Sarah Champion was wrong to pinpoint the perpetrators' race. Whether it's in Rotherham, Rochdale or Newcastle, the solution lies in listening to young womenby Nicholas Blincoe / August 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
The MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, resigned from her front bench post this week, brought down by an article she wrote for the Sun which included the line, “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.” The job of being the MP for Rotherham will always be shaped by the Rotherham abuse cases. In two trials, in 2010 and 2016, eight men of Pakistani origin and two white English women were convicted of the most serious sexual crimes going back to 1997. The official report estimates there were 1400 victims, many “barely pubescent.” The chief whistle-blower, a youth worker named Jayne Senior, places the figure closer to 1700. It was the shadow of this case that led the Sun to invite Champion to comment on a similar case in Newcastle that saw seventeen men, most of Muslim Pakistani heritage, and a single white British woman convicted of nearly one hundred offenses.
Jayne Senior’s account of the Rotherham scandal, “Broken and Betrayed,” is heart-breaking not only for its account of the severity of the abuse, but for the details of the authorities’ attempts to first ignore the crimes and, when that became impossible, to actively subvert the investigations. At one point, Senior’s offices were raided, her files stolen, and her team silenced with reprimands and sackings. Sarah Champion was not the town’s MP during the darkest days: she won the seat in a 2012 bye-election after the sitting MP, Dennis MacShane, was convicted of and imprisoned for expenses fraud.
MacShane has stated that no one ever came to him about an abuse problem in Rotherham. Senior contradicts him, stating she personally wrote him a paper ahead of a conference they attended together on child grooming. MacShane has also claimed he was deterred by “not wanting to rock the multicultural boat.” Senior has dealt with this claim, too, showing that the authorities ignored the girls not out of sensitivity for the Asian men, but from contempt for the women, who they saw as slags. Again and again, it was claimed that the girls had brought misfortune on their own heads. Far from being motivated by liberal sensitivities, the authorities’ cover-up was motivated by fear. The police and social services were criminally culpable for the fate of the young women, as three official reports have shown, and they acted to keep the abuse secret.
British police and politicians have never suffered from a surfeit of liberal faint-heartedness. Yet the claim that Muslim criminals are protected by a conspiracy of silence keeps resurfacing. No doubt, figures like MacShane prefer to be condemned for being too liberal rather than as seedy bigots. The idea that an overly liberal attitude is cynically exploited by Muslim criminals also suits the theatrical instincts of the tabloid press. Champion’s team claims the above line alleging a problem with British Pakistani men was inserted without her knowledge (something the Sun disputes). Predictably, it is this line that Trevor Kavanagh highlighted in a subsequent companion piece, claiming a culture of liberal complacency was ignoring what he alarmingly termed, “The Muslim Problem.”
“The men targeted ordinary teenage girls in public spaces and tempted them with gifts of alcohol, drugs, and SIM cards”
Senior’s book reminded me of experiences growing up in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Many of the large Victorian houses surrounding the park where I lived had become halfway homes and sheltered accommodation for vulnerable young people, and predatory men of all backgrounds and ethnicities could be seen picking up the youngsters. Long after I left the town, Rochdale had its own abuse scandal, identical in all its particulars to the Newcastle and Rotherham cases. What had changed between the 1980s and the more recent cases was that the youngsters were no longer obviously vulnerable: poverty and dysfunctional home lives were not a factor. The men targeted ordinary teenage girls in public spaces and tempted them with gifts of alcohol, drugs, and SIM cards.
In these three cases, the men involved are nearly always Muslim—but the key factor is not religion, but criminality. It may be rare to hear forward-thinking views preached in Britain’s mosque, but no one believes these men are avid mosque-goers. The last and most dangerous of the men convicted in Rotherham were gangsters known as Mad Ash, Bash and Bono. The abuse scandals have as much to do with Islam and the culture of Pakistani towns as cocaine trafficking from Bogota has to do with Mesoamerican culture and Roman Catholicism. We know a sense of family can help instill discipline in a mafia-style organsiation. We don’t need to make it about specific cultural markers. Race may be a common factor, but it is not a cause.
The fact is, we have a problem listening to young women. This is the key lesson of Rotherham, Rochdale and Newcastle: everything else is face-saving or right-wing troublemaking. When my grandparents were young, they hung out in temperance dancehalls. My parents preferred coffee shops and nightclubs, while my generation favoured pubs and discos, which brought its own dangers. Today, kids hang around street corners and fast food shops like throwbacks to the Victorian-era. If we make our children vulnerable, then criminals will exploit them.