic Council, and appears to have “both UK and US intelligence connections as part of the UK’s role as an agent for the US in the EU.” (See also here.) As well as Haskins, its members include Jenkins alumni and Bilderberg member, Peter Mandleson. Haskins is also a patron of the Whitehall and Industry Group, “a body that aims to bridge the gap between business and government,” and which seems to blur the line between corporations and intelligence work, specifically MI5:
“The practice of using the country’s intelligence service to benefit companies is one performed in the United States for a number of years. There is evidence that it has used a communications eavesdropping system called Echelon to gather sensitive information on rivals in the European Union that has been passed on to US business. There is no suggestion that the British services intend to go that far, but this is thought to be the first time MI5 has brought in so many senior executives.”[ref]
Haskins also belongs, or belonged, to think tanks The Smith Institute and Demos, the latter being an independent organization recommended by the afore-mentioned Patricia Hewitt, in March 2010, “committed to radical thinking on the long-term problems facing the UK and other advanced industrial societies” (Demos Report). The Demos Advisory Council includes CER board member and editor of The New Statesman Ian Hargreaves, and Roy Jenkins’ protégé David Marquand.
Whatever Haskins’ affiliations with the ruling class and their abusive policies, he appears to have fallen from grace quite dramatically in 2005, when he was expelled from Labor for giving a donation to a young Liberal Democrat, Danny Alexander. Apparently there are rules against backing more than one horse in British politics; but considering the kinds of infractions that are simply business as usual within the higher echelons of power, it seems more than likely that somebody in those echelons was only waiting for a convenient reason to oust Haskins, and that he provided them with this opportunity. Maybe it was even a set-up for this express purpose. From my own point of view, in the light of what I have come to believe about power politics, his being scapegoated in this way can only speak in his favor.
I have almost no memories of Chris growing up, besides his Irish brogue and his love of whiskey and the fact that he liked to joke a lot. I spoke to my sister about him recently, and all she remembered was how afraid we were of having to stay with him and Gilda, because of how strict Gilda was with us. The last time I saw Chris was at my father’s wake, in Hull. He was the main speaker, a fact I found darkly ironic. I had intended to speak but when I nodded to my uncle Jeffers to do so, for some reason he took the nod as my declining, and ended the ceremonies. I wasn’t too regretful; the whole thing felt cursory to me. (My father had already been cremated in Barbados.)
I’ve avoided writing directly about Haskins until now because of his allegiance with power and the sensitivity of the material which I’m discussing. You do not stir up a hornets’ nest without a good reason—until you are ready to face the consequences, and/or the time has come to deal with the problem once and for all. At a certain point, for me at least, the consequences for not speaking out began to seem more severe than those for speaking. People are getting older and then they die. Peace remains unmade, truths remain concealed, traumas unhealed. Part of my fear of making this public is less reprisals than denials. Not that I expect anyone in my more distant family (besides the cousin I am in contact with) to do more than ignore this; but perhaps even that feels fraught to me, because maybe the worst response is none at all.
But then, there are deeper reasons to speak out than being heard.
 From Demos Quarterly Issue 11/1997, “The New Age: a religion for the future?” By Paul Heelas: “Finally, at the world affirming pole, spirituality is seen as a straight forward means to external success. The emphasis is on power, on tapping what lies within to obtain results in what amounts to—anthropologically speaking—magical fashion. The radical world rejecter sees capitalistic modernity as irredeemably flawed, while the radical world affirmer supposes it can be made to work even better. Inner spirituality informs very different new worlds from that of an intrinsically spiritual realm to living as a spiritually informed person, enjoying inner growth alongside external life, and maximising what capitalism has to offer.”