Corbyn’s silence over child abuse in Islington is typical of how he picks and chooses his causes

by Richard Scorer

“After that meeting, we never heard another thing. No letter, no phone call, I never, ever saw him speak about it. In fact, whenever I saw Jeremy afterwards, at Stop The War marches and events like that, I’d always go up to him and say: ‘This scandal is still going on, Jeremy.’ He’d be very polite, but he never did anything.”

These are the words of Liz Davies, a former social worker who tried to blow the whistle on the sexual abuse of children in council-run care homes in Islington in the 1980s and 1990s. Davies was talking recently to the Daily Mail about her attempts to persuade her local MP, Jeremy Corbyn, to support victims and whistleblowers -and his silence on a major public scandal.

For readers unfamiliar with events in Islington, a brief synopsis: in the 1980s and 1990s, children were abused in Islington council care homes on a shocking scale. An official report in 1995 blamed the scandal on the policies of Islington’s hard left council, which came to power in 1982, and condemned its response in damning terms. A particularly abhorrent feature was the way whistleblowers were accused of homophobia, and victims derided: the then council leader eventually had to apologise to one of the victims for dismissing his allegations as those of an “extremely disturbed person.”

It’s pretty indisputable that throughout this appalling saga, Corbyn remained virtually silent; apart from a couple of brief statements in the early 90s calling for allegations to be investigated, he said next to nothing. This, it should be remembered, was a long-running scandal in Corbyn’s own constituency, and over the same decades, Corbyn called for public inquiries into Bloody Sunday, Iraq and the death of anti-nuclear protester Hilda Murrell. Not to mention the tendering process for local bus routes.

The Daily Mail piece aside, Corbyn’s lamentable record over child abuse in Islington has attracted little comment. John Mann, the Labour MP and anti-abuse campaigner, recently published an open letter accusing Corbyn of “doing nothing” to prevent the abuse.

“Your inaction in the 1980s and 1990s says a lot – not about your personal character, which I admire, but about your politics, which I do not.”

In Mann’s view, Corbyn’s failure to speak up makes him unfit to be party leader. But Mann’s criticisms gained little traction. Corbyn supporters dismissed the story as a right wing smear – a “new low.”

So is it?  In Corbyn’s defence, he was the local MP, not the council, so he bears no direct culpability. In ignoring growing evidence of institutional child abuse, he was hardly unique in Westminster.

A handful of MPs – Simon Danczuk, John Mann, Tom Watson, Sarah Champion- have taken up the cudgels, but most have ignored the subject entirely. You could argue that Corbyn’s record on child abuse falls into this category- he should have said more, but so should many others.

I don’t think this defence quite stacks up.  Corbyn’s supporters portray him as a man of principle and integrity, so different from those endlessly triangulating New Labour careerists.  They claim that Corbyn has been prepared to back unpopular causes, but that history has proved him right.

Personally, I don’t find either claim at all convincing.  Like most politicians who’ve been around for a long time, Corbyn has been right about some things. He’s been wrong about a lot more. Of course we should acknowledge his tireless campaigning against apartheid. But the claim that Corbyn displayed courage and foresight in inviting Gerry Adams to London weeks after the Brighton bombing hardly bears scrutiny. Yes, we eventually made peace with the IRA, but only because it abandoned armed struggle; Corbyn, bluntly, wanted to surrender to IRA violence – a recipe for a bloodbath, not a peace settlement.

As David Aaronovitch pointed out in Times recently, Corbyn’s blindness over tyrants like Milosevic shows him to be a man not on the right side of history, but more often on the wrong side of it.

No one doubts Corbyn’s political zeal, or his personal decency. But when you look at his track record, and set his repeated denunciations of Israel and the US against his silence over Srebrenica, or IRA atrocities, or Putin’s murders of his opponents, you realise his much vaunted commitment to human rights isn’t anything of the kind.

The causes, and the victims, dear to Corbyn are simply the ones which fit a hard left template:   It’s not about whether you’re a victim, but about who you’re a victim of. For Corbyn, some victims of human rights abuses are more deserving than others.

The problem with child abuse, for someone like Corbyn, is that it dosen’t slot neatly into a hard left paradigm. The various child abuse scandals raise some uncomfortable issues for the left.

One is whether some left-wing politicians and local authorities put identity politics – gay rights, multiculturalism – above the protection of children; evidence from Islington in the 1980s to the recent child exploitation scandals in Rochdale and Rotherham suggests pretty conclusively that they did.

Another is the failure of left-wing councils and trade unions to support whistleblowers in scandals involving the public sector – something shockingly evident in Islington, and later in Rochdale and Rotherham, where the sexual health workers and youth workers who tried to expose what was going on were ignored, derided and bullied into silence. Honest politicians on the left will acknowledge and face up to these issues, and think about how we can do things differently in the future; not ignore them.

No doubt, one reason why Corbyn failed to speak out more vocally about child abuse in Islington was because his local Labour colleagues were implicated in the scandal, and because, as an ex-NUPE organiser, he would have found it uncomfortable to wade into allegations of serious misconduct by care staff.  On something as serious as child abuse, that’s hardly the behaviour of a man of principle.

However, I suspect the main reason why he didn’t speak up is ideological – from Corbyn’s point of view, victims of child abuse were the wrong sort of victims. Children weren’t abused in Islington because of Israel, or US imperialism, or Tory cuts. They were abused because of the gross incompetence and probably malice of a hard left council that in the words of the journalist who broke the story “facilitated the abuse by employing known paedophiles and brazenly attempting to cover it up, shredding crucial documents, dismissing media reports about the scandal as ‘gutter journalism’, accusing staff who raised concerns of racism and homophobia, and hounding whistleblowers out of their jobs.”

As some Corbynites are quick to shout “smear” (whilst liberally hurling the ‘Tory’ epithet at supporters of rival campaigns) I should be clear- I’m not suggesting that Corbyn was in league with child abusers. I’m suggesting that his radio silence on the biggest scandal in Islington in 30 years tells us something troubling about his politics. Especially since Corbynism claims to be the movement which – according to one of the speakers at its Manchester rally on Saturday – “actually gives a toss about stuff”.

I realise for many Corbynites the past is irrelevant: Rosie Fletcher, writing in the Observer recently, argued that to deploy evidence from history in a political argument with a younger person is “patronising”. We should stop wittering on about 1983, or the Brighton bombing, or Milosevic, or child abuse, or any of the other episodes from the last 30 years that might raise questions about Corbyn’s suitability to be Labour leader. According to Fletcher, we’re only banging on about all this stuff from long ago because we don’t want to admit that the other leadership candidates are crap. We should get a life, and get with the zeitgeist.

In one way I can see her point – harping on about the past in the face of the enthusiasm and energy of the Corbyn campaign can just seem negative and mean-spirited. But if Corbyn wins the leadership, I suggest history will turn out to matter a lot.

Not just because the Tories will be poring over the past and using it to define Corbyn in the eyes of the electorate, but because in reality, and despite the illusions of many of his supporters, Corbyn’s world view is not actually shared by most voters. Many people in Britain opposed the Iraq war, but the issue won’t be whether people agree with Corbyn about a single issue, it’ll be whether they agree with his overall political philosophy.

Most voters don’t. They don’t see the world through hard left eyes. They don’t see morality as politically contingent. They want, and expect, a Labour leader who will recognise and condemn wrongdoing without fear or favour. As the Islington scandal and much other history shows, Corbyn is not that leader. In the last few days of voting, before Corbyn’s world view comes to personify our party, we need to spell that out very clearly.

Richard Scorer is a former Labour PPC, and works as a lawyer representing victims of child abuse


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38 Responses to “Corbyn’s silence over child abuse in Islington is typical of how he picks and chooses his causes”

  1. Tafia says:

    Thing is, Corbyn is Labour and child abuse being widely known about and not acted on in Labour councils is standard practice. remind us for example about Rotherham. And Doncaster. And Manchester . And. And. And.

    Councils turning a blind eye to child abuse is not a Corbyn thing it’s a Labour thing.

  2. Feodor says:

    There’s a whole lot of supposition in this article, but little supporting evidence.

    ‘No doubt, one reason why Corbyn failed to speak out more vocally about child abuse in Islington was because his local Labour colleagues were implicated in the scandal, and because, as an ex-NUPE organiser, he would have found it uncomfortable to wade into allegations of serious misconduct by care staff.’

    No doubt? Really? What is the evidence for this claim?

    At least when the writer ‘suspects’ something or another he is on firmer ground. However, for someone who apparently works as a lawyer, he’s awfully willing to make unsubstantiated allegations.

    Meanwhile, the praise of St. Danczuk and others should be tempered by the fact that, for some of them at least, exposing allegations of historic child abuse has proved a pretty lucrative business. See here e.g. https://incorrigiblerebel.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/whos-paying-simon-danczuks-bills/

    Note, moreover, the difference between the above piece and the linked piece–the latter bases its argument on evidence, namely the rather significant payment Danczuk himself declared in the members’ register of interests; the former, meanwhile, is based on supposition and provides no clear evidence in favour of its claims.

  3. Josh says:

    I’m up for debates but Labour Uncut reeks of desperation at times. Why don’t you just change the name to Corbyn Uncut and be done with it.

  4. Carol says:

    The whole of the Labour Party knew about child abuse and grooming for many years. They knew because Mrs Anne Cryer, well respected old Labour MP, told them. But Labour did nothing. As you say abused children were the wrong sort of victim. Well the plight of such children matters to me and I won’t be voting Labour again.

  5. Luke says:

    this is incredible, explosive stuff.
    Corbyn is a catastrophe, and the ways he is a catastrophe expand daily.
    Labour is committing suicide before our very eyes. It is a self-immolation.

  6. Mike says:

    Josh – it is hardly desperation to highlight facts. Facts that Corbyn does view things through the lens of my enemies enemy is my friend. He despises the UK, Israel and the US and therefore supports any cause opposed to them. He is unfit to lead this country.

  7. Jimmy says:

    I can’t abide Corbyn but this piece is tacky, as was Mann’s letter.

  8. Michael Worcester says:

    The inaction of almost exclusively Labour councils on abuse of children so as not ‘to rock the multicultural boat’ a sign of moral corruption. It would have been better for Labour’s soul if councils where this was going on were thrown out by the electorate but this didn’t happen. I don’t think the electorate will continue to give Labour many more chances to sort this out and the next set of council elections will be a rout

    Clearly a purge is needed but electing an islamist apologist isn’t going to be a way forward.

  9. Helen Shrimpton says:

    Carol please don’t blame the Labour Party for Child Sexual Abuse. The whole of society turned their back on this problem for decades. It was part of the legacy from Freud’s psychology theories. Jeffrey Masson wrote about it, The Assault on Truth in 1984. It is only since women have been holding senior position in the legal establishment that it has been recognised as criminal behaviour that has to be prosecuted. Even now sexual violence is a massive problem – like an iceberg two thirds below the surface.

  10. John P Reid says:

    Pretty low article where’s the criticism of Margaret hodge, or in Rochdale, and letting former SWP member Andy Newman (and corbyn fan)stand for parliament, when The SWP used sharia law style kangaroo courts to cover up their own rape allegations,
    Or Peter tatchell, even if he is endorsing Corbyn And various liberty members who went on to be labour MPs like Emily thornberry with it a links to PIE

  11. Jon Harvey says:

    Have you done a similar review of the other three candidates?

    Indeed, I would argue that being ‘silent’ and ‘not acting on child abuse allegations’ has been symptomatic of most MPs across most parties…

  12. Josh says:

    @Mike. Nothing explosive stuff, Daily Mail covered this story back in February 2014 and nothing mentioned about Corbyn and then Daily Mail revisited 31st July 2015, evil Corbyn – hatchet job similar to this one because Corbyn is popular and might win.

  13. Betrayed says:

    Once again, the commenters come out to defend the indefensible when they should be absolutely outraged.

    I personally couldn’t care less who takes their place atop the once honourable Labour party dung pile, but it should be a major priority to recognise this evil, apologise, and take action to make sure it never happens again.

    The Labour party has become so immersed in its hatred for those many conservative (small ‘c’) independent people, that their thinking has become warped beyond any moral decency.

    Because these people don’t run crying to their would-be patriarchal Labour saviours, and because they really have no need of an out-dated Labour party that thinks it has some sort of right to power, the self-responsible must be dragged down into victimhood.

    Our councils (especially Labour ones) are now seen as our enemies; they have entrenched themselves in our cities and built up unhealthy bureaucracies, made up of unaccountable NGOs and civic bodies, who have, de facto, become our government by proxy.

    The more broken lives and broken bodies there are, the increasing need for these subversive quangos, the more Labour thrives; it has become the party for despair. Brutalised young girls have become a tool for power.

    The word Rotherham (or Islington) should be tattooed on the foreheads of every Labour MP or councillor involved – as a badge of shame.

  14. Geronimo Cash says:

    Tragic the way many people only think of Child Sex Abuse when it is Politically beneficial to them. There are Councils up and down the Country where children are being abused now and no MP is interested in helping them.
    Jeremy Corbyn is not different from any of the others, including the likes of John Mann who originally tried to smear him with CSA. The same John Mann who knew about paedophile politicians in the 80s but kept his mouth shut until he saw the attention and personal fortune his colleague Simon Danczuk was making.

  15. Josh says:

    @Betrayed

    There were plenty of criticisms towards Labour at the time of child abuse scandal and after. Margaret Hodge at that time was leader of Islington council and her policies that allowed paedophiles to infiltrate Islington children’s homes. It’s Mann’s accusation in the Daily Telegraph (23rd July 2015) which of course is Liz’s supporter – ironically, looking at older articles before 23rd July 2015, very little or no mention of Corbyn.

  16. John P Reid says:

    Geronimo gash, half agree but,look at Sarah Champion she criticized Ukip,for making potential,then did the Same herself

  17. Madasafish says:

    I’m a parent. And was a parent of young children at the time of the offences.

    Child abuse is a binary l Black and White issue.
    If you do it, you are guilty of child abuse.
    If you hear about it, but do nothing , you are guilty of aiding child abuse.
    There are NO inbetweens.

    Judging by some of the above comments and the (irrelevant) criticism of Simon Danczuk who exposed it in Rochdale , there are several people writing on this thread who indirectly support child abuse and child abusers or who turn a blind eye to it.

    As I say it’s a binary issue. They are clearly so wrapped up in their own narrow political view of the world, they cannot condemn it. Period..

    If I were them, I would be ashamed of the rubbish they have written and apologise.

  18. David says:

    This subject is a cause for shame for all parties, councils and police. For too long it has been swept under the carpet and abusers allowed to get away with it.

    It doesn’t matter how many other MPs have been negligent, Islington is Corbyn’s responsibility. He claims to be different but he has at least been as negligent as others and probably more so as reports from there have been known about for much longer than other authorities.

    I do not want someone who is prepared to turn a blind eye to this sort of abuse leading our party.

  19. Matt says:

    @JohnPReid

    That’s a bit desperate.

    Andy Newman was the one who did much of the work exposing the SWP attempted rape cover up.

  20. Carol says:

    To Helen. Sorry but I don’t buy any reasons or excuses in the matter of Rotherham and similar towns.
    Why not? Because Anne Cryer did what an MP is supposed to do. She responded to the anguish of mothers in her constituency. Courageously, she exposed grooming and Blair’s government took no notice and the terrible suffering of these girls went on and on. . I grew up in Newcastle in the 40s and 50s. A Labour fiefdom par excellence.
    The idea that masses of working class children could be treated in such a manner would have been scorned, would have been impossible. The working class was strong.
    The Labour people I knew from that era are all dead but they must be spinning in their graves and I am quite confident that they would not expect me to vote for what the Labour Party has become.

  21. Forlornehope says:

    Interesting to see how people are coming on here to rubbish the article and defend Corbyn. It tells you rather a lot about his supporters. In the words of United States Marine Corps pilots, Corbyn is a “target rich environment”. Cameron just cannot believe his luck.

  22. TB says:

    Honestly, this blog is a right-wing pink Tory nest of vipers.

  23. Tafia says:

    I do not want someone who is prepared to turn a blind eye to this sort of abuse leading our party.

    Remind us where Ed Miliband is MP for again?

    A quick checking rules out Burnham by your measure, as well as the other two.

    Child abuse is and has been going on the length and breadth of the UK for decades and no local authority (and therefore no MP) is ‘clean’.

    Danczuk knew for far far longer than when he went public, as did Mann.

  24. John P Reid says:

    Tafia, I think everyone new about Cyril smith before we had the chance to repeat it,
    Josh I mentioned Hodge earlier today,and like Mann I didn’t think she’s was backing Liz,but, it’s not the contenders fault who’s jumping bandwagons when supporting them

  25. Tafia says:

    Interesting to see how people are coming on here to rubbish the article and defend Corbyn.

    Om the contrary. People aren’t defending Corbyn at all, they are merely pointing out that if you wish to make it an issue and hang him out over it then you have to do it to every politician, from every local authority where child abuse has been going on and played down.

    Which is basically every MP and every Councillor in the country.

    The same as you have to publicly disgrace and disown every politician that refuses to state publicly that it is a serious problem in the muslim community from south asia.

  26. Mousa says:

    How terrible that Corbyn did not single-handedly carry out the role of social services, Islington borough council (led by Margaret Hodge, who is obviously blameless), the police, the CPS and the judiciary when they failed to do their jobs. Should we ascribe the failures of public bodies to the MPs where they are based? If so, we’ve got to put a lot of MPs on the spot.

  27. Owen says:

    Yes, Mousa, you’re right. There are a lot of people to be held to account – Corbyn is only one of them, but he’s one of them. Go read what Madasafish wrote.

  28. Gary Hills says:

    Too many people are quick to exscuse Corbyn for these alleged alligations. They assume the man who trades on principle could never be in the wrong. Well selective principle has always been his stock in trade.

    This issue is not of others. It is about him and his failure to act over allegations of child abuse said to have been made to him. Now those just hoping this story will go away are kidding themselves. Corbyns weak trust me I do no wrong approach counts for little when it comes to serious allegations like these. He has failed to properly answer why Social Workers have made such aligations about him. There should never be any stone unturned with child abuse issues and their should be police investigations. So why is this lacking in relation to these words spoken of potential victims.

    Saint Corbyn is no saint. Any man who gives platforms for hate preacher’s, Holocaust deniers and terrorist to spread their bile is not the man some assume. Nor is his refusal to condemn the action’s of the IRA and other terrorist groups grounds to view this man as decent. He talks of peace while being only on one side, the wrong side.

    Yet what annoys me with many who are in the Corbyn hysteria bubble is the hypocrisy. If this was any other MP they would be demanding answers and investigations. Yet no, the loudest call you hear from them is to dismiss the allegation as a conspiracy thoerie or that Corbyn is just a small cog.

    Well he was not he was the man who could liase with the police and all other agencies. He was the man who could get Government and senior level people involved to insure serious accusations were looked into. He had this ability because he is the MP. Now it is quite easy to see if he took action as it would have bern recorded in Hanzard as written questions to Ministers or ithers. So why no paer trail, after all he was infirmed over a long period of time? So let’s not pretend he was powerless to act. Let’s not make out he is so principled that he is perfect. That these allocations years on do not still need looking into became they do. If he is the man people claim is so principled. Then the question is why has he never demanded the action and investigations needed. These are alleged allegations but he does have questions to answer.

  29. Tafia says:

    Which brings us neatly back ti the point I made Gary Hills. It is fair to assume that any Labour MP and/or senior councillor where there was child abuse going on knew about it.

    Therefore most of Labour’s Greater Manchester cabal are dead in the water, Miliband is, and a couple of dozen more.

  30. Sean says:

    If child abuse was actually taking place and JC knew that child abuse was taking place and he REFUSED to speak out against it then, of course, this should be condemned. Violence against and rape of children is one of the worst manifestations of this wretched inhuman society. Not knowing JC personally, but getting a rough idea of the sort of person he is, I very strongly doubt if he would refuse to condemn such inhuman and vile behaviour. It renders this article simply an attempt to smear JC. Obviously JC is opposed to the abuse of children. As are most people.

    By the way, abuse can take more subtle forms. Economic and social deprivation resulting from austerity – which the Tory wing of the LP wants to implement – is a form of child abuse. Is Scorer going to condemn this? Or perhaps it contradicts his partisan agenda?

  31. Sean says:

    Scorer : “The problem with child abuse, for someone like Corbyn, is that it dosen’t slot neatly into a hard left paradigm. The various child abuse scandals raise some uncomfortable issues for the left.”

    This is simply Daily Mail hack “journalism” of the worst order. Scorer’s disgraceful assertion would not look out of place in a tawdry, smearing far-right/fascist rag. Central to socialism is the creation of a society without such forms of abuse. It is bourgeois social relations which form the ground for such behaviour. The socialist “paradigms” incorporate the conception of the creation of a society where people do not subject each other (adults or children) to all manner of dehumanisations. If Scorer is going to casually toss around allegations then he should be re-directing then in directions where they obviously belong. Is his smear still “awaiting moderation”?

  32. nuggy says:

    sorry how does twice calling for an investigation ignoring the allegations.

    im a bit confused here.

  33. Grosvenor avenue says:

    We’re any of you posting here ever in an Islington children’s home?

    Or a Corbyn constituent?

    I was and I am.

    This man still won’t help and support any survivors of institutional abuse in his own borough. Will not even entertain the subject.

    As a survivor this speaks volumes

  34. Owen says:

    Islington Survivors Network. Survivors and Whistleblowers seeking justice and healing for Islington victims of organised and institutional abuse.
    http://islingtonsurvivors.co.uk/

  35. Stipe Message says:

    To say that Corbyn was “silent” on Srebrenica is generous:

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-3235-Welcome-to-the-Nato-fest#.V04bbU1f3IW

    His belittling of the suffering and murder of the people of Kosovo is worse. “Morality as politically contingent” – exactly.

  36. John Plumridge says:

    You quote David Aaronovitch of the Times, to refer to Corbyn’s blindness over tyrants like Milosevic. But Milosovich has now been vindicated as a tyrant, cleared of genocide, and quite the reverse, shown to desire a multi-ethnic state, take every means to avoid even brutal treatment at the hands of his soldiers. Instead, We see it was propaganda delivered by a war machine under cover of humanitarian aid, as Washington controlled NATO.

    Nonetheless, I agree with your stance on silence over child abuser such a long period as an MP: he might have sought to establish proper investigations by police. I would say it is his duty to do so, after looking at the allegations.

  37. Owen says:

    Milosevic did not want a multi-ethnic state, he wanted a Greater Serbia, which large-scale and violent “demographic rearranngement”. Although Corbyn does not seem to be uncaring by nature, but he does seem prone to allow political preconceptions turn his eyes and thoughts in anothr direction.

  38. Owen says:

    sorry, “which entailed large-scale and violent “demographic rearrangement””

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