Sarah Champion’s most recent resignation appears to have upset some people, who are seemingly wondering why she couldn’t have just let sleeping dogs lie. You see, Jay and Casey said it first, but Champion got there in the end, and was bang on the money when she spoke of the need for a debate around the relationship between ethnicity and the on-street model of child sexual exploitation.
Champion was also absolutely right to suggest that she would be branded a racist for her words. Because sadly, Rotherham Labour has a little bit of form when it comes to that sort of thing as Andrew Norfolk’s piece ‘Councillor who stifled talks on child abuse faces inquiry’, (The Times, February 6th2015), candidly revealed. But let’s not forget that even in these supposedly more enlightened times Boston Castle Councillor Taiba Yasseen has, so it’s been said, quietly policed Labour Group with her inability to string a sentence together that doesn’t contain some combination of the words ethnic, hate crime, minority and outraged. Which is all rather ironic given that so many suspect her elevation to Cabinet was the consequence of a spectacularly naïve act of positive discrimination in the first place!
But if you listen very carefully, you can hear the quiet rustling of an old narrative being revived. ‘CSE is an issue in lots of towns,’ it is said, ‘nothing special about Rotherham, move along now.’ Even taking aside (for a moment) the allegations of corruption, collusion and cover up, this is a thoroughly wrong-headed viewpoint, because if two wrongs don’t make a right, Fourteen hundred wrongs certainly can’t be erased by reference to other scandals, and other court cases elsewhere. Some might even suggest that this points to the culture of denial being back in town.
Sadly, this is the same twisted logic supposedly employed by Roger Stone when he allegedly appealed for support against the commissioning of an inquiry into child sexual exploitation by Labour Group way back in 2013. I’m reliably informed that he made the argument to a meeting of the Group that RMBC should not be the first council to draw attention to the problem of CSE, because it was happening all over. CSE, he is said to have revealed, was as bad in other places, maybe worse. Now some have suggested that this might, perhaps, indicate that Stone knew rather more about CSE in Rotherham, and elsewhere, than he claimed at the time. Maybe that’s why there were also rumours that Stone received behind the scenes advice from a former Sheffield MP when he appeared in front of the House of Commons Select Committee?
Now, the fact that the inquiry, which ultimately led to the Jay Report, was commissioned by Labour Group against Stone’s advice, is testament to the fact that there were, perhaps, more people in attendance at the aforementioned meeting who actually did want an inquiry to shine a light into dark places. And so a key question for those now interested in such matters might be who voted against the commissioning of an inquiry in that meeting? After all the exposure given to the matter by Andrew Norfolk’s articles in The Times, who were those Labour Councillors who voted to turn a blind eye, and to keep the issue of CSE under cover?
Of course, all of the above needs to be seen within the context of another persistent rumour about who knew what: A rumour which suggests that before the trial in which a former Mayor of Rotherham was found innocent of the charge of indecently assaulting a thirteen year old girl, the accused uncharacteristically got a little bit tipsy in the East Dene Club one evening and started sounding off. If the tittle tattle is true, the former Mayor was heard to say that if he went down, he’d take all the rest with him. Because there were eleven people who knew all about the CSE.
The former Mayor was declared innocent by the jury as we know, but quite a few folks were wondering whether eleven arses were squeaking in the run up to the verdict and whether sighs of relief could be heard in quiet living rooms across town, as well as in a villa by the Mediterranean when it was delivered. And some also wondered whether those eleven arses were beginning to squeak again when the IPCC announced that it was to finally begin its investigation into whether Shaun Wright committed perjury whilst giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. Few of the whisperers had any sympathy for Wright, but there was some speculation about whether he might be having similar thoughts to those supposedly expressed by the former Mayor in the East Dene Club. Dominoes anyone?