A teenage girl, who claims to be a victim of sexual abuse and alleged grooming, poses in Rotherham (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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Nazir Afzal: Rotherham scandal is about male power, not ethnicity

Nazir Afzal, the CPS’s lead on child sexual abuse, suggests that the victims were targeted due to their vulnerability, and not because they were white.

In light of the recent Rotherham Scandal, Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s lead on child sexual abuse and violence against women and girls, suggests that the media hysteria about the perpetrators’ ethnicity is misleading.

Some residents proposed that diffidence around confronting the racial aspects of the abuse - the fact that the majority of the perpetrators were men of Pakistani descent – caused authorities to turn a blind eye. This led Home Secretary Theresa May to announce in parliament that the government would consider specifically investigating whether “institutionalized political correctness" – that is, the fear of being labeled racist - could also be to blame for why the sex abuse cases were inadequately dealt with.

Afzal suggests taking a more nationwide perspective on the issue and remains skeptical about whether a culture of “political correctness”, as alluded to in the report, caused the authorities to ignore the child abuse accusations.

In an interview with the Guardian he says:

So I know that the vast majority of offenders are British white male. We have come across cases all over the country and the ethnicity of the perpetrators varies depending on where you are … It is not the abusers’ race that defines them. It is their attitude to women that defines them.”

“I don’t want to play it down. The ethnicity of these perpetrators is what it is. It is a matter of fact. It is an issue that has to be addressed by the state, and the authorities and the community – but it’s important to contextualise this”

He explains that the media attention devoted to child abuse is inconsistent and  goes on to describe his experience working with the legal team on the Rochdale grooming case, back in 2012, which also involved Asian male perpetrators:

 A few weeks after the Rochdale case, we dealt with a case of 10 white men in North Yorkshire who had been abusing young girls, and they were all convicted and they got long sentences. It didn’t get the level of coverage”

Afzal proposes a practical explanation for involvement of Asian men in grooming scandals, and suggests that the victims were targeted due to their vulnerability, and not because they were white. Their vulnerability caused them to seek out “warmth, love, transport, mind-numbing substances, drugs, alcohol and food.” He explains:

Who offers those things? In certain parts of the country, the place they go is the night-time economy. Where you have Pakistani men, Asian men, disproportionately employed in the night-time economy, they are going to be more involved in this kind of activity than perhaps white men are. We keep hearing people talk about a problem in the north and the Midlands, and that’s where you have lots of minicab drivers, lots of people employed in takeaways, from that kind of background. If you have a preponderance of Asians working in those fields, some of that number, a very small number of those people, will take advantage of the girls who have moved into their sphere of influence. It’s tragic.”

“There is no religious basis for this. These men were not religious. Islam says that alcohol, drugs, rape and abuse are all forbidden, yet these men were surrounded by all of these things. So how can anyone say that these men were driven by their religion to do this kind of thing?

“They were doing this horrible, terrible stuff, because of the fact that they are men. That’s sadly what the driver is here. This is about male power. These young girls have been manipulated and abused because they were easy prey for evil men.”


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Jeremy Corbyn supporters should stop excusing Labour’s anti-immigration drift

The Labour leader is a passionate defender of migrants’ rights – Brexit shouldn’t distract the new left movement from that.

Something strange is happening on the British left – a kind of deliberate collective amnesia. During the EU referendum, the overwhelming majority of the left backed Remain.

Contrary to a common myth, both Jeremy Corbyn and the movement behind him put their weight into a campaign that argued forcefully for internationalism, migrants’ rights and regulatory protections.

And yet now, as Labour’s policy on Brexit hardens, swathes of the left appear to be embracing Lexit, and a set of arguments which they would have laughed off stage barely a year ago.

The example of free movement is glaring and obvious, but worth rehashing. When Labour went into the 2017 general election promising to end free movement with the EU, it did so with a wider election campaign whose tone was more pro-migrant than any before it.

Nonetheless, the policy itself, along with restricting migrants’ access to public funds, stood in a long tradition of Labour triangulating to the right on immigration for electorally calculated reasons. When Ed Miliband promised “tough controls on immigration”, the left rightly attacked him.  

The result of this contradiction is that those on the left who want to agree unequivocally with the leadership must find left-wing reasons for doing so. And so, activists who have spent years declaring their solidarity with migrants and calling for a borderless world can now be found contemplating ways for the biggest expansion of border controls in recent British history – which is what the end of free movement would mean – to seem progressive, or like an opportunity.

The idea that giving ground to migrant-bashing narratives or being harsher on Poles might make life easier for non-EU migrants was rightly dismissed by most left-wing activists during the referendum.

Now, some are going quiet or altering course.

On the Single Market, too, neo-Lexit is making a comeback. Having argued passionately in favour of membership, both the Labour leadership and a wider layer of its supporters now argue – to some extent or another – that only by leaving the Single Market could Labour implement a manifesto.

This is simply wrong: there is very little in Labour’s manifesto that does not have an already-existing precedent in continental Europe. In fact, the levers of the EU are a key tool for clamping down on the power of big capital.

In recent speeches, Corbyn has spoken about the Posted Workers’ Directive – but this accounts for about 0.17 per cent of the workforce, and is about to be radically reformed by the European Parliament.

The dangers of this position are serious. If Labour’s leadership takes the path of least resistance on immigration policy and international integration, and its support base rationalises these compromises uncritically, then the logic of the Brexit vote – its borders, its affirmation of anti-migrant narratives, its rising nationalist sentiment – will be mainlined into Labour Party policy.

Socialism in One Country and a return to the nation state cannot work for the left, but they are being championed by the neo-Lexiteers. In one widely shared blogpost on Novara Media, one commentator even goes as far as alluding to Britain’s Road to Socialism – the official programme of the orthodox Communist Party.

The muted and supportive reaction of Labour’s left to the leadership’s compromises on migration and Brexit owes much to the inept positioning of the Labour right. Centrists may gain personal profile and factional capital when the weaponising the issue, but the consequences have been dire.

Around 80 per cent of Labour members still want a second referendum, and making himself the “stop Brexit” candidate could in a parallel universe have been Owen Smith’s path to victory in the second leadership election.

But it meant that in the summer of 2016, when the mass base of Corbynism hardened its factional resolve, it did so under siege not just from rebelling MPs, but from the “Remoaners” as well.

At every juncture, the strategy of the centrist Labour and media establishment has made Brexit more likely. Every time a veteran of the New Labour era – many of whom have appalling records on, for instance, migrants’ rights – tells Labour members to fight Brexit, party members run a mile.

If Tony Blair’s messiah complex was accurate, he would have saved us all a long time ago – by shutting up and going away. The atmosphere of subterfuge and siege from MPs and the liberal press has, by necessity, created a culture of loyalty and intellectual conformity on the left.

But with its position in the party unassailable, and a radical Labour government within touching distance of Downing Street, the last thing the Labour leadership now needs is a wave of Corbynite loyalty-hipsters hailing its every word.

As the history of every attempt to form a radical government shows, what we desperately need is a movement with its own internal democratic life, and an activist army that can push its leaders as well as deliver leaflets for them.

Lexit is no more possible now than it was during the EU referendum, and the support base of the Labour left and the wider party is overwhelmingly in favour of free movement and EU membership.

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are passionate, principled advocates for migrants’ rights and internationalism. By showing leadership, Labour can once again change what is electorally possible.