Rotherham: A Quintessentially Liberal Scandal

Imagine that in some Middle Eastern or African country 1,400 girls, some as young as 11, are abducted, gang-raped, beaten, threatened with death and trafficked by a Muslim gang. Some are doused with petrol, and threatened with being burned to death if they try to escape or tell anyone about their ordeal. They have been targeted because they are members of a different ethnic or religious group.

You don't have to imagine the outcry that would ensue, because something similar to what I describe above (with the possible exception of the petrol dousing) happened only recently, when hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped by the Islamist Boko Haram group in Nigeria. The international outrage was unanimous, and when the Nigerian authorities appealed for help the response was swift, with President Obama sending troops and drones to hunt for the girls; meanwhile his wife and various celebrities lent their support to a facile and self-indulgent social media campaign to "Bring Back Our Girls."

In the last few days we've learned that something of only a slightly lesser order of magnitude happened not in Africa but in Rotherham, a former steel and mill town in the north of England. The abuse continued for 16 years, and the perpetrators were not some elusive and heavily armed terrorist group who threatened to kill their victims at the first sign of a rescue attempt, but ordinary members of the local Muslim community.

Ending the girls' ordeal should have been a relatively simple and risk-free matter. But not only did the authorities fail to stop the abuse and prosecute the offenders, they didn't even try. They ignored pleas for help from the young victims and their families, and covered up their failure to act; and for good measure they arrested some of the victims and their families when they sought help.

Other than the starkly different locations and the fact that Boko Haram is a recognized terrorist group, the notable difference between the two episodes is that the Nigerian schoolgirls were black, and the Rotherham abuse victims were white.

The horrific details of the Rotherham "grooming" scandal were laid out in a report published by Professor Alexis Jay, a former senior social worker. Professor Jay wrote: “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.”

Just five men have been jailed for abusing girls in Rotherham; police are currently dealing with 32 investigations into child sexual exploitation in the town.

Rotherham isn't the UK's first "grooming" scandal. I wrote about the first major instance to come to light, in Rochdale, around 30 miles from Rotherham, in 2012, and there have been several other cases, predominantly in deprived areas of northern towns where working class whites and immigrants live in close proximity. Rotherham is the most extensive case to emerge, but it's thought the problem is even more widespread, with perhaps thousands more girls being abused by predominantly Muslim men of Pakistani extraction across Britain.

The main elements are the same in every case. The victims are vulnerable young white girls from poor backgrounds, and their assailants target them because they view them as worthless and immoral, and, in the words of former Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw, "easy meat" (Straw was vilified by many on the left for speaking out about the extent of "grooming").

In every case the same explanation for official inaction is offered: no one wanted to look too closely into complaints against "Asian" men because they were afraid of being accused of racism, and because they were concerned about the effect of arrests and prosecutions on "community cohesion." The fact that most media reports still describe the offenders as "Asian" rather than as Pakistani Muslims is itself a disgraceful evasion, and one which the north of England's Chinese, Hindu and Sikh communities no doubt resent.

The report, published by Professor Jay, a former senior social worker, says staff at Rotherham Council “described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.”

This isn't just a problem with political correctness or multiculturalism. It's a failure of every component of the modern bureaucratic state, and every element of modern liberalism, from an education system that fails many poor youngsters and a welfare state that traps its dependents in poverty (both of which systems the current Conservative-led government are slowly reforming), to inertia and unaccountability of public sector bureaucracies, and the dynastic and often corrupt culture of the "Old Labour" political machines that dominate the UK's northern cities.

One of the many disturbing aspects of the Rotherham scandal is that virtually no one has been held to account for the multiple failings that allowed the abuse to continue for so long. Many of those responsible have simply disappeared into the public sector morass, with some moving to other councils and some still involved in child "protection," where they will continue to pull down their six-figure salaries before retiring on six-figure pensions.

The poster boy for these shameless public servants is Shaun Wright, a former Labour councillor who was responsible for children's services in Rotherham between 2005 and 2010, when hundreds of children were being abused. He resigned from the council, only to continue failing the victims in his new post as police and crime commissioner. Wright has so far refused to resign from that position, insisting that he is “part of the solution."