The Rotherham abuse is merely yet another facet of the disastrous biraderi politics Labour has nurtured

by Rob Marchant

While Westminster’s attention is distracted by Scotland, it is gradually becoming abundantly clear that the grooming of young, white girls by Pakistani-heritage men goes way beyond Rotherham. Last week Uncut’s Kevin Meagher highlighted the next few likely police targets in Greater Manchester and this Left Foot Forward piece gives a first-hand account of grooming in a town in the South.

The true shock for many was not so much the crimes, horrific though they were. The true shock was the conspiracy of silence around them, both inside the Pakistani community and outside it.

And that is not, one likes to think, because we are intrinsically a nation of racists casting around for a reason to heap abuse on British Pakistanis among us, but mostly for the opposite reason: we didn’t want to believe that there could be a clear link between a particular culture and a particularly nasty crime.

There is a link, of course, but it is not a simplistic one: clearly a small number of Rotherham’s population have not become rapists because of the colour of their skin, or where they worship.

What, then, is that link and why should it be anything to do with Labour?

It’s an uncomfortable question, but it’s also one which we really need to ask.

For a long time, as we highlighted in Labour’s manifesto uncut (Chapter 2, section 2), Labour has had a cosy – too cosy – relationship with some ethnic communities around the country. Not all, but some. A few are Sikh. Most are Muslim, from Pakistan or Bangladesh.

And the deal goes like this: we will scratch your back, and you will scratch ours. We will support you and mute our criticism of the odd dodgy practice, and you will get out the vote in your communities and deliver it for our candidates. This is not particularly difficult when there often exist numerous members of a given extended family who will, either by habit or peer pressure, vote the same way.

A perfect example of this, as has been clocked before at Uncut, is the manipulation of membership lists during parliamentary selections, which has resulted in thirteen CLPs being put in “special measures”. It is admirable that something has been done in these thirteen; not so good that the approach to this ever-worsening problem is to contain it, rather than solve it.

We seem unable to face the plain fact that these thirteen are virtually all for the same reason: the importation of biraderi (clan) politics, or similar, to our committee rooms. The culture is to protect one’s own, but with that protection goes a strong obligation to toe the community line.

In addition, the council – and the police – often choose to approach the community over sensitive issues through “community leaders”: imams or other local figures who claim to speak for those sharing their religious or cultural background. Those (often self-appointed) leaders are not necessarily the first people to want to wash the community’s dirty laundry in public.

And sometimes the community reacts against them anyway: Bradford West, as Demos’ David Goodhart wrote, was largely about young Asians annoyed with the arrogant assumption that they would automatically vote the way the biraderi advised.

More disturbingly, the leading lights of local government still have a not inconsiderable influence over the police, even now the PCC structure has mostly removed their direct power. A streetwise Chief Constable will try and keep the local dignitaries on side, and so the preference for “not disturbing community relations” can slowly become a dogma.

The equation is simple: diminish the fear of punishment for some crimes and incidents will, well, increase.

The toxicity of this kind of relationship is that it corrupts both sides. The politicians, who start to think that this kind of back-scratching behaviour is normal. And, of course, in the communities themselves, where a handful of dishonest or sick individuals end up in an environment where they find they can commit crimes with impunity.

Child abuse, like honour killing, is the far end of the spectrum, of course, but it is like the “broken windows” approach of former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani: lesser evils, tolerated over a period of years, make a corrosive soup. In recent years we have seen serious allegations of corruption, professional misconduct, misuse of public funds and electoral fraud in Labour or pseudo-Labour “independent” councils.

Alternatively, if an investigator were short on time, they could just scratch around superficially in Tower Hamlets, where there are allegations of pretty much all these things in the same place.

Take elections. As early as 2008, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation wrote, in Purity of elections in Britain: causes for concern, about “anecdotal evidence” of the biraderi link to British Asians (the report specifically mentions Pakistani Kashmiris and Bangladeshis).

But the evidence is no longer merely anecdotal, if it ever was. As Democratic Audit pointed out in 2010, British Asians made up more than half of all those convicted of electoral fraud in the preceding decade – extraordinary in an ethnic group which constitutes only 7% of the UK population. Should we ignore this inconvenient fact, or deal with it?

And now to Labour’s role in all this. It has not been the only party to have been associated with the negative impacts of the biraderi system. But it has probably been the worst, for three reasons.

The first is just demographics: Labour is the party of the inner cities, and therefore deals with biraderi more than any other party. Simples.

The second is that it knows about the “cosiness” problem in numerous local parties and councils, – one which is obviously getting worse not better, judging by the “special measures” metric – but has not put in place any kind of strategy at party level to actually combat it. It needs one. “One more heave” by Labour in Tower Hamlets, for example, will not fix the serious flaws in the borough’s politics.

The third? All the while, too many in Muslim communities generally have been busy isolating themselves into parallel worlds, as Dan Hodges pointed out last week. Meanwhile, we play identity politics with them. We allow them to separate their schools from the mainstream. We speak to them only through their self-appointed leaders. We fail to call out specific community problems which cry out for attention, for fear of being branded racists.

These facets of “different” treatment all originated on the left, with us. And then we are amazed when British Pakistanis and Bangladeshis feel different. Isolated. Victims, even: a deadly narrative which the extremists in their midst are all too happy to peddle, to further their own, poisonous agenda.

Imagine a dynamic of reinforcing a community’s feeling of “otherness” over long years and, at the same time telling them – as David Aaronovitch recently described Obama’s foreign policy – that “the cops have left town”. Anything can, and will, happen.

Labour seems utterly in denial about the impact of its own party’s behaviour in all this. To his credit, this week Simon Danzcuk MP called out the Pakistani link, while understandably stopping short of naming his own party.

But Miliband does not even mention the elephant in the room in his statement on Rotherham, let alone have a strategy for dealing with his party’s own unhealthy relationship with that community and others. How long before the thirteen CLPs become twenty, fifty?

Labour is not the sole culprit, naturally. Neither can we put all the responsibility on Miliband: it is shared by all its leaders since 1 May 1997. They left the party organisation to its own devices, as Tony Blair freely admits in A Journey.

But it is, of all parties, the most complicit. After all this, we can hardly be amazed when biraderi politics is found to have replicated itself over here, along with all its failings.

And with the insular, even above-the-law, culture which we have helped foster under Labour councils, even its most extreme manifestations – of disturbed young men evolving into murderous jihadis off to Syria, or abusers of young girls back home – should not entirely surprise us, either.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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12 Responses to “The Rotherham abuse is merely yet another facet of the disastrous biraderi politics Labour has nurtured”

  1. Tafia says:

    Oh, so after all the years of molly-coddling, cosying, and fore-lock touching to the biraderi system ( I have a decade of first hand knowledge of biraderi in Oldham and how corrupt, vote manipulative and blatantly fraudulent it is – and publicly) you are now deciding it’s probably not a good thing. But I will lay money it continues

  2. John Reid says:

    If there’s not a way of stopping councils and police authorities from letting this happen , Labour ought to have an enquiry afterward ,to stop this sort of infiltration, and turning a blind eye ,re emerging in our party later on.

    Brilliant article, this must not be ignored at all costs,

  3. Dave Roberts. says:

    Superlative article. You should have mentioned the defection of all of the Respect MPs from the party, they all now stand as independents. I have blogged elsewhere, and possibly here as well, that the whole issue of immigration and race is a real problem for Labour and as you say one that Miliband studiously avoids.

    At a time when all of this is blowing up in is and other faces he allows Dianne Abbot and Sadiq Khan to posture on a national stage demanding ethnic minority shortlists. Click on the David Goodhart link on the article and see the ridiculous responses from Abbott. She can’t even get the story straight for five minutes.

    It may well be that there is more bad news to come when the reports about Tower Hamlets finances and electoral malpractices arrive very shortly. Last Friday and this Monday just gone the Islamist regime of Lutfur Rahman lost two High Court applications. The first was over the financial investigation by PwC accountants and the second a private petition to the electoral Court over electoral irregularities.

    The stance of the Rowntree Foundation report is really interesting as they were funders of some of the most voluble deniers of wrong doing like Operation Black Vote and the women that ” General” Lee Jasper wanted to ” honey glaze”, Karen Chouan, was a Rowntree ” visionary”. What she could see that the rest of us couldn’t remains to be seen.

    It is good to see the Labour Party, at least those in it like yourselves, beginning to take this seriously but whether or not the situation can be retrieved before the elections I am not sure.

    A total mess entirely of Labour’s making and we are going to pay an electoral price for it.

  4. Tafia says:

    Dave Roberts – “It is good to see the Labour Party, at least those in it like yourselves, beginning to take this seriously but whether or not the situation can be retrieved before the elections I am not sure.”

    Not a chance. Labour has got to tell the Pakistani & Bangla Communities that they have got to stop this, stop it now and disassemble it. That all Labour members and elected representatives are to walk away from it, have nothing further to do with it or anyone connected to it. That it is to be condemned publicly at every turn along with individuals still connected. And they simply do not have the balls (or the backbone or the moral superiority). The same goes for the LibDems who are also scrotum deep in the biraderi system.

  5. Cyclefree says:

    Given Labour’s 35% strategy those Biradiri votes are going to be needed. So fat chance of any change happening.

    Labour’s message to women is to get lost and put up with the violence, rape , denial of education, honour killings, forced marriages for the greater good.

    Of course, if there is a child abuse scandal involving Tories the cries of attack from Labour will be deafening. Pity the poor girls of Rotherham and elsewhere: not pretty enough like Sienna Miller, not possessed of savvy PR advisors like Hugh Grant and so not worthy of having Ed M stand by them.

  6. Dave Roberts. says:

    Tafia. Where is your evidence that the writer of this piece is, in your words,guilty of ” molly-coddling, cosying and forelock touching to the Biraderi system”? I aven’t been able to find any evidence, perhaps you could help us.

    I was also wondering, wile we are on the subject, what happened to all of the ” Bradford Spring tee shirts produced by Philosophy Football, sold by The Guardian and promoted by the loony left? Any ideas anyone?

  7. Michael Worcester says:

    Q. Will Labour weaken any of the Tory laws on non EU immigration?

    A. No one knows because they of frightened to take a position either way.

  8. Tafia says:

    Dave Roberts. says: Tafia. Where is your evidence that the writer of this piece is, in your words,guilty of ” molly-coddling, cosying and forelock touching to the Biraderi system”? I haven’t been able to find any evidence, perhaps you could help us.

    I thought it was fairly apparent that ‘you’ (you are now deciding it’s probably not a good thing.) meant the Labour Party collectively not Marchant as an individual – unless of course you think Marchant holds sway over scores of CLPs along the M62 belt.

  9. @DaveRoberts: Thanks for your kind words. More bad news is surely to come from Tower Hamlets, although tempered by the fact that Rahman is no longer a party member. Diane Abbott’s comments on the Goodhart piece were nonsensical – as if a black woman of West Indian descent somehow understands a Bradford Muslim by dint of neither being white.

    And no, I’m not quite sure what Tafia is talking about, either.

    @MichaelWorcester: I don’t think anyone seriously thinks that non-EU immigration is what has caused either the shifts in public opinion on immigration or actual strain on public services in recent years. It’s from the EU, particularly from the East.

    @Cyclefree: “if there is a child abuse scandal involving Tories” – I think we’re a bit late for the “if” qualifier.

  10. Tafia says:

    And no, I’m not quite sure what Tafia is talking about, either.

    What I’m talking about is the FACT that the biraderi system is not only openly used by the Labour party in areas such as Oldham, Rochdale, Bury and across the M62 belt, but is deeply embedded in the local Labour parties as well. Certainly all 3 Labour MPs in Oldham openly use it to produce votes as do many of the Labour councillors. The only way to stop that is as I said – stop using it, openly and publicly condemn and vilify it, and ban Labour party members from being involved in it. But of you don’t then it will just continue. And I don’t believe Labour has the balls to stop it. It would gut their local parties and a fair few councillors would face expulsion and possibly 1 or 2 MPs

  11. Tafia says:

    Just a few examples about how Labour has known about th biraderi problem for well over a decade at least and has consistently NOT done anything about it – in fact quite the opposite, continued and continues to use it.

    The problem has been known about and publicly, for years but the fact of the matter is Labour is scared of purging it for fear of alienating voters from the Pakistani & Bangla communities and so it will continue no matter how much hand-wringing goes on. Basically Labour is complicit in voter fraud, discrimination against women and using public funds and grants in order to buy bloc votes. What does it intend to do about it? errrrm, nothing actually other than continue.

    August 2003
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3181851.stm

    December 2003
    http://www.hindustantimes.com/news-feed/nm2/caste-system-thrives-in-british-asian-politics/article1-9051.aspx

    May 2008
    http://twocircles.net/2008may03/british_ministers_silent_biraderi_system_reasons_vote.html

    June 2012
    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/the-northerner/2012/jun/12/bradford-edmiliband-muslim-women-george-galloway-respect-labour

  12. Giles says:

    Finally, someone on the left who gets it! The first public figure to talk of this prosecuted twice. The first MP to speak slandered as a racist. The first TV programme shelved for fears it would help the far right. The author of the first Rotherham report sentenced to diversity training. And testimony from MacShane that he turned a blind eye so as not to rock the multicultural boat. Yet Guardianistas still deny the role of PC!
    Labour was the party I first voted for. Thereafter I voted Socialist Alliance in 2001, Lib Dem in 2005 and Conservative in 2010. In 2015 I shall vote UKIP, holding my nose. Yet I am as “left” as ever by my own understanding of defending the vulnerable. It was learning of this scandal that contributed to my voting Tory in 2010 and is the sole reason I shall be voting UKIP. I will never again vote for the party that unleashed rape gangs on our children because they were scared of a word.

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