Why has Labour been so slow to react to Rotherham?

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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22 Responses to “Why has Labour been so slow to react to Rotherham?”

  1. John Reid says:

    The Seema Malhotra point, makes sense, and Yvette Cooper skating around the fact they were Asian men,speaks for itself,
    Labour has to the power to suspend people from the party straight away, as it did last week, for a whole CLP, this is another militant, Ed knew it was a tough job being labour leader, as Neil Kinnock,a Michael Foot, a Blair and a brown, proved,he’s not upto it, he should have known he’d have days like these, and dealt with it

  2. Joe's uncle says:

    Do you know what? Abusing little children who are actually often in the care and under the protection of the Government is one of the worst things grown-up men can do. It is tantamount to murder (one child had petrol poured all over her), it is tantamount to rape (yup – that was, apparently done in public and nobody moved to stop it). It is barbarity in our once proudly working class communities.
    Who were the people who were caring for these poor children? Didn’t they get a lot of government money for being in loco parentis? Who is going after them? Have they still got young children under their protection?

    So we get all hot under the collar when Rolfie gets done for a little fumble. We get incensed when Maxie shows his willie to naive wannabees. We get all righteous about the late Sir Jimmy. Sir Cliff Richard very narrowly escaped destruction.

    Meanwhile, when in our biggest conurbations – mine is Peterborugh – Muslim men (yup – all Muslim) go pig sticking we turn a blind eye. Because we CARE.

    Get a grip! PS Read Guido Fawkes blog to see what has happened to the people in charge of the children in their care today. It will not surprise you, I am sure.

  3. Mark Colburn says:

    Considering that these allegations are not new, how was Shaun Wright even selected? The Party has to take a long look at itself. We have allowed powerful men to abuse young girls. This fact should be a cause of shame for every male party member.

    I expect that Lab will be severely punished by the voters of Rotherham. Again the party will leave the required purge of councillors to the electors. The response of MPs is the standard one of keep your head down until it blows over. But they need to understand that this is a form of collusion.

    The leadership is indolent when it should be actively undertaking a reformation of the Rotherham Labour Group (the one thing that is within its power to do).

    Why should any woman believe what Lab promises when it’s response to this crime is so woefully short of what is required?

  4. Michael Taylor says:

    The answer to all these questions is that Rotherham has been a one-party state, and as in all such states, they decline into self-serving cesspools of corruption. What has been revealed in Rotherham is probably the most shocking thing I have ever seen in my life, and I hope I don’t live to see a worse.

    What is needed now is for the national Labour Party to throw this lot to the wolves, and get in front of the obvious public desire that those prepared to turn a blind eye (at best – god knows what levels of collusion will be found eventually) get put before the courts and jailed damned quick.

    This is no time for the Labour Party to be ‘protecting its own’. Look where it’s led!

  5. dwll says:

    Excellent piece, as is Al Razi’s article about this over at Left Foot Forward. But while it’s welcome to see some acknowledgment from the left that the perpetrators were Pakistani-heritage men, it is deeply depressing that it has taken this long. The contents of Professor Jay’s report should not be a shock to anyone who has been following this issue for the last 5-10 years but throughout that time liberal-left politicians, blogs and newspaper commentators have tried their very hardest to deny and deflect attention away from the obvious race issue.

    I am a former Labour member but doubt I will ever vote for the party again. Liberal credentials were clearly more important than protecting children from poor backgrounds from being gang-raped and that is truly unforgivable. What happened to these girls was nothing short of hate crime, but the equality and diversity agenda so championed by Labour only challenges certain types of discrimination. The vicious prejudice towards white women and girls from large parts of the muslim community has been inexplicably considered to be off-limits.

    Labour also needs to think long and hard about the growth in popularity of movements like the EDL and UKIP in traditionally Labour white-working class areas. Is this really just a surge in right-wing populism fuelled by ignorance and tabloid fear-mongering as the liberal-left likes to assume? Or might it actually be a response to the genuine fear of the violence and hostility they have experienced and the obvious unwillingness of the public authorities and the political establishment to protect them from it?

  6. BenM says:

    It’s all Ed Miliband’s fault!

    We could expect nothing less from Labour List writers!

    Notwithstanding most of the appalling acts covered by the report happened in the period under their hero Tony Blair’s tenure as PM.

    How about some contrition there too, eh?

  7. bob says:

    Kevin:

    You raise many points, why the silence of the Labour party, which proclaims itself to be the party of the working class and people, and lets be clear these victims were from the ‘working class’. When the labour MP for Keigthly and Nick Griffin both raised this issue, they were decried as racist, intolerant, and the CPS twice prosecuted Griffin and he was found not guilty by the courts for speaking the truth.

    This council, police and local labour Party must have known what was happening, and did nothing, but what of the Labour Secretary’s of State for Education and the one’s for Health and others know and did nothing. What of the current shadow Chancellor, he was the Secretary of State when this was going on, has he taken a Trappist view of silence. Where is the shadow Justice minister, again silent. The Labour hierarchy have only come out of the woodwork once Wright had resigned and not before.

    Miliband has had enough problems in his Doncaster constituency, with that social services department being taken over by an external agency.

    The comment in the past about the redoubtable Mrs Gillian Duffy, ‘who was that bigoted woman’ when she raised question of immigration and it was all Sue’s fault, goes to show mindset of the politicians at the top of the Labour Party. What about Hewitt Harman and Dromey and the work for NCCL and PIE again goes to mindset.

    This was and is a Labour council, just wait until the next council elections, and unless you have a ballot stuffing operation as has happened in the past in other places I suspect UKIP are a shoe in. The Labour party has sickened the electorate by its inaction and complicity in the abuse of children by sickening perverts.

    Those who are involved, should face investigation from an external police force, preferably the Australian federal Police or the RCMP, who will not be influenced by people in any UK force who wants to climb the promotional greasy pole if they are tasked with investigating council police and perpetrators. The employee’s of Rotherham council, South Yorkshire Police and NHS who were involved and did nothing should be charged with ‘misfeasance in public office’ and ‘conspiracy to pervert the course of justice’ CHILD ABUSE IS A CRIME, and by reading the earlier reports they were informed and did NOTHING, therefore the CPS should be prosecuting them.

  8. Rallan says:

    Why has Labour been so slow to react to Rotherham? Because they don’t really care. The Labour response is about political tactics & positioning.

  9. Madasafish says:

    Why has Labour been so slow to react to Rotherham?

    Multiculturism : no-one wants to admit it’s a disaster.
    Labour politics- no-one wants to admit Labour led Rotherham council has been a disaster.
    Cover up- no-one wants to admit it’s obviously been a big cover up.
    Asians: no-one wants to admit it’s a huge problem among the Pakistani community and deliberately ignored by the councilors who were of Pakistani origin.
    Liberal elite: the Labour Party is run by a liberal elite who don’t like having their cherished ideals and beliefs trashed.
    UKIP: no-one likes admitting UKIP are right on immigration.

    And finally BNP – often vilified for their racist attitudes, they have been proven right in this one instance.

  10. Useful Idiots says:

    As Guido pointed out, Ed M’s Twitter posts are remarkably silent on Rotherham, but he is comfortable having a crow over Carswell.

    If Ed is determined to remain on the moral high ground on behalf of the himself and the Labour Party, this poor performance will undercut the position

  11. paul barker says:

    “Why has Labour been so slow to react”? Because Milliband & Co have calculated that the best way to kill this story is to say as little as they can get away with & hope the Media lose interest. The Carswell defection will be an enormous help in that respect but there the Independence Referendum, Iraq, Ukraine all crowding Rotheram out of the headlines. The Labour high command have made a totally cynical calculation that silence & inactivity are their best option & they may get away with it.

  12. John reid says:

    BenM, I assume you mean labour uncut, not labourlist, as there’s no comments on labourlist, but your view that people here are wrongly blaming Ed am, look at the headline,it sys we’ve been re markedly silent,and add m is the leader, as fir Blair as a MP he helped get rid militant, we’ve 20years ago sorted our Hackney council, and other examples of getting in debt, but the fact is this case was hardly heard if 20years ago,but because of councils hiding it, Blair would have had a team deal with it,

  13. steve says:

    “Ultimately, why has Ed Miliband simply not demanded action?”

    Well, he hasn’t demanded “action” on Blair who was complicit in the needless deaths of UK service personnel and 100,000s of civilians.

    Those who failed to take responsibility in Rotherham appear to be following Blair’s example in thinking they’re entitled to get away with it.

    The rot started at the top.

  14. Tafia says:

    heard if 20years ago,but because of councils hiding it, Blair would have had a team deal with it,

    You missed a word – because of Labour councils hiding it. Once you accept that, it then means Blair’s New Labour totally lacked any supervisory management ability or was implicit in the cover-ups or both.

    Labour needs to sort it’s in-house mess out. It needs to do it quickly, it needs to do it severely and it needs to do it very very publicly. But I know, you know and everyone reading this knows that thety won’t do that – because they are cowards and because they lack actual leadership. This can only be done by one person giving orders and making the rest do it – instead they’ll form a committee and produce a statement that will contain buzzwords – ‘safeguards’, ‘collaboration’, ‘colleagues’, ‘going forward’.

    And very quickly the right wing press which is most of it) is going to start publicly shredding Labour because they can and because it’s fun and because they deserve no better.

    W@nkers.

  15. wg says:

    Another aspect of this that slightly surprises me is that Labour has, rightly, encouraged more women to take up positions of power. Being old fashioned I have always believed women to be the more caring part of humanity.

    Where were the women when all this was going on – for hell’s sake the MP is a woman; are the wrong type of women being recruited – are they so willing to put their ambition before the wholesale rape of children?

  16. bob says:

    wg: yes, they’d sacrifice their first born for political advancement.

  17. dwll says:

    wg – Sarah Champion was only elected in 2012, the Rotherham MP prior to that who could have done more was Denis MacShane who said this week that “there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat” and that “as a true Guardian reader, and a liberal leftie, I suppose I didn’t want to raise that too hard”.

    Which speaks volumes about the mindset that allowed this appalling suffering to continue on a mass scale. He also used the interview to promote his book so his conscience clearly isn’t troubling him too much.

  18. John reid says:

    4 days and Eds spoke

  19. chrisb says:

    ‘Why has Labour been so slow to react to Rotherham?’

    Money, votes, power.

    Throw in contempt for white working-class children and hypocrisy in the name of multiculturalism.

    Does anyone seriously believe that the same hasn’t happened in another town?

  20. David Pavett says:

    I see that Yvette Cooper has reacted to the Rotherham report with the usual ‘We must make new rules which will ensure that this can’t happen again’ approach. She said:

    “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.”

    I am not necessarily opposed to mandatory reporting but it is a big mistake to think that new rules will do all the work. What is much more important is the way our politics works in local and national government and in our political parties. People have been warning about this problem for years. They have taken their concerns to leading national and local politicians. And still nothing was done.

    I think that Labour needs to hold an inquiry into what its 49 Councillors in Rotherham knew about the problem (they all knew about it unless they were asleep on the job and that in itself should be regarded as negligence of the highest order). Even more importantly it needs to ask what they did about it. They had report after report about the issue in Rotherham. What was the local Labour Party doing? I think that we need to know this. If Yvette Cooper is serious about wanting a change of “culture” on CSA matters then she should want to know too. I guess that conducting such an inquiry, which would be virtually certain to reveal appalling negligence and worse, would be thought to be detrimental to Labour’s campaigning for the general election. I guess too that that is why it will not happen.

    Someone needs to explain that culture cannot be reduced to legislation. Where there is a will to do so legislation will always be circumvented. Much more important is the politicians both local and national actually (1) do their job, and (2) discuss what they are doing and why with as many colleagues as possible. This clearly was not happening in Rotherham and I suspect it is not happening, to various effects, up and down the country on a wide range of issues. Most of us know councillors who don’t have a clue what is going on and who are completely incapable of serious participation in informed democratic debate. This needs to be discussed as a gigantic democratic deficit in the processes of local government.

    Why were the issues repeatedly identified in Rotherham, and elsewhere, not taken up through the Labour Party so that it could use its weight to act on behalf of child victims? Why do we have to have the reports of abuse of both the young and the old year in a year out without any sign of our politicians doing more than reacting to reports when they make the news but leaving our moribund political culture untouched?

    According to the Observer “Labour is also planning to make the cover-up or concealment of known child abuse a criminal offence”. I am not a legal expert but surely covering up or concealing a crime is already a criminal offence. Does it help to invent a new specific offence when the general offence is already sufficient? Or is its purpose more to do with being seen to do something?

    P.S. I hope that Ken Livingstone is going to reply to Ann Cryer’s complaint that he did not want to take the CSA issue up when she raised it with him.

  21. John Reid says:

    Well said David Pavert

  22. Hugo says:

    The Labour Party will do nothing about Rotherham because it sees muslim votes. It sees that the muslim population grows by 1 million per decade and that it wins more and more seats from muslim support. The fact that Islam is completely against our beliefs – of freedom of speech, separation of state and religion, womens rights, corporal punishment, capital punishment, gay rights – and more – is to nowt. Muslims are not white and therefore anything they do is acceptable, a sacrifice at the politically correct alter or multiculturalism.

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