UNCUT: Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse should apply to politicians too

01/09/2014, 11:56:41 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has pledged that a Labour government will bring in a new obligation to report suspected child sexual abuse and to make its concealment a criminal offence. As she told The Observer:

“We are still seeing the same mistakes being made, victims not being listened to. It is now time to have the mandatory duty to report, to make clear that cultural change has to take place in every institution. It will also challenge the idea that any professional should be tempted to think that things can be solved quietly or privately by brushing them under the carpet. A clear signal needs to be put out that people should not put institutional reputation before protecting children.”

Of course, it is depressing that this even needs to be codified in law, but after the sheer scale of institutional failure revealed in Alexis Jay’s report into Rotherham, pledging to enact what most decent people would regard as the bleeding obvious is sadly necessary.

But this new law should stretch beyond social workers, teachers and council officials. Any requirement for mandatory reporting should also apply to councillors and MPs too. They should be made to record, in writing, any approach from a constituent about child sexual exploitation and offer up any third party intelligence they receive, referring the matter on to the police and social services.

They must be included in the new law as they are often the first port of call for families seeking justice and for those trying to tip-off the authorities about an issue. Frankly, good councillors and constituency MPs should already know what is going on in their areas and be perfectly willing to share this with the authorities.

But, unfortunately, they sometimes face other considerations. As Rotherham’s Labour MP (between 1994-2012), Denis MacShane, put it the other day: “I think there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat if I may put it like that.” While maintaining that no-one came to him with details of child abuse, he concedes that he should have “burrowed into” the issue.

Damn right he should have. And so should his colleagues. So as well as being obliged to report abuse, might we also consider a charge of wilful neglect in public office? MPs and councillors who don’t know that their vulnerable constituents are being raped and abused on an industrial scale right under their noses are not fit to represent them and should be drummed out of public office.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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GRASSROOTS: Ukip could make Miliband prime minister but he’s not ready

29/08/2014, 02:17:48 PM

by Samuel Dale

Douglas Carswell’s defection to Ukip has brought parliament back with a bang.

The independent-minded Conservative MP is fighting a September by-election in Clacton as a Ukip candidate. He is odds-on favourite to win.

The Daily Mail claims eight more Tory MPs are in talks to defect.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has told us to brace ourselves for more Tory and Labour MP defections.

The right is splintering as we head towards a tight election and it means only one thing: Ed Miliband is more likely to be in Downing Street next year.

Farage and Ukip want to pretend they have a broad base beyond the Conservatives but it is illusory.

Its northern presence is only in Labour bastions where the best they can hope for is to make up the opposition in a general election.

It is a party that has made a name for itself by collecting disillusioned ex-Tories and will continue to do so.

Neil Hamilton, Stuart Wheeler, Roger Helmer, Carswell and even Farage. Ex-Tories are their primary currency.

Carswell’s defection underlines that Ukip votes could stop enough Tory MPs being elected to seriously damage David Cameron.

Ed Miliband could be prime minister within months. That fact is more likely today than last week.

But our dear leader is still acting like a student politician. He needs to get serious about governing.

Bashing bankers, Murdoch and anyone wealthy is not an agenda for government.

What is Miliband’s foreign policy? How would he tackle the an emboldened Russia or rampant Isis?

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GRASSROOTS: Carswell’s defection is good for Ukip, bad for the Tories but could be best of all for Labour

29/08/2014, 09:30:05 AM

by Joe Coyne

I wonder if we’ll look back on Douglas Carswell’s resignation as the moment Labour won the general election.

His constituency is ripe Ukip territory. Old, white, not particularly well off.

If he gets in – and the bookies have made him odds on – it will show prospective Ukip voters that a vote for them is not necessarily a wasted vote. As a result we could be looking at a subtle but significant shift in the way  voters perceive Ukip.

While they’ve racked up plenty of support in recent local and European elections, the reality is that people tend to take their vote more seriously when they’re electing the next Prime Minister, rather than their local councillor.

But a breakthrough in Clacton could give them huge momentum and convince sympathisers that Ukip really are a serious option when it all gets serious next May and show a Ukip vote may well give you a Ukip MP.

Ukip have still got to win, and a lot can happen between now and polling day. Much will depend on Tory strategy but recent evidence suggests they’ll get it wrong and their tactics will make a Ukip victory more, rather than less likely.

What the Tories should do is position themselves as the anti-UKIP alliance; select a moderate, mildly Eurosceptic candidate and attack Ukip’s extremism and their competence by exposing the shallowness of their policies. That way they could draw in voters from other parties.

There’s no reason why the Tories can’t echo Labour’s warnings about the unfairness of a flat tax or the danger they pose to the NHS.

However, what I suspect they will do is foolishly play the game squarely on Ukip’s territory. Nigel Farage will want the by-election to be about Europe, immigration and welfare and the Tories will probably select a candidate and trumpet policies that they think will ‘appeal’ to Ukip voters, not realising that it’s a political dead end.

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UNCUT: Why has Labour been so slow to react to Rotherham?

28/08/2014, 09:04:05 AM

by Kevin Meagher

No-one can plausibly say they didn’t expect Professor Alexis Jay’s report into child sexual abuse in Rotherham to be ground-breaking. The signals have been there all along.

There was the damning Ofsted report into the council’s children’s services in 2009. The conviction of a gang of five Pakistani men for child abuse in 2010. Times’ journalist Andrew Norfolk’s further expose in 2012.  The Home Affairs Committee’s report in 2013. Then Rotherham Council commissioned Professor Jay to investigate and provide recommendations on what went wrong.

So, given it was nigh on inevitable that her report would identify grievous mistakes were made by public agencies in dealing with child sexual abuse, why was Labour not ready this week to dole out suspensions for those who had manifestly failed in their roles as Labour representatives?

Why was Roger Stone, the leader of Rotherham Council, not pushed out as soon as it was clear the scale of the abuse in the town was far worse than previously thought?

Why was South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright, not also told he would have to go, given the gravity of the offences on his watch as cabinet member for children’s services, when key reports alerting the council leadership to the problem were not actioned?

Why were Rotherham’s four MPs not out there from the start, reassuring the town that they too shared the anger of local people? Why were journalists complaining this week that they had to chase them for a reaction to the report?

Indeed, why was it hours before Labour’s frontbench responded? And why does Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper’s statement skate around the central issue: that the main perpetrators of this abuse were Pakistani men?

And in a week when the party announced a new frontbench portfolio for violence against women and girls, why was Seema Malhotra not immediately despatched to Rotherham to show solidarity with the abused young women of the town – and to engage with Pakistani women who told Professor Jay that the problem facing their community was being ignored?

Ultimately, why has Ed Miliband simply not demanded action? To show leadership, reassure core Labour voters, show he is in touch, or even just to defend Labour’s battered reputation?

And so we are left with Shaun Wright quitting the party in order to hang on as police commissioner and ride out his term, trousering £85,000 a year as he does so.

By dawdling, Labour, has now deprived itself of the opportunity to send him packing.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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UNCUT: Shaun Wright should go, but, really, why would he want to?

27/08/2014, 07:20:08 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of course Shaun Wright won’t resign as the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, why would he? For starters, he’s earning 85k a year and surely knows his political career is shredded. Ed Miliband has no mechanism to remove him, and if he can withstand the personal brickbats, he may think he can hang on in until his term of office ends in 2016. After all, he’s directly-elected so it’s his mandate, even it came courtesy of just 14.9 per cent of the electorate.

Indeed, given the government’s original intention with police and crime commissioners was to encourage independents to stand, Wright may consider that, unencumbered from party allegiance, he is an embodiment of the true spirit of what an elected police and crime commissioner should be.

He may even delude himself that he is the best person to actually fix what he is, in part, responsible for breaking. He was, after all, Rotherham Council’s executive member for children’s services between 2005-2010 when the abuses laid bare in Alexis Jay’s report were first reported to council chiefs but no action was taken.

For South Yorkshire Police, dealing with a snaking line of scandals ranging from Hillsborough to the fact it tasers someone every two weeks, Wright’s predicament represents something of an opportunity. With the commissioner effectively emasculated, power drains away from him and back to the Chief Constable and senior officers.

For South Yorkshire Police, this is the natural order of things. This is the force, let us not forget, that instituted a cover-up so large and mendacious after the Hillsborough disaster that it stretched from the then Chief Constable to frontline officers, who were instructed to fabricate witness statements to lay culpability at the door of innocent Liverpool fans. If ever a police force needed the disinfectant of public accountability, it is South Yorkshire’s.

None of this is to argue that Wright shouldn’t resign, he should. He is a disgrace. A busted flush. An embarrassment. But he is, unfortunately, symptomatic of a municipal political class that takes the money for ostensibly making decisions, but pays no attention, or simply isn’t smart enough, to actually understand the implications of those decisions.

This explains why he didn’t act to protect young girls from gang rape when he should have done.

And it is because of that shaming failure that he should quit today.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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UNCUT: The poor girls of Rotherham were victims of institutional anti-racism

27/08/2014, 04:48:01 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council – where everyone matters’. It’s an easy boast to emblazon on a corporate logo, but it’s a claim that didn’t stretch to the 1,400 local girls groomed, abused, raped and terrorised by vicious gangs of Pakistani-heritage men in the town.

There is no getting around that central fact. Yesterday’s independent report by Professor Alexis Jay into child sexual exploitation in the town was an indictment of the ‘institutional anti-racism’, that led educated, middle-class professionals in the council and police to ignore the evidence before them.

The report makes clear the perpetrators were overwhelmingly of Pakistani-heritage, although council and police officials sought to “downplay the ethnic dimension” through  a misplaced desire not to stoke community tensions. But denial of reality simply leads to inaction.

And what a sorry tale of inaction this was. Professor Jay quotes the council’s former deputy leader, Jahangir Akhtar, (forced to resign in 2013), who thought a spate of convictions against Pakistani-heritage men for child sexual exploitation in 2010 was “a one-off”. This, Professor Jay concludes, was “at best naïve, and at worst ignoring a politically inconvenient truth.”

The real truth is that Labour wants Pakistani votes, and, as in some many other towns, simply sub-contracts its relationship with minority communities to self-appointed community leaders who ‘deliver’ at election time. There is no interest in exploring problems from within these communities. This led, the report notes, to a “widespread perception” throughout the council that the race of offenders was a no-go area. Yet one of the most telling observations in the 153-page report came from Pakistani-heritage women in the town who believe there is “wholesale denial” of child sexual exploitation within their community.

But the girls of Rotherham were also guilty of shameful indifference by public authorities. Officers from South Yorkshire Police simply regarded these poor young women as “slappers”. This dovetails with the warped view of politically-correct social workers that girls as young as eleven were somehow making “informed choices” about whether to have sex with gangs of men. The net result was the same: this was not abuse as they had consented.

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UNCUT: This government has tacitly acknowledged its failure on anti-extremism. But Labour should examine its own conscience

27/08/2014, 09:14:31 AM

by Rob Marchant

Last week in Iraq, American journalist James Foley was murdered by Islamic State.

He was murdered savagely and painfully, and he was not even murdered in supposed punishment for a crime; it was merely to send a message to the West. If that were not enough, they then put a video of the whole killing on YouTube.

It is difficult to find words for the psychotic nature of both the killer and the twisted ideology which drove him, not just to kill, but to kill a quite innocent victim in such a way.

Above all, we should be disturbed to know that the perpetrator, from his accent, is thought to be almost certainly British.

How did we end up here? It is dispiriting enough that you can grow your own terrorists to bomb you, as happened in the London bombings of 2005. But to export your terrorists is, well, a bit careless.

Britain of all countries, it seems, is becoming the place where extremists can feel most at home, or even come here with the express intent of becoming radicalised. As Haras Rafiq of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, wrote yesterday, “London and the UK has been primed for this for decades”.

What is certain is that the government’s blasé approach to anti-extremism and anti-terrorism has not helped, as I wrote here two years ago. On coming to power, and egged on by Lib Dems with an interest in civil liberties sometimes bordering on obsession, the Tories largely dismissed the Labour’s rather effective Prevent anti-extremism programme, reducing its funding from £18m to £1m. As Rafiq puts it:

“When our Prime Minister says that his Government is going to redouble the efforts to stop youngsters being radicalised – the redoubling of zero still equals zero.”

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UNCUT: Labour must rise to the challenge of Iraq and Syria

26/08/2014, 09:34:01 AM

by Jonathan Todd

A monopoly on violence is a pithy definition of statehood derived from Max Weber. On these terms, thugs in the Middle East have recently achieved this standard. There was a gang in the East End of London, the Krays, who did the same in the 1960s. The People’s Republic wasn’t then declared. This waited for Lutfur Rahman.

The key word that I’ve missed from Weber’s definition is legitimate. The violence visited on James Foley is no more legitimate than that of the Krays. That’s why James Kirkup insists that Foley’s killing was a murder, a criminal act, not an execution, something states do to breakers of their most important rules.

Ken Livingstone, who has topped Labour’s NEC “constituency reps” ballot, helped Rahman to his current status. Livingstone’s victory indicates the strength of Labour’s left, which tends to be more suspicious than the Labour right of military intervention and the motives of the US, as well as quicker to explain Islamic extremism in terms of the perceived failings of the west.

If ISIS doesn’t prompt the Labour left to consider military intervention, will anything? If US bombing of ISIS, in an attempt to avert genocide, doesn’t justify support from the Labour left for US action, will they ever support such action? If the brutal murder of an American, a civilian only seeking to do his job as a journalist, can be explained in terms of supposed US failings, can’t everything?

The Labour left might now be questioning their presumptions. Or maybe not, maybe the Iraq war’s shadow remains too long. As David Miliband, often dismissed as a Blairite by the left, has recently conceded, the outcome of that war “induces a high degree of humility”. Therefore, if the Labour left are now reassessing, they are doing what the Labour right has done for the past decade.

I wrote recently that Labour needs new thinking on the Middle East. Atul Hatwal has provided some – arguing the case for a pragmatic approach to President Assad in Syria. And Lord Glasman has too – advocating that we be pro-Kurdish, pro-Iranian and pro-Christian.

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UNCUT: British policy is imprisoned by the past – it needs to be free to fight the threat we face

22/08/2014, 02:35:31 PM

by Pat McFadden

The Prime Minister has hardly communicated energy in the fight against Islamist extremism with his yo yoing holiday plans but it’s not his physical location that matters most – it is the lack of a strong and clear plan to fight the battle in which we are engaged.

The ISIS killing spree targeting Christians, Yazidis and fellow Muslims, and the brutal horrific murder of American journalist James Foley should leave us in no doubt, if there was any in the first place, that we have to face up to the threat posed by the ideology which drives these actions.

The Prime Minister terms this a generational struggle.  He is right about that.  Yet he cannot bring himself to will the means to fight it because government decision making is imprisoned by the past, in particular by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and by the Prime Minister’s immediate decision following last year’s Parliamentary vote on Syria to take the option of military intervention off the table.

Public opinion in both the UK and the US is war weary for understandable reasons. Many lives have been lost and many brave young servicemen and women have suffered life altering injuries as a result of long military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yet opting out of this battle is neither possible nor in the end desirable because we have to defend our way of life, stand up for our freedoms and combat an ideology of mass murder based on a gross perversion of faith. We don’t have a choice about whether to engage in this fight.  If we don’t go to it, it is coming to us.

In that regard, the government’s decision a couple of years ago to abolish Control Orders and give terror suspects in the UK new freedoms to move around the country and access the internet – and to put a sunset clause on the weakened regime even if the threat level posed by the person had not changed – now looks even more reckless and irresponsible than it did at the time.

The wrong analysis led to the wrong policy.  The Government came to office believing that the laws of the land posed a threat to our liberty.  But while security and liberty always have to be carefully balanced it is not the law of the land – heavily scrutinised by parliament and the judiciary – which poses a threat to our freedoms.  That threat is posed by the ideology which saw James Foley beheaded on the internet and which would inspire the people who carried out this crime to target people in this country too.

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UNCUT: In the face of nihilistic Islamism, there are only bad options and worse ones

21/08/2014, 04:20:53 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Yesterday, four suspects were arrested in the ongoing investigation into parcel bombs sent to army recruitment offices across southern England earlier this year. This is part of a renewed campaign by Republican dissidents in the New IRA.  They are dangerous and uncompromising and believe the mainstream republican movement has sold out its principles by settling for less than full British withdrawal from Ireland and the immediate reunification of the country.

They remain committed to ideals enunciated by Theobold Wolfe Tone in 1798 and transmitted to them via the Irish Declaration of Independence, the War of Independence, the republican side of the Irish Civil War and the Provisional IRA during the Troubles.

Yet theirs is still a creed borne of the Enlightenment; a desire, as they see it, for a sovereign Irish republic where liberty, equality and fraternity for all is realised – once the yoke of the oppressor is cast off.  If minded, they can be engaged with, negotiated with and pacified. None of that is to say they should be, merely to point out there is a basis to do so.

The difference with the Islamic Jihadi violence playing out in Iraq and Syria is that it’s brutality is not only indiscriminate but it’s driven by a politio-religious philosophy that is so doctrinaire, so other-worldly, so unsophisticated, so laughably unrealisable and so totally unamenable to reason, that there is not only no chance of agreement – ever – there is no basis even for dialogue.

Who does John Kerry or Philip Hammond reach out to, even if they wanted to, to avert the horror of the IS beheading another captured Westerner?   Even a consummate dealmaker like the late Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, happy to talk to anyone in order to rattle the Northern Ireland peace process along, would throw up his hands in despair.

What do we say to the hooded and scarfed figures jabbering on about infidels in Muslim lands?  What appeals to decency, international harmony, respect for human rights or enlightened self-interest can be made to barbarians who want to impoverish and enslave us all in a worldwide Caliphate?

This total lack of options means two things. Either we tiptoe around the false grievances of Jihadists, ignoring the brutality, mass murder and ethnic cleansing of the Islamic State – or whichever lunatic organisation comes next – in order to avoid becoming a target of its exportable evil, or we seek to overcome it.

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