Exploitation of child sex abuse is vile
A little over a year ago, or three Prime Ministers if you prefer, the unscrupulously self-serving rapist of our constitution that is Boris Johnson abused parliamentary privilege to perform what would have a been an actionable slander in any forum other than the House of Commons chamber (which was where he was most careful to venture it) upon the Leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer. You’ll likely remember it, but you can refresh your memory here.
It was a disgusting abuse of position and privilege that many in Johnson’s own party deemed to be well beyond The Pale, and was, I’m sure, just one of a number of factors that led to the mass revolt against him by his own parliamentary party just a few months later.
But there are those who see exploitation of child sex abuse as useful
Of course, there were also plenty who loved this from our then Prime Minister, most notably that far-right contingent who don’t let a silly thing such as a mere fact get in the way of a good, bloody, prejudice. It revivified, for that cohort, the narrative of Starmer facilitating Savile’s crimes, and, as I know from personal experience, you can explain the fallacies at the heart of that accusation until the cows come home to type out Hamlet whilst sitting in a tree, but it won’t stick. It doesn’t sink in. Because they don’t care. The post-truth cohort are entranced by stories of goodies and baddies, and like it pitched at about the level of a pantomime. They invest in these figures they’ve seen on the news of an evening in much the same way they might invest in their football team, as totems that allow for a socially acceptable object of passion, but which don’t require their own skin in the game. Our politics has itself become the circus.
This cohort, this rabid cohort, has made much of the grooming gang crimes, most famously those in Rochdale, Telford, Oldham and Bradford, where the gangs were comprised almost entirely of men of Afghan and Pakistani heritage, and preyed upon vulnerable, and predominantly, white girls. No one denies this happened. That there was some local effort at cover up, which it seems was at least partly based in a tremulousness around issues of race, is certainly true, as is it that they were often Labour led councils. There are even instances, such as that of Shabir Ahmed, now serving 22 years for multiple rape convictions, of offenders exploiting their position in key child welfare roles to gain access to their victims.
There was a failure. It left Labour, and the respective police forces, with questions to answer. Those questions have been addressed now, however. Many of the guilty are in jail. The rabid keep pointing at these crimes saying “and no one ever talks about it” despite there being a series of trials, convictions, reports in the press, television documentaries, but our rabid chums need to maintain their paranoid narrative of preying Asians to justify their racism. The country is aware of these crimes, the authorities have pursued the guilty and they are now in jail, and some for very long stretches indeed. Which is as it should be. But stoking a racist into a frothing frenzy is much harder when the guilty are already in jail.
The fallacy of the Asian grooming gangs narrative is obvious
Savile himself was not of Afghan or Pakistani heritage. His infiltration of the establishment was far more profound. He had the ear of the then Prime Minister, and the now King. The abusers of both the Catholic and Protestant churches were predominantly white. Sex abuse, and the conspiracies wrought to facilitate it, are not especially the product of South Asian societies.
Child abuse is child abuse. The fight is not to end particular types of child abuse by particular types of people. The fight is against child abuse.
Flouderers in the polls can’t be choosers
Just a couple of weeks ago, however, all this was revived again, by Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary. The Tories are doing appallingly according to the polling and merely manufacturing a migrant crisis isn’t quite fixing their fortunes. So, a little red meat must needs be tossed to the rabid cohort, who are, it has become evident, now essential to Tory hopes (as the Bracknell Conservatives selection of former Deputy Leader of Britain First– a group most famous for one of its members murdering Jo Cox – as their candidate for council elections will testify). Braverman revived the narrative of Asian gangs preying upon white girls, even as another paedophile ring is convicted, in Manchester, a gang featuring no member of Asian descent, and this despite it being two years since a Home Office report found that there was no evidence that any ethnic group was disproportionally represented amongst perpetrators of sexual abuse.
Child abuse is a horrible crime. But, more importantly, at least if you’re a Tory party that’s disgusted and alienated many of your traditional supporters (leaving them now desperate for absolutely anyone’s vote) it is an easily weaponised legitimization of good, old fashioned, like we had in the old days, racism. And every party worth its salt knows that, if you’re stuck, there’s always one demographic just aching to be tapped: the aggrieved, marginalised, racist.
Suella Braverman does not, it would appear, see her job as finding and ending child abuse. There really aren’t many more tricks in her bag, she really can’t afford to simply throw away that one. No, she sees her job as finding and ending Asian grooming gangs. Which rather invites us all to ask “but what about the other grooming gangs who are so disobligingly white, like the one just convicted in Manchester – do we want to stop them?” But those gangs are as chocolate teapots, for they will not spur the supporters of neo-fascist groups that murder MPs to lend the Tory party their vote, much as the red wall Labour voters once lent the Tories their vote for promises of Brexit utopia (a vote every poll suggests is about to get snatched back now the whole Brexit orgasm has turned sour and the red wall largely understands it was lied to).
Sit tight, and ride it out.
As foul as all this is, we have, many of us, been keeping our eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. We can look forward to a General Election in January 2025 at the very latest, but there’s every likelihood of us seeing one even sooner, quite possibly around spring 2024, maybe just one year away. Labour are riding high in the polls, and, for all Labour’s lacklustre performance in opposition, and their failure to grasp the reality of Brexit, or adequately defend the humanity of refugees, they at least seemed able to put together an uninspired managing of society that did not at any point flirt with fascism, and, sad to say, as paltry as that is, that looks like a win in these dreadful times.
So, those of us who had decided that the Tories and their ways were bad did have an alternative to get behind. It was dull, vague, and uninspired, but still an improvement on the Tories, simply because it was not looking to set up concentration camps, remove the right to protest, curtail the franchise, and all whilst profiteering off lethal procurement frauds, engineering migrant crises and flogging its parliamentary access to the highest bidder.
I recognise that this investment in a party so beige and tremulous is a bit sad, but we’ve got an archaic and corrupt system, and that’s what we’ve got to work with. At least they’re not Tories.
And then this travesty dropped.
“Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t. “
Nicely pitched for the pantomime villain crowd, there.
Time and again the accusation is raised that there’s really nothing to choose between Labour and The Conservatives, or, at least, very little. Labour under Starmer, it is said by many – especially those who were impressed by Corbyn – to be but a pale imitation of the Tories. Or so it goes.
Now, whilst I’ve been very alive to the shortcomings of Starmer’s managerial, almost technocratic, approach, I’ve never quite felt they were “red Tories”, as it is sometimes put. Rather, I’ve seen them as somewhat shrinking, bashed too hard for too long, not really up to taking any serious fight to the Tories. It didn’t matter too much, though, because the country is now so very obviously sick of the Tories that, to a certain extent, all Starmer and his happy band had to do was hang about and not screw it up whilst scandal after scandal, from fraud, to bullying, to tax evasion, to touting for ten thousand pounds an hour jobs and prostituting their office to lobbying interests, emerged.
Labour not screwing it up meant little more than Labour not being Tories.
And then they dropped this ad.
What’s the difference?
Now, first, let’s just be clear what this is not. It is not, as was Johnson’s accusation last year, slanderous. Cos it’s in print. But it also isn’t libellous. It isn’t sufficiently direct and particular to be a libel. It is also not an abuse of parliamentary privilege. So, it’s not exactly the same as what Johnson did.
My point here is that it is still much closer to what Johnson did than I, and many others, ever wanted to see from Labour, because – concentrate Sir Keir, this bit is important – because we don’t want rid of the Tories just because we don’t like the colour blue. We want rid of them because they do disgusting things, things that range from fraud whilst people die, to weaponising the victims of child sex abuse in order to court the foulest sorts of racist bigots that are, unfortunately, in this country. You are mistaken, Sir Kier, if you believe that we are therefore content that Labour perpetrate considerably less fraud, and only exploit the abused to court perhaps just a few of the racist bigots. No. We’re not in this because we’d like to see less of that rubbish. We’re in this because we want none of it. We’d very much prefer that Labour didn’t do these things at all. At all. Because, you see, it isn’t necessary to do these things at all. Or, if perhaps it is, then it’s all too late, we’ve already fallen to fascism, and there’s really no point in voting, we should probably cut straight to the violence in the streets bit.
We don’t have any use for a Labour party that believes weaponing child abuse is the key to power. The Tories are doing that because it’s almost all they’ve got left. We understand that the Tories think that weaponising child abuse might make for some last, desperate gambit to win power, stoking some of Lee Anderson’s white supremacist chums into paroxysms of crusading righteous ire, but that’s one of the reasons why many of us want the Tories out.
Labour taking leafs from the Tory playbook does not give us a reason to vote for Labour. It actually gives us a reason to not vote for labour. In an FPTP system, though, we have to vote Labour. Well, some of us will be lucky enough to have a viable other option, be it Green, SNP, LibDem or whatever, but many of us, myself included, will have to vote Labour to remove a Tory. Why are you making this so hard for us?
The failure of the Labour Party defence
I hear the narrative being made by both Starmer in his Daily Mail article, and in Emily Thornberry’s various (and painful) media appearances, that we need to talk about the Tory record on dismantling the judiciary and all the chaos that results, but there are ways and there are ways. Your argument seems to be “but we’re talking about it now, aren’t we?!” all very smug, but seriously, we’re not really talking about their trashing of the judiciary and the resultant suffering for the many victims of crime, are we? What we’re actually talking about is you guys behaving like Tories. You are alienating the people who want to vote for you by legitimising Tory tactics. We’re asking ourselves why you too are courting the nation’s scum, which is a pointless exercise anyway because the scum have bagged the Tory party and they simply don’t need you.
And, finally, on top of all that, there is also this – Labour are suddenly coming across as the desperate ones. We’re winning guys. We’re winning. Well, we *were* winning. Why pull such a stupid stunt? You immediately changed the whole mood from “bugger, we’ve got to sit through the next year or so with these shysters, but it’s pretty much in the bag, so just hunker down and stick with it and we can be fixing all this harm two years from now at the latest” to “what the hell’s got Starmer rattled?!”
Throwing it all away?
I believe Johnson laid the seeds for his parliamentary party turning on him with his little stunt last year. I fear Starmer has done just something similar, but this time turning his electorate on him. The country is sick of this level of politics. We’re sick of the swivel-eyed headcases setting the tone. We’re sick of the two main parties fighting over who can bag the racist bigot vote. Vast tracts of the country need to feel represented, and time and again both main parties treat decent people with contempt and instead court the nutters.
We really can’t afford to have Labour snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s time for Labour to be Labour, and nothing else.