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.
Rotherham is also a classic local government scandal too. As usual, no-one in a position of power thought they should carry the can. Roger Stone, Rotherham’s Leader (until forced out by party high-ups yesterday) said his decision to resign was “not an easy one for me to make”.
Similarly Shaun Wright, now South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, but a former Rotherham cabinet member with responsibility for children’s services from 2005-2010, during a period when it was clear what was going on, doesn’t feel he should go. He won’t last the week.
Most of the abuse occurred in the Rotherham constituency, represented until 2012 by Denis MacShane. The same man jailed for fiddling his expenses as he swanned around Europe, leaving these poor children in his constituency with no-one to fight for them.
Frankly, all of Rotherham’s councillors and MPs, past and present through this period, should be ashamed. There should be a clear-out of everyone involved with any aspect of the mismanagement and cover-up that yesterday’s report revealed.
For God’s sake, why worry about the psychopaths of Boko Haram when we are so willing to tolerate the rape, torture and abuse of girls in own towns?
Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut