Posts Tagged ‘grooming’

Could Labour lose the South Yorkshire police commissioner by-election?

29/10/2014, 10:58:25 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Tomorrow, Labour faces a massive electoral test that hasn’t, so far, garnered much publicity. Forget Heywood and Middleton, if Labour loses the by-election for a new Police and Crime Commissioner in South Yorkshire, deepest red Labour territory and the political backyard of Ed Miliband and a swathe of the shadow cabinet, the fallout will be immense.

Twelve months ago, the concept of Labour faring badly here would have been unthinkable. In the 2012 Rotherham by-election, caused by the resignation of Denis MacShane for fiddling his expenses, Labour held on comfortably, with more than double the share of the vote of second-placed UKIP.

That was then. Now, with the Rotherham child grooming scandal still reverberating – in all its three-dimensional awfulness – bookies have UKIP hot on Labour’s heels as we enter the last day of campaigning.

As I wrote at the time, the party’s initial response to the Rotherham scandal was slow and uncertain. Not much has changed since. Indeed, there have not been, as far as I am aware, any visits by Ed Miliband to reassure people there that this bleak episode in the party’s management of the town will not be repeated. Contrition has been thin on the ground.

Let’s be clear: the systematic abuse of children and young girls by gangs of Pakistani-heritage men in the town was unforgivable. Girls in care were thrown to the wolves by inept council officials who put political correctness ahead of decency and common sense. Grooming was seen as girls making “informed choices”. The police couldn’t have cared less. There is no other way of dressing it up. There is no missing context. This was a vile episode. Some heads have rolled – and deservedly so. Others should follow.

Professor Alexis Jay’s report made clear that there were at least 1,400 victims. This is her conservative estimate, as young Pakistani girls and boys were also abused, but are less like to report it for cultural reasons.

And the shame for it rests squarely at Labour’s door. The ‘wicked’ Tories weren’t to blame. Neither were the Lib Dems or UKIP. Between them, a Labour council and Labour-controlled police force created this mess. Meanwhile, the town’s MPs were apparently blissfully unaware.


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There is a problem in the British Pakistani community and it needs to be fixed

03/09/2014, 08:17:45 AM

by Mohammed Seedat

The word “culture” is used often when discussing the horrific Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham: within the Police, amongst Rotherham’s Pakistani community, within the council, in Labour group and of course of the victims.

The BBC Asian network morning phone-in show always provides a raw glimpse in to the notoriously politically-incorrect and diverse British Asian zeitgeist.

On Wednesday’s show there was more denialism from an alarming number of British Pakistani callers about the role of a certain type of violent misogynistic culture that’s developed and become acceptable in too many Pakistani social circles.

The link between the Pakistani culture of the majority of the men convicted in Rotherham and their white targets isn’t new – Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said the same in 2012, so has Trevor Philips.

Rotherham will not recover easily. Perversely the Police’s reluctance to be labelled racist has resulted in increased community tensions. As the Alexis Jay report outlines there were multiple agency failures in a community with deep rooted cultural issues. Unfortunately only Pakistanis within these communities can fix the cultural issues that have no place in any modern society. The cancerous core of community leaders, imported imams and violent paternalism is rotten.

There is no “magic-bullet” campaign that can change the nasty strain of misogyny that has infected parts of the Pakistani community. A community wide change in consciousness is required and only then can this disease be treated – a task that will likely fall on the younger generation rather than upon impotent “community leaders” who have proved so ineffective.

That does not mean the council has no role to play. The Jay Report is damning of the council: “Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so”. This was suppression of justice from the very top – and the report explains how the council could get away with it because “in Rotherham the local Asian community are reported to rarely speak about them [the perpetrators]. The subject was taboo..” (Section 11.4).


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Labour needs to brace itself to deal with other councils that have failed to protect children

02/09/2014, 04:25:44 PM

by Kevin Meagher

By suspending four party members in Rotherham this morning, Labour is showing its intent to get tough with its councillors who, it suspects, have failed to protect vulnerable children in the public roles they held.

The four, Jahangir Akhtar (the council’s former deputy leader) and councillors Roger Stone (the council’s former leader), Gwendoline Russell (Rotherham’s former cabinet member for social services) and Shaukat Ali will now face investigation by the party.

A Labour party spokesman said: “As Ed Miliband made clear last week large numbers of young people in Rotherham were systematically abused and then let down by those who should have protected them. It cannot be allowed to stand.”

So far, so good. But Labour has to be ready to do the same in other local authorities, if the same failings are revealed elsewhere. Rotherham, depressingly, does not seem to be an isolated case.

The Mail on Sunday quoted a Greater Manchester Police source the other day who claimed they were close to a “day of reckoning” with the force poised to make a spate of arrests of gang members involved in child sexual exploitation:

“In Greater Manchester, 180 suspects have emerged from an operation codenamed Doublet, which has ranged across Rochdale, Oldham, Bolton and Bury.

“The operation is understood to cover offences that have taken place in the past six years.

Virtually all of the suspects are expected to face justice in up to a dozen separate trials. They are likely to be held at Manchester Crown Court next year.

“One detective said: ‘A lot of these guys have thought for years that they are above the law. They’re in for a very rude awakening.’”

Even allowing for a degree of hyperbole, the scale of this investigation is staggering. Meanwhile, the four towns named in the Mail piece are all Labour-controlled, yet none of the councils has publicly disowned the story.

The party needs to brace itself to hold any of its representatives – councillors and MPs alike – to account if they have allowed child sexual exploitation to take place, especially if they have done nothing about it, having been told it was going on. Today’s suspensions may just be the start of things.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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Why has Labour been so slow to react to Rotherham?

28/08/2014, 09:04:05 AM

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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Shaun Wright should go, but, really, why would he want to?

27/08/2014, 07:20:08 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of course Shaun Wright won’t resign as the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, why would he? For starters, he’s earning 85k a year and surely knows his political career is shredded. Ed Miliband has no mechanism to remove him, and if he can withstand the personal brickbats, he may think he can hang on in until his term of office ends in 2016. After all, he’s directly-elected so it’s his mandate, even it came courtesy of just 14.9 per cent of the electorate.

Indeed, given the government’s original intention with police and crime commissioners was to encourage independents to stand, Wright may consider that, unencumbered from party allegiance, he is an embodiment of the true spirit of what an elected police and crime commissioner should be.

He may even delude himself that he is the best person to actually fix what he is, in part, responsible for breaking. He was, after all, Rotherham Council’s executive member for children’s services between 2005-2010 when the abuses laid bare in Alexis Jay’s report were first reported to council chiefs but no action was taken.

For South Yorkshire Police, dealing with a snaking line of scandals ranging from Hillsborough to the fact it tasers someone every two weeks, Wright’s predicament represents something of an opportunity. With the commissioner effectively emasculated, power drains away from him and back to the Chief Constable and senior officers.

For South Yorkshire Police, this is the natural order of things. This is the force, let us not forget, that instituted a cover-up so large and mendacious after the Hillsborough disaster that it stretched from the then Chief Constable to frontline officers, who were instructed to fabricate witness statements to lay culpability at the door of innocent Liverpool fans. If ever a police force needed the disinfectant of public accountability, it is South Yorkshire’s.

None of this is to argue that Wright shouldn’t resign, he should. He is a disgrace. A busted flush. An embarrassment. But he is, unfortunately, symptomatic of a municipal political class that takes the money for ostensibly making decisions, but pays no attention, or simply isn’t smart enough, to actually understand the implications of those decisions.

This explains why he didn’t act to protect young girls from gang rape when he should have done.

And it is because of that shaming failure that he should quit today.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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The poor girls of Rotherham were victims of institutional anti-racism

27/08/2014, 04:48:01 PM

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.


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