A few weeks ago I spent most of an afternoon glued to my computer screen watching Keith Vaz MP leading the Home Affairs Select Committee investigation into the Rotherham child-rape-gang scandal.
I had only meant to watch for a few minutes but I just couldn’t pull myself away. Nor could my wife, who peeked over my shoulder and found herself inexorably sucked in too, a bit like on that Radiohead Just video where everybody is compelled to do very weird things against their better judgement because of something they have just heard a strange man say.
Why were we so transfixed? Imagine for a moment watching a court case in which the defendants were: Freddy Krueger; the radioactive maggots from Doctor Who and The Green Death; and Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Well that was how it felt watching some of the council workers and senior policemen being grilled over Rotherham. They were so devoid of integrity, honesty or even basic humanity, so devious, so slippery and mendacious that you couldn’t help watching if only to marvel that the human species is actually capable of plumbing such lows of puke-inducing rankness.
It was hard to decide which of the characters was the most noisome, but among those that particularly caught my eye were:
Joyce Thacker, the former £130,000 per year head of Rotherham Children’s Services (who has since, very grudgingly, resigned with a £40,000 pay off – plus, of course, her full lavish pension rights)
Shaun Wright, another former head of Rotherham Children’s Services who also recently resigned from his new sinecure as South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
Mereddyd Hughes, head of South Yorkshire Police between 2004 and 2011.
It wasn’t what these people had done that was the problem. It was what they had so signally failed to do: their ruddy jobs.
Did I mention that the wretched Thacker woman was on £130,000 a year? I did but I’ll mention it again. Joyce “Rosa Klebb’s less charming elder sister” Thacker was paid £130,000 a year, out of the public purse, to do a job whose requirements presumably included making sure children in the Rotherham area didn’t get plied with alcohol, drugged with heroin, and serially raped and sex trafficked on an epic scale by organised gangs of predominantly Muslim older men.
Not letting children get gang-raped would also, I imagine, have been part of Shaun Wright’s remit when he was the Rotherham councillor in charge of Children’s Services.
And not letting children get gang-raped would, I’m educatedly guessing, also have been among Meredydd Hughes’s responsibilities as head of South Yorkshire Police. (Yes. We know from your track record, Meredydd that you placed a much higher priority on nicking speeding motorists. But child rape is a crime too, you know. Indeed, some of us would consider it almost worse than speeding).
But those 1400 children – and that’s just the conservative estimate; and in one small town – were raped all the same. And the question I asked myself when the scandal was exposed by the Jay inquiry – and the question that certainly hasn’t been answered by any of the investigations since, especially not by the recent semi-whitewash report by Labour MP Ann Coffey, is how come the various authorities which should have stopped it happening instead turned a blind eye to it for well over a decade?
We’re not talking about the odd rotten apple here. We’re talking about an entrenched system of what you might call “institutional child rape apologism” or even “institutional child rape endorsement,” extending all the way from the so-called “Muslim community” through to the local councils, the childcare charities such as Barnardos and even the police. This was one of the things that made that Keith Vaz hearing so compelling: first the bravura stonewalling from the guilty parties (“I cannot recollect” was the phrase you kept hearing); second the evident lack of guilt; third, the almost indignant reluctance to admit that they’d done anything wrong. I wonder if this was how it felt during the Nuremberg trials: watching people who inhabit an entirely different moral universe.
Well in the weeks since I’ve been reflecting on this strange phenomenon and I’ve come up with various theories as to how such things can have come to pass in a modern, civilised society which prides itself on the attention and effort it devotes to the protection of children.
One of these theories can be summed up in a word: Labour.
I’m not suggesting that these crimes couldn’t have occurred in a Lib-Dem governed district. Or even, just possibly, in a Conservative controlled one – though that does strike me as a lot less likely.
But it’s notable in the case of Rotherham that all the players I mentioned above are Labour people through and through – Thacker, obviously, on a Labour dominated council; Wright, who successfully stood as the Labour candidate for the PCC; Hughes who announced his intention to stand as the Labour candidate for the PCC but was beaten to the nomination by Wright.
Why do I think the rape-gang problem is an especially Labour phenomenon? Not because I think the party is swarming with paedophiles (that’s more of a Lib Dem thing) but rather because of its political and moral priorities. As I told Chuka Umunna at the dinner before Any Questions the other week, “the reason I loathe your party is not because you’re a bunch of lefties: I actually quite like and respect, honest old school lefties. No, I hate you because you’re not the party of ordinary working people any more. You’re the party of quangocrats and welfare scroungers and bloated public sector workers with ring-fenced pensions and anyone you can persuade belongs to an oppressed minority”
And I think this very much applies in northern Labour strongholds like Rotherham where brand loyalty is so purblind and instinctive that even were they to exhume Jimmy Savile and stick a red rosette on him he’d win any given election by a mile. By ten miles, probably, once you’d taken into account the postal vote.
Though I’m not a Labour man, it gives me no pleasure saying this. There was a time, I’m sure, when Labour really did do its job by its natural constituency, making sure they were cared for from cradle to grave, improving their rights in the workplace, creating the kind of communities where people looked out for one another and where their kids weren’t routinely raped by gangs, that kind of thing.
But those days are long over and a new hierarchy of New Labour values has been established: one in which, for example, it is far preferable to allow hundreds of white children to be sexually abused by gangs of Kashmiri-Pakistani origin than to risk being considered in any way racist or Islamophobic or culturally judgemental; one in which maintaining high public sector staffing levels is an end so noble that any amount of lying, covering up, bullying, data-destroying, smearing, buck-passing, and money-wasting is forgiveable, nay desirable, if it means getting one over on all those hateful Tory types who believe that jobs should only exist if they’re useful and productive.
Sadly, Labour is still managing to parlay its past reputation into present votes. Look at what happened at the elections to replace the disgraced South Yorkshire PCC man Shaun Wright. The voters of South Yorkshire pondered the issue for all of a fraction of a second and placed their cross where they always have done: in the box next to the Labour man.
Yes, UKIP increased their vote-share dramatically. Yes, there may well be something in their complaint that 80 per cent of the votes were postal votes, which are particularly vulnerable to manipulation. But the fact remains that not even UKIP’s gloriously unsubtle poster on the lines of “Vote Labour, get more rape gangs” was enough to dissuade the people of the north from voting yet again for the party whose ideology, corruption, incompetence, identity-politicking and cynical opportunism are the main reason their kids can’t walk the streets safely at night and the main reason their towns are now divided by ghettos and no-go zones.
You might argue it’s no more than they deserve for being such numbskulls. But I wouldn’t. No one deserves what these once-proud white working class communities are experiencing under the squalid maladministration of those Labour apparatchiks whom they naively persist in imagining represent their best interests.