Professor Alexis Jay’s report on child sexual abuse in the town of Rotherham contains truths and revelations so shocking and awful, and on such a scale that it is scarcely possible to believe them.
From the report:
“No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.
It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated.
There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone.”
Horrific cases of abuse and neglect going unstopped because of the lethal combination of a failed bureaucracy and individual failings are, of course, nothing new. We see such horror stories only too often, most notably in the death of Baby Peter.
But tragedies such as these are on a far smaller scale than the slow-burning atrocity which took place in Rotherham over a period of sixteen years. The needless death of one child is an abhorrence. The scarring of up to 1500 children’s lives is almost unfathomable.
At times such as this, when we are not too busy breast-beating, it is fashionable to urge calm and wait for the various investigations – 32 of which are already underway in Rotherham – to finish their course. At the other end of the response spectrum, we can expect to see highly emotive calls for the immediate sacking of every public sector worker in the town who was even tangentially connected to the case.
In this case, Yorkshire and Humber’s UKIP MEP, Jane Collins, eagerly stepped up to the plate:
“I categorically call for the resignation of everyone directly and indirectly involved in this case. The Labour council stand accused of deliberately ignoring child sex abuse victims for 16 years. The apologies we have heard are totally insincere and go nowhere near repairing the damage done.
“These resignations should include South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, Shaun Wright. I also call for a criminal investigation by a force not directly linked with this scandal into all those implicated in this scandal. There is no place for these people in public life.”
Fine. This blog will be the last to plead clemency for those at the top who presided over this horror show before moving on to other well-remunerated jobs, especially if their lack of action during the period in question casts doubt on their ability to perform well in their new roles, or to keep the public’s trust. This would certainly include Shaun Wright, the police and crime commissioner.
But the report hints at something far deeper and more insidious which must also be tackled if we are to prevent a recurrence of this scandal, one which is certainly not limited to the Yorkshire town.
The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman, citing Professor Jay’s report, lays it out:
There seemed to be a fear of man rather than of wrongdoing, perhaps even a true definition of political correctness gone mad, that led the council to ‘tiptoe’ around the issue of child sexual exploitation in the Pakistani-heritage community. The report found that there were just two meetings in 15 years about CSE – and they took place in 2011 when the abuse stretched back into the late nineties.
How did this go on for so long? The Jay report is worth reading in full, if only to get a measure of the way apparently well-organised organisations apparently working in a joined-up way managed to fail 1,400 children (at least). But something removed the urgency and made fear of breaking a taboo and being labelled politically incorrect the bigger thing. It was a fear of consequences, of anyone more important and powerful finding out that repeated allegations and internal reports were being ignored and someone being held responsible. ‘An issue or responsibility that belongs to everybody effectively belongs to nobody, and in the case of sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham, accountability was key,’ said the report.
Aside from the usual bureaucratic failures, exercises in self preservation and groupthink which are always offered up as excuses at times like this, it is the apparently terrifying, suffocating fear instilled by a climate of political correctness which emerges as the main culprit in the Rotherham scandal.
When an issue or cultural pathology presents itself in any British community, civic leaders should be able to talk about it directly and work swiftly to address it without fear of reprisal or backlash – though they should also be of sufficient character and moral fibre that they are willing to incur such a backlash. Rotherham, apparently, lacked both attributes – there was a heavily stultifying culture of political correctness which dictated which issues could be examined and tackled, and there was a lack of quality local leadership at any level willing to take on the toxic culture.
This is despite the fact that many people in the local Muslim community were equally outraged by the contents of the report, and declared that they would have willingly participated in efforts to stamp out sexual abuse within their community if only the council had made them aware of the nature and extent of the problem. Once again, the real enemy seems not to be the minority community itself, but rather people within society at large who are trying to curry favour from goodness knows where by wilfully and falsely equating scrutiny with racism.
Consider, by contrast, the lectures and condescension which British politicians are only too happy to dole out to members of Britain’s black community. Echoing similar calls made by President Barack Obama in the United States, David Cameron has been happy to go on record calling for a “responsibility revolution” among black families and black fathers in particular, in order to stem the tide of gun and knife crime in British cities. In these sermons there is no reflection on the socioeconomic circumstances which might lead to higher instances of family breakdown and absentee fathers, just an assignation of blame and a call to do better.
Tumbleweeds gently roll in place of the admonitions that David Cameron and his ministers consistently fail to dole out to other communities facing particularly acute problems of their own. And in the only comparable example, calls by British politicians for the British Muslim community to do more to watch out for and prevent radicalisation and extremism among their disaffected youth, there has been extremely heavy pushback from many prominent people in the media.
This is the insidious power of political correctness gone too far. Often borne out of a genuine desire to be inclusive and avoid giving undue offence, too often it becomes a self-policing dogma that rewards total, unthinking loyalty and the holding of “politically correct” thoughts and positions while punishing and excluding those who are unsure, or who question the status quo.
In these politically correct fiefdoms, groups which enjoy the benefit of politically correct protection are free to live and act unchallenged and unimpeded, while those less astute or well-represented are subject to the laws and rigorous oversight that governs the rest of us. Professor Jay’s report leaves little doubt as to which particular group and community enjoyed de facto immunity from the law in Rotherham.
Of course, the child sexual abuse scandal was not entirely limited to the Pakistani heritage community in Rotherham. And the last thing that anyone should want is to encourage the Britain First-style “Muslim paedos off our streets” marches and battle cries that are becoming increasingly common in the far right community. But where there is a festering problem in any of Britain’s ethnic or religious communities, we need to be able to talk about it frankly and openly without being labelled intolerant or racist. And local authority after local authority, Britain is currently failing this test.
The other most recent example of Britain’s failure to hold all of our diverse religious and ethnic sub-communities to the same standards of behaviour was the Birmingham schools Trojan Horse scandal, which rumbles on and which compromised the educations of thousands of children, who were willfully exposed to some very un-British values at the expense of the taxpayer. As the first concerns were raised and the investigation began, false accusations of racism and Islamophobia not only hampered the work of the Department of Education and thwarted the will of law-abiding non-extremist parents, they also served to sow divisions in the community which persist to this day.
But a compromised education can be repaired. Theocratic teachings and hardline conservative approaches to music, gender inequality and other unwelcome imports from the fifteenth century can, in time, be unlearned. What cannot be undone is the systematic rape and sexual abuse of thousands of British children, some of Pakistani heritage themselves, by malicious adults from their own community – all of which took place under those nose of a local government machine that is big and powerful and only too happy to proactively intervene in citizens’ lives when not constrained by a veto from the forces of political correctness.
Many articles will be written about how this came to happen, and many politicians will say “never again”. But the core enabler of this sexual abuse epidemic is not hard to fathom. The road to Rotherham began when it was made implicitly clear to those in power that political correctness trumps child welfare.