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