The Disintegration of Multiculturalism in Early Twenty-first Century Britain – The Child Exploitation Gang Scandals:

Current ‘Culture Wars’ & an issue revisited:
Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, QC, MP:
Official portrait, 2021

The current British Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has been in the news again this week following her interviews on the BBC TV Sunday Morning programme with Laura Kuenessburg and Sky TV’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme on 2 April. She was recently embroiled in a controversy with sports presenter, Gary Lineker, following her choice of language in a debate on asylum seekers in the House of Commons. I have written about this in a previous blog. Here, I will concentrate on her remarks and proposals on ‘grooming gangs’ about child sexual abuse and exploitation. In her interview with Sophy Ridge, she commented:

“There’s been several reports over recent years about what I consider to be one of the biggest scandals in … our history, and that is a systematic and institutional failure to safeguard the welfare of children when it comes to sexual abuse, and we saw recently Professor Jay’s report being published and that makes very harrowing reading we’re seeing in towns and cities around the country a practice evolve, which has evolved, which is taking advantage of vulnerable children… whereby… white English girls… {are} being pursued, raped and drugged and harmed by gangs of British Pakistani men who’ve worked in child abuse rings or networks. … We’ve seen institutions and state agencies, whether it’s social workers, teachers, the police, turn a blind eye… out of political correctness, out of fear of being called ‘racist’… and as a result, thousands of children have had their childhoods robbed and devastated. … and there are many of these perpetrators still running wild, behaving in this way, and it’s now down to the authorities to track {them} down without fear or favour… and bring them to justice.”

When asked about the Home Office Report of 2020 which found that ‘grooming gangs’ were most commonly ‘white’, not Pakistani, and that, despite some of the high-profile cases also reported, the link between ethnicity and these offences could not be proven, she simply referred back to the Jay Report about Rotherham, failing to supply any further information in support of her assertions about the scale and nature of ongoing problems in towns and cities throughout Britain. Tracy Brabin, the Mayor of West Yorkshire, speaking later that morning, described these assertions as ‘dog-whistle’ politics, claiming that Braverman was again engaging in culture wars, appealing to her far-right supporters within and outside the Conservative Party.

For Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, Lisa Nandy pointed out in the subsequent interview that ‘mandatory reporting’ of child sexual reports was something many people in local and national childcare agencies had been calling for over the last twenty years. Certainly, as a teacher who began work in a town in Lancashire, forty years ago, this was one of the first things we were briefed on and trained in as being our basic ‘duty of care’. Lisa Nandy added that the Home Secretary, by choosing to single out one community was distracting attention from the fact that there are various forms of child abuse going on in communities with a variety of ethnic profiles. To understand this renewed debate, it is therefore important to remind ourselves of what the evidence is that has been revealed by various scandals and reports over the past two decades, in the context of broader ‘race relations’.

British Identity at the Beginning of the New Millennium:

As Simon Schama pointed out in 2002, it was a fact that even though only half of the British-Caribbean population and a third of the British-Asian population were born in Britain, they continued to constitute only a small proportion of the total population. It was also true that any honest reckoning of the post-imperial account needed to take account of the appeal of separatist fundamentalism in Muslim communities. At the end of the last century, an opinion poll found that fifty per cent of British-born Caribbean men and twenty per cent of British-born Asian men had, or once had, white partners. In 2000, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown found that, when polled, eighty-eight per cent of white Britons between the ages of eighteen and thirty had no objection to inter-racial marriage; eighty-four per cent of West Indians and East Asians and fifty per cent of those from Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds felt the same way. Schama commented:

The colouring of Britain exposes the disintegrationalist argument for the pallid, defensive thing that it is. British history has not just been some sort of brutal mistake or conspiracy that has meant the steamrollering of Englishness over subject nations. It has been the shaking loose of peoples from their roots. A Jewish intellectual expressing impatience with the harping on ‘roots’ once told me that “trees have roots; Jews have legs”. The same could be said of Britons who have shared the fate of empire, whether in Bombay or Bolton, who have encountered each other in streets, front rooms, kitchens and bedrooms.

Until the Summer of 2001, this ‘integrationist’ view of British history and contemporary society was the broadly accepted orthodoxy among intellectuals and politicians, if not held more popularly. At that point, however, partly as a result of riots in the north of England involving ethnic minorities, including young Muslim men, and partly because of events in New York and Washington, the existence of parallel communities began to be discussed more widely and the concept of ‘multiculturalism’ began to become subject to fundamental criticism on both the right and left of the political spectrum. In the ‘noughties’, the dissenters from the multicultural consensus began to be found everywhere along this continuum.

A ‘South Asian’ immigrant in a Bradford textile factory in the late eighties.

In the eighties and nineties, there were critics who warned that the emphasis on mutual tolerance and equality between cultures ran the risk of encouraging separate development, rather than fostering a more profound sense of mutual understanding through interaction and integration between cultures. The ‘live and let live’ outlook which dominated ‘race relations’ quangos in the 1960s and ’70s had already begun to be replaced by more active multiculturalism, particularly in communities where that outlook had proven to be ineffective in countering the internecine conflicts of the 1980s. Good examples of this development can be found in the ‘Education for Mutual Understanding’ and ‘Inter-Cultural’ Educational projects in Northern Ireland and the North and West Midlands of England in which this author was involved and has written about elsewhere on this site.

After the 9/11 attacks on the USA, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 7/7 London bombings, there was no bigger cultural challenge to the British sense of proportion and fairness than the perceived threat of ‘militant Islam’ or rather ‘Islamist’ terrorism. There were plenty of angry young Muslim men prepared to listen to fanatical ‘imams’ and to act on their narrow-minded and bloodthirsty interpretations of ‘Jihad’. Their views, at odds with those of the well-established South Asian Muslim communities in Britain, referred to above, were those of the ultra-conservative ‘Wahhabi’ Arabs and Iranian mullahs who insisted, for example, on women being fully veiled. But some English politicians, like Norman Tebbit, felt justified in asking whether all Muslim communities throughout Britain really wanted to fully integrate. Would they, in Norman Tebbit’s notorious ‘test’, support the English Cricket team when it played against Pakistan?

Sleepwalking into segregation:

Politicians also began to break with the multicultural consensus, and their views began to have an impact because while commentators on the right were expected to have ‘nativist’ if not ‘racist’ tendencies in the ‘Powellite’ tradition, those from the left could generally be seen as having less easily assailable motives.

Trevor Phillips (pictured right), whom I had known as the first black President of the National Union of Students in 1979 before, in 2003, he became the Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, opened up territory in discussion and debate that others had not dared to ‘trespass’ into. His realisation that the race-relations ‘industry’ was part of the problem, and that partly as a result of talking up diversity the country was ‘sleepwalking to segregation’ was an insight that others began to share.

Britain did not have as high a proportion of Muslims as France, and not many of them, outside London and parts of the South East, were of Arab and North African origin. But the large urban centres of the Home Counties, the English Midlands, and the North of England had third-generation Muslim communities of hundreds of thousands. They felt like they were being watched in a new way and were perhaps right to feel more than a little uneasy. In the old industrial towns on either side of the Pennines and in areas of West London, there were such strong concentrations of Muslims that the word ‘ghetto’ was being used by ministers and civil servants, not just, as in the seventies and eighties, by right-wing organisations and politicians. White working-class people had long been moving, quietly, to more semi-rural commuter towns in the Home Counties and on the South Coast, and in the cities of the Midlands, like Birmingham, to the ‘suburbs’.

But those involved in this ‘white flight’, as it became known, were a minority if polling was an accurate guide, and their motives for leaving the inner city areas were often complicated, not linked to ‘race’ or culture. Only a quarter of Britons said that they would prefer to live in white-only areas. In retrospect, this may seem to be a significant minority. Yet even this measure of tolerance or ‘multiculturalism’ was being questioned. How much should the new Britons ‘integrate’ or ‘assimilate’, and how much was the retention of traditions a matter of their rights to a distinctive cultural identity? After all, Britain had a long heritage of allowing newcomers to integrate on their own terms, retaining customs and contributing elements of their own culture. Speaking in December 2006, Blair cited forced marriages, the importation of ‘sharia’ law and the ban on women entering certain mosques as being on the wrong side of this line. In the same speech, he used new, harder language. He claimed that, after the London bombings, …

“… for the first time in a generation there is an unease, an anxiety, even at points a resentment that out very openness, our willingness to welcome difference, our pride in being home to many cultures, is being used against us … Our tolerance is what makes is part of what makes Britain, Britain. So conform to it; or don’t come here. We don’t want the hate-mongers … If you come here lawfully, we welcome you. If you are permitted to stay here permanently, you become an equal member of our community and become one of us.”

His speech was not just about security and the struggle against terrorism. He was defining the duty to integrate. Britain’s strong economic growth over the previous two decades, despite its weaker manufacturing base, was partly the product of its long tradition of hospitality. The question now was whether the country was becoming so overcrowded that this tradition of tolerance was finally eroding. England, in particular, had the highest population density of any major country in the Western world. It would require wisdom and frankness from politicians and Whitehall’s watchfulness and efficiency to keep the ship on an even keel. Without these qualities and trust from the people, how can we hope for meaningful interactions between Muslims, Christians, Jews and Humanists?; between newcomers, sojourners, old-timers and exiles?; between white Europeans, black Africans, south Asians and West Indians?

Looking back to 2002, the same year in which Simon Schama published his BBC series book, The Fate of Empire, the latest census for England and Wales was published. Enumerated and compiled the previous year, it showed how much the countries had changed in the decade since the last census was taken. Douglas Murray, Associate Editor of The Spectator, in the first chapter of his book, The Strange Death of Europe, first published in 2017, challenged his readers to imagine themselves back in 2002, speculating about what England and Wales might look like in the 2011 Census.

Imagine, he asks us, that someone in our company had projected:

“White Britons will become a minority in their own capital city by the end of this decade and the Muslim population will double in the next ten years.”

How would his readers have reacted in 2002? Would they have used words like ‘alarmist’, ‘scaremongering’, ‘racist’, and ‘Islamophobic’? In 2002, a Times journalist made far less startling statements about likely future immigration, which were denounced by David Blunkett, then Home Secretary (using parliamentary privilege) as bordering on fascism. Yet, however much abuse they received for saying or writing it, anyone offering this analysis would have been proved absolutely right at the end of 2012, when the 2011 Census was published. It proved that only 44.9 per cent of London residents identified themselves as ‘white British’. It also revealed far more significant changes, showing that the number of people living in England and Wales born ‘overseas’ had risen by nearly three million since 2001. In addition, almost three million people in England and Wales were living in households where not one adult spoke English or Welsh as their primary language.

The Changing Religious & Political Landscape of England:

St. Michael’s, the parish church in Framlingham, Suffolk.

These were major ethnic and linguistic changes, but there were equally striking findings of changing religious beliefs. The Census statistics showed that adherence to every faith except Christianity was on the rise. Since the previous census, the number of people identifying themselves as Christian had declined from seventy-two per cent to fifty-nine. The number of Christians in England and Wales dropped by more than four million, from thirty-seven million to thirty-three. While the Churches witnessed this collapse in their members and attendees, mass migration assisted a near doubling of worshippers of Islam. Between 2001 and 2011 the number of Muslims in England and Wales rose from 1.5 million to 2.7 million. While these were the official figures, it is possible that they were underestimated, because many newly-arrived immigrants might not have filled in the forms at the beginning of April 2011 when the Census was taken, not yet having a registered permanent residence.

The two local authorities whose populations were growing fastest in England, by twenty per cent in the previous ten years, were Tower Hamlets and Newham in London, and these were also among the areas with the largest non-response to the census, with around one in five households failing to return the forms. Yet the results of the census clearly revealed that mass migration was in the process of altering England completely. In twenty-three of London’s thirty-three boroughs (see map above) ‘white Britons’ were now in the minority. A spokesman for the ONS regarded this as demonstrating ‘diversity’, which it certainly did, but by no means all commentators regarded this as something positive or even neutral. When politicians of all the main parties addressed the census results they greeted them in wholly favourable terms.

This had been the ‘orthodox’ political view since in 2007 the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, had spoken with pride that thirty-five per cent of the people working in London had been born in a foreign country. For years a sense of excitement and optimism about these changes in London and the wider country seemed the only appropriate tone to strike. This was bolstered by the sense that what had happened in the first decade of the twenty-first century was simply a continuation of what had worked well for Britain in the previous three decades.

The public response to the massive upsurge in immigration and to the swift transformation of parts of Britain it had not really reached before, was exceptionally tolerant. There were no significant or sustained outbreaks of racist abuse or violence before 2016, and the only racist political party, the British National Party (BNP) was subsequently destroyed, especially in London. This soon turned out to be a politically-correct pretence, though what was new in this decade was not so much growth in immigration from Commonwealth countries and the Middle East, or from wartorn former Yugoslavia, but the impact of white European migrants from the new EU countries, under the terms of the accession treaties and the freedom of movement provisions of the single market.

The Politics of Immigration:

This unchecked ‘internal migration’ within the EU also demonstrated to many native Britons that immigration control was simply not a priority for New Labour and subsequently, for the Con-Libs. Labour and the Lib Dems both gave the impression that they regarded all immigration control, and even discussion of it, as inherently ‘racist’, which made any internal or external opposition to it hard to voice. In April 2006, Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP for Barking since 1996 (pictured above), commented in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph that eight out of ten white working-class voters in her constituency might be tempted to vote for the British National Party (BNP) in the local elections on 4 May 2006 because “no one else is listening to them” about their concerns over unemployment, high house prices and the housing of asylum seekers in the area. She said the Labour Party must promote…

“… very, very strongly the benefits of the new, rich multi-racial society which is part of this part of London for me”.

There was widespread media coverage of her remarks, and Hodge was strongly criticised for giving the BNP publicity. The BNP went on to gain 11 seats in the local election out of a total of 51, making them the second-largest party on the local council. It was reported that Labour activists accused Hodge of generating hundreds of extra votes for the BNP and some local Labour members began to privately discuss the possibility of a move to deselect her. The GMB union wrote to Hodge in May 2006, demanding her resignation. Ken Livingstone accused Hodge of “magnifying the propaganda of the BNP” after she said that British residents should get priority in council house allocations. In November 2009, the Leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, announced that he intended to contest Barking at the 2010 general election, which saw New Labour finally defeated under Gordon Brown’s leadership. In spite of the union’s position, Hodge was returned as MP for Barking, doubling her majority to over 16,000, while Griffin came third behind the Conservatives. The BNP subsequently lost all of its seats on Barking and Dagenham Council.

Opinion polls and the simple, anecdotal evidence of living in the country showed that most people continued to feel no personal animosity towards immigrants or people of different ethnic backgrounds. But poll after poll also showed that a majority were apprehensive about what ‘all this’ migration meant for the country and its future. But even the mildest attempts to put these issues on the political agenda, such as the concerns raised by Margaret Hodge, were often met with condemnation from the established Labour left, especially in London, with the result that there was still no serious public discussion of them. Perhaps successive governments of all hues had spent decades putting off any honest debate on immigration because they suspected that the public disagreed with them and that it was a matter they had lost control over anyway. This was done through charges of ‘racism’ and ‘bigotry’, such as the accidental ‘caught-on-mike’ remark made by Gordon Brown while getting into his car in the 2010 election campaign, when confronted by one of his own Labour councillors in a northern English town about the sheer numbers of migrants. It is said to have represented a major turning point in the campaign.

Perhaps also it was because of this lack of control that the principal reaction to the developing reality began to be to turn on those who expressed any concern about it, even when they reflected the views of the general public. A series of deflecting tactics became a replacement for action in the wake of the 2011 census, including the demand that the public should ‘just get over it’, which came back to haunt David Cameron’s ministers in the course of the 2016 ‘Brexit’ Referendum campaign. Even Boris Johnson, then at least as socially liberal as Cameron as Mayor of London, in his Daily Telegraph column of December 2012, entitled Let’s not dwell on immigration but sow the seeds of integration, responded to the census results by writing…

We need to stop moaning about the dam burst. It’s happened. There is nothing we can now do except make the process of absorption as eupeptic as possible … 

The Mayor, who as an MP and member of David Cameron’s front-bench team later became a key leader of the anti-immigration ‘Leave’ campaign and an ardent Brexiteer, may well have been right in making this statement, saying what any practical politician in charge of a multi-cultural metropolis would have to say. But there is something cold about the tone of his remark, not least the absence of any sense that there were other people out there in the capital city not willing simply to ‘get over it’, who disliked the alteration of their society and had never been asked about it. It did not seem to have occurred to Johnson that there were those who might be nursing a sense of righteous indignation about the fact that for years all the main parties had taken decisions that were so at variance with the opinions of their electors, or that there was something profoundly disenfranchising about such decisions.

In the same month as Johnson’s admonition, a poll by YouGov found two-thirds of the British public believed that immigration over the previous decade had been a ‘bad thing for Britain’. Only eleven per cent thought it had been a ‘good thing’. This included majorities among supporters of all three main parties. Finally, the leaders of all three parties conceded that immigration was indeed too high. But none had any clear or proven policy on how to change course. By 2015, public opinion surveys were suggesting that a failure to do anything about immigration even while talking about it was one of the key areas of the breakdown in trust between the electorate and their political representatives.

The Rotherham & Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse Cases:

It was in the early 2000s in England that stories that had emerged from the white working-class and Punjabi communities over many years began to be investigated by the media. These revealed that the organised grooming of (often) underage young girls by gangs of North African or Pakistani heritage or background was taking place in towns throughout the north of England and further afield. These gangs, for convenience, were frequently misnamed as ‘Muslim’, especially in the Islamophobic atmosphere following the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Apparently, the police had been too scared to look into the issue, and when the media finally looked into it, they too had initially shied away. A 2004 documentary on social services in Bradford had its screening postponed after self-proclaimed ‘anti-fascists’ and local police chiefs appealed to Channel Four to drop the documentary. The sections that dealt with the sexual exploitation of white girls by ‘Asian’ gangs (the other by-word) were viewed as being potentially inflammatory. In particular, these authorities insisted, the screening ahead of local elections could assist the BNP at the polls. The documentary was finally screened months after the elections. Everything about this case and the details that followed provided a microcosm of a problem and a reaction which were going to spread across Europe.

Rotherham town centre, March 2010. Source: Wikipedia.

Campaigning on, or even mentioning, the issue of grooming during those years brought with it terrible problems. When the northern Labour MP Ann Cryer took up the issue of the rape of underage girls in her own constituency, she was swiftly and widely denounced as an ‘Islamophobe’ and a ‘racist’, and at one stage had to receive police protection. It took years for the central government, the police, local authorities, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to face up to the issue. When they finally began to do so, an official inquiry into abuse in Rotherham alone revealed the exploitation of at least fourteen hundred children over the period 1997-2014. The victims were all white girls from the local community, with the youngest victim aged eleven. All had been brutally raped, with some doused in petrol and threatened with being set on fire. Others were threatened with guns and forced to watch the violent rape of other girls as a warning that they should not tell anyone about the abuse.

Map showing the location of Rotherham in South Yorkshire

Meanwhile, in January 2011, a gang of nine men, seven of Pakistani heritage and two from North Africa were convicted and sentenced at the Old Bailey in London for the sex trafficking of children between the ages of eleven and fifteen. One of the victims sold into a form of modern-day slavery was a girl of eleven who was branded with the initials of her ‘owner’ and abuser: ‘M’ for Mohammed. The court heard that he had branded her to make her his property and to ensure others knew about it. This did not happen in a Pakistani backwater, nor even in one of the northern English towns that so much of the country had forgotten about until similar crimes involving Pakistani heritage men were brought to light. This happened in leafy Oxfordshire between 2004 and 2012. Nobody could argue that gang rape and child abuse were the preserve of immigrants, but these court cases and the official investigations into particular types of child-rape gangs, especially in the case of Rotherham, had identified specific cultural attitudes towards women, especially non-Muslim women, that were similar to those held by men in parts of Pakistan.

The Jay Report on Rotherham:
Professor Alexis Jay in 2016
Source: Wikipedia

In October 2013 Rotherham Council commissioned Professor Alexis Jay, a former chief social work adviser to the Scottish government, to conduct an independent inquiry into its handling of child sexual exploitation reports since 1997. Published on 26 August 2014, the Jay report revealed that an estimated 1,400 children, by a ‘conservative estimate’, had been sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. According to the report, children as young as eleven were…

‘raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidated.’

 The report contained detailed case studies:

‘One child who was being prepared to give evidence received a text saying the perpetrator had her younger sister and the choice of what happened next was up to her. She withdrew her statements. At least two other families were terrorised by groups of perpetrators, sitting in cars outside the family home, smashing windows, making abusive and threatening phone calls. On some occasions child victims went back to perpetrators in the belief that this was the only way their parents and other children in the family would be safe. In the most extreme cases, no one in the family believed that the authorities could protect them.’

Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham from 2012

The report noted that babies were born as a result of the abuse. There were also miscarriages and terminations. Several girls were able to look after their babies with help from social services, but in other cases babies were permanently removed, causing further trauma to the mother and mother’s family. Sarah Champion, who in 2012 succeeded Denis MacShane as Labour MP for Rotherham, said this ‘spoke volumes about the way these children weren’t seen as victims at all’. The police had shown a lack of respect for the victims in the early 2000s, according to the report, deeming them “undesirables” and unworthy of police protection. The concerns of Jayne Senior, the former youth worker, were met with ‘indifference and scorn’. The report noted the experience of Adele Weir, the Home Office researcher, who attempted to raise concerns about the abuse with senior police officers in 2002; she was told not to do so again and was subsequently sidelined.

Staff described Rotherham Council as macho, sexist, and bullying, according to the report. Sexist comments were made to female employees, particularly during the period 1997–2009. One woman reported being told to wear shorter skirts to “get on better”; another was asked if she wore a mask while having sex. The Jay report noted that…

‘… the existence of such a culture … is likely to have impeded the Council from providing an effective, corporate response to such a highly sensitive social problem as child sexual exploitation.’

Several people who spoke to the Jay inquiry were concerned that Rotherham Council officials were connected to the perpetrators through business interests such as the taxi firm involved; the police assured the inquiry that there was no evidence of this. The inquiry into the Rotherham abuse cases found that although the perpetrators were almost all men of Pakistani heritage, operating in gangs, staff at the local council described their…

nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins for fear of being thought of as racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.

Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, 2007–2016

The local police were also found to have failed to act for fear of accusations of ‘racism’ and of what this might do to community relations. David Crompton, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police from 2012 to 2016, invited the National Crime Agency to conduct an independent inquiry. Keith Vaz, then chair of the Home Affairs Committee, told Meredydd Hughes, Chief Constable from 2004 to 2011, that Hughes had failed abuse victims.

Rotherham town centre, September 2016. Source: Wikipedia.

There was worldwide astonishment at the Jay report’s findings and extensive news coverage. Ten of the UK’s most popular newspapers featured the report on their front pages, including the TimesGuardianDaily Telegraph and Independent. The story of Rotherham, like that of a whole series of similar cases in towns across Britain, emerged because a couple of journalists were determined to bring the story out into the daylight. But the communities within which the men operated showed no willingness to confront the problem, but every desire to cover it up. Even at the courts, after sentencing, families of those accused claimed that the whole thing was a government ‘stitch-up’. When one Muslim from a northern town spoke out against what was being done by members of his own community, he received death threats from fellow British Pakistanis.

Below: The front page of The Times, 24 September 2012.

Theresa May, then Home Secretary, accused the authorities of a “dereliction of duty”. She blamed several factors, including Rotherham Council’s ‘institutionalised political correctness’, inadequate scrutiny, and culture of covering things up, combined with a fear of being seen as racist and a “disdainful attitude” toward the children. Denis MacShane, MP for Rotherham from 1994 until his resignation in 2012 for claiming false expenses, blamed a culture of ‘not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat’. Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, where similar cases were prosecuted, argued that ethnicity, class, and the night-time economy were all factors, adding that “a very small minority” in the Asian community have an unhealthy view of women, and that an ‘unhealthy brand of politics ‘imported’ from Pakistan’, which involved “looking after your own”, was partly to blame.

Rochdale & Elsewhere:

Similar stories to those from Rotherham emerged from Rochdale in Lancashire and other towns when the cases of abuse came to the courts. Girls were chosen, according to the presiding judges, because they were from a different community and therefore ‘easy meat’. Many of the men had brought primitive ideas about women and especially about unaccompanied and therefore unprotected women with them from Pakistan and other male-dominated South Asian cultures. In Rochdale, one girl was taken by her ‘boyfriend’ to what she thought was going to be a party:

“When she got there, there was no party, there were no other female members present. What she found was that there were five adults, their ages ranging between their mid-twenties going on to the late-forties and the five men systematically, routinely, raped her. And the young man who was supposed to be her boyfriend stood back and watched”.

Groups would photograph the abuse and threaten to publish it to their fathers, brothers, and in the mosques if their victims went to the police. The attitudes towards women underpinning these activities were sometimes been extended into intolerant attitudes toward other religions, ethnic groups, and sexual minorities. They are cultural attitudes that are anathema to the teachings of the Qu’ran and mainstream imams, but fears of being accused of ‘racism’ for pointing out such factual connections had been at least partly responsible for these cases taking years to come to light. In the face of such attitudes being expressed in Britain, every part of the British government failed to stand up for British norms, including the rule of law. The kindest explanation would be that the influx of large numbers from such cultures over the decades and their concentration in certain towns made the authorities in those towns nervous as to where to draw their own lines. But Douglas Murray claimed that:

It was more than that. Every time grooming scandals occurred it transpired that the local authorities turned a blind eye for fear of causing community problems or being accused of racism. The British police remained scarred from the Macpherson Report of 1999, which had charged them with ‘institutional racism’, and feared any repeat of that accusation.

Above: Nazir Afzal, Crown Prosecutor for North-West England.

Nonetheless, leading British Muslims and members of the British-Pakistani community condemned both the abuse and that it had been covered up. Nazir Afzal (pictured below), Chief Crown Prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for North West England from 2011–2015, himself a Muslim, made the decision in 2011 to prosecute the Rochdale child sex abuse ring after the CPS nationally had turned the case down. Responding to the Jay report, he argued that the abuse had no basis in Islam:

“Islam says that alcohol, drugs, rape and abuse are all forbidden, yet these men were surrounded by all of these things. … It is not the abusers’ race that defines them. It is their attitude toward women that defines them.” 

The Hostile Environment:

At the same time, the coalition government of 2010-15 was fearful of the attribution of base motives if it got tough on immigrants. The Conservative leadership was trying to reposition itself as more socially ‘liberal’ under David Cameron. Nevertheless, at the 2010 election, they promised to cut immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands per year, but they never succeeded in getting near that target. To show that she meant ‘business’, however, in 2013, Theresa May’s Home Office organised a number of vans with advertising hoardings to drive around six London boroughs where many illegal immigrants and asylum seekers lived. The posters on the hoardings read, In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest, followed by a government helpline number. The posters became politically toxic immediately. The Labour Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, described them as “divisive and disgraceful” and the monitoring and campaigning group Liberty, formerly known as the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), branded them “racist and illegal”.

After some months it was revealed that the pilot scheme had successfully persuaded only eleven illegal immigrants to leave the country voluntarily. Theresa May admitted that the scheme had been a mistake and too “blunt”. Indeed, it was a ‘stunt’ designed to reassure the ‘native’ population that their government was getting tough, and it was not repeated, but the overall ‘hostile environment’ policy it was part of continued into the next majority Conservative government after the 2015 election, leading to the illegal deportation of hundreds of ‘Windrush generation’ migrants from the Caribbean who had settled in Britain before 1968 and therefore lacked passports and papers identifying them as British subjects. In fact, under Cameron’s Conservative government, net immigration reached a record level of 330,000 per year, numbers which would fill a city the size of Coventry. The movement of people, even before the European migration crisis of 2015, was of an entirely different quantity, quality and consistency from anything that the British Isles had experienced before, even in the postwar period. Yet the ‘nation of immigrants’ mythology continued to be used to cover the vast changes of recent years and to pretend that history could be used to provide precedents for what had happened since the turn of the millennium.

In late October 2018, seven men, the largest number prosecuted under the National Crime Agency’s Operation Stovewood investigation so far, was also convicted of sexual offences against five girls committed between 1998 and 2005. They were first prosecuted in September as a group of eight men charged with various child sexual offences, two of which were said to have raped a young girl in Sherwood Forest between August 2002 and 2003, giving her drugs and alcohol and threatening to abandon her if she did not comply with their demands. The girl later had to have an abortion after falling pregnant. One said she had slept with a hundred Asian men by the time she was sixteen.

Reports on Grooming Gangs, Child Sexual Exploitation & Ethnicity:

The Rotherham case was one of several cases which prompted investigations looking into the claim that the majority of perpetrators from grooming gangs were British Pakistani; the first was by Quilliam in December 2017, which released a report entitled Group Based Child Sexual Exploitation – Dissecting Grooming Gangs, which claimed 84% of offenders were of South Asian heritage. However, this report was “fiercely” criticised for its unscientific nature and poor methodology by child sexual exploitation experts Ella Cockbain and Waqas Tufail, in their paper Failing Victims, Fuelling Hate: Challenging the Harms of the ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ Narrative, which was published in January 2020. A further investigation was carried out by the British government in December 2020, when the Home Office published its own findings, showing that the majority of child sexual exploitation gangs were, in fact, composed of white men and not British Pakistani men:

“Beyond specific high-profile cases, the academic literature highlights significant limitations to what can be said about links between ethnicity and this form of offending. Research has found that group-based CSE offenders are most commonly White. Some studies suggest an over-representation of Black and Asian offenders relative to the demographics of national populations. However, it is not possible to conclude that this is representative of all group-based CSE offending. This is due to issues such as data quality problems, the way the samples were selected in studies, and the potential for bias and inaccuracies in the way that ethnicity data is collected…

‘… Based on the existing evidence, and our understanding of the flaws in the existing data, it seems most likely that the ethnicity of group-based CSE offenders is in line with CSA (child sexual abuse) more generally and with the general population, with the majority of offenders being White’.

Writing in The Guardian, Cockbain and Tufail concluded that…

‘The two-year study by the Home Office makes very clear that there are no grounds for asserting that Muslim or Pakistani-heritage men are disproportionately engaged in such crimes, and, citing our research, it confirmed the unreliability of the Quilliam claim’.

But, in the atmosphere of the ‘Hostile Environment’, the damage had already been done. Distinctions between race, ethnicity and religion were lost on most white British people. In June 2013, the polling company ComRes carried out a poll for BBC Radio One asking a thousand young British people about their attitudes towards the world’s major religions. The results were released three months later and showed that of those polled, twenty-seven per cent said that they did not trust Muslims (compared with 15% saying the same of Jews, 13% of Buddhists, and 12% of Christians). More significantly, perhaps, forty-four per cent said that they thought Muslims did not share the same views or values as the rest of the population. The BBC and other media in Britain then set to work to try to discover how Britain could address the fact that so many young people thought this way.

Causes for Concern or Conspiracy Theories?

Throughout the 2010s, net migration into Britain was far more than three hundred thousand per year. The further rise in the population of the United Kingdom recorded in 2021 was almost entirely due to inward migration, and higher birth rates among the predominantly young migrant population. In 2014 women who were born overseas accounted for twenty-seven per cent of all live births in England and Wales, and a third of all newborn babies had at least one overseas-born parent, a figure that had doubled since the 1990s. However, since the 2016 Brexit vote, statistics have shown that many recent migrants to Britain from the EU have been returning to their home countries so it is difficult to know, as yet, how many of these children will grow up in Britain, or for how long. Yet based on the increases projected by the Office for National Statistics in 2017, Douglas Murray asked the following rhetorical questions of the leaders of the mainstream political parties:

All these years on, despite the name-calling and the insults and the ignoring of their concerns, were your derided average white voters not correct when they said that they were losing their country? Irrespective of whether you think that they should have thought this, let alone whether they should have said this, said it differently, or accepted the change more readily, it should at some stage cause people to pause and reflect that the voices almost everybody wanted to demonise and dismiss were, in the final analysis, the voices whose predictions were nearest to being right.

One might retort with the observation that Murray seems to attach too much emphasis to the anonymous ‘average white voter’ and hints, more broadly in his book, at the need for a policy based on reversing what he seems to see as the ‘racial replacement’ of the previous half-century. He does admit that the cases of rape gangs are an unusual and unrepresentative example of the behaviour of immigrants as a whole. But he suggests that these crimes ought to be the easiest of all to discover, investigate and punish. If the large-scale, organised, rape of children takes more than a decade to come to light, he asks how long it will take for other, less violent examples of undesirable attitudes take to come to light?

This, Murray claims, demonstrates that although the benefits of mass immigration undoubtedly exist and there is an increasing and widespread awareness of these, the disadvantages of importing huge numbers of people from another culture will take a great deal longer to admit to. That may be so, but it may also be the case, as in the past, that the end product of the sustained effort of all communities will be a fuller integration of other cultures and their positive contributions into British life. The era of ‘multiculturalism’ may be over, but we can now be optimistic about a new, active era of ‘interculturalism.’ That, of course, will require a return to a consensus on immigration policy, practical local integration measures and the jettisoning of ‘the hostile environment’.

The Wedge Warrior:

Suella Braverman was elected to the House of Commons as the MP for Fareham in 2015 and gave her maiden speech on 1 June 2015, almost a year after the publication of the Jay Report on Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham. She has taken a particular interest in education, home affairs and justice and has written for The Daily TelegraphBright Blue and other right-wing press. In December 2015 opinion column, Braverman wrote, ‘In essence, rights have come to fill the space once occupied by generosity.’ She quoted Eric Posner’s theories on what the Brazilian state saw as its right to use torture by ‘the police in the name of crime prevention. They justify this by putting a general right to live free from crime and intimidation above the rights of those who are tortured.’ She closed, …

‘To correct the imbalance, perhaps we should adopt a Universal Declaration of Responsibilities and Duties, to be read in tandem with that on Human Rights? A fair, decent and reasonable society should question the dilution of our sense of duty, the demotion of our grasp of responsibility and our virtual abandonment of the spirit of civic obligation. What we do for others should matter more than the selfish assertion of personal rights and the lonely individualism to which it gives rise’.

In March 2019, Braverman stated in a speech for the anti-European Bruges Group that “as Conservatives, we are engaged in a battle against Cultural Marxism”. Journalist Dawn Foster challenged Braverman’s use of the term “cultural Marxism”, highlighting its anti-Semitic history and stating it was a theory in the manifesto of the mass murderer Anders Breivik, the perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks. Braverman’s use of the term was initially condemned as hate speech by other MPs, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate, among other anti-racist charities. Braverman denied that the term was an antisemitic trope, saying,

“We have culture evolving from the far left which has allowed the snuffing out of freedom of speech, freedom of thought. … I’m very aware of that ongoing creep of cultural Marxism, …”

After meeting with her later, the Board of Deputies of British Jews said in a subsequent statement that she is “not in any way antisemitic”, saying it believed that she did not “intentionally use antisemitic language” while finding that she “is clearly a good friend of the Jewish community” (since her husband is Jewish) and that they were “sorry to see that the whole matter has caused distress”.

Braverman in her role as attorney general meets the prosecutor general of Ukraine 
Iryna Venediktova in May 2022.
Source: Wikipedia.

In Johnson’s February 2020 cabinet reshuffle, Braverman was appointed attorney general for England and Wales. During the July 2022 United Kingdom government crisis, Braverman remained a minister, though, on 6 July 2022, she called for Boris Johnson to resign. She stood in the ensuing Conservative Party leadership election but was eliminated from the race in the second round of ballots, winning just twenty-seven votes. Had she succeeded in being appointed prime minister, Braverman said her priorities would have been to cut government spending, “solve the problem of boats crossing the Channel”, deliver “Brexit opportunities”, withdraw the UK from the European Convention of Human Rights, of which it is a founding member, and to “get rid of all of this woke rubbish”.  

Braverman was appointed Home Secretary in the new Truss ministry on 6 September 2022. In the House of Commons, she referred to people reaching the UK by crossing the Channel in small boats as an ‘invasion’, which she repeated in early 2023. Braverman’s comments attracted criticism from an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor who in January 2023 accused Braverman of using language akin to Nazi rhetoric, a criticism recently echoed on Twitter by former England footballer and commentator Gary Lineker, which led to his suspension by the BBC Director General as the presenter of Match of the Day following a campaign of letter-writing to him by back-bench Conservative MPs. Braverman stood by her comments and declined to apologise, stating:

“We have a problem with people exploiting our generosity, breaking our laws and undermining our system.”

In October 2022, Braverman said that she would love to see a front page of The Daily Telegraph on the sending of the first planeload of asylum seekers to Rwanda and described it as her “dream” and “obsession”. The first attempted flight by the UK to send asylum seekers to Rwanda in June 2022, under the previous Home Secretary, Priti Patel, had resulted in asylum seekers being restrained and attached to plane seats after self-harming and threatening suicide. Commenting on these events, the UN Refugee Agency said that this…

… “arrangement, which amongst other concerns seeks to shift responsibility and lacks necessary safeguards, is incompatible with the letter and spirit of the 1951 Convention”

Amber Rudd, a former Conservative Home Secretary, had also criticised the plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda as “brutal” and “impractical”. Archbishops and bishops joined the chorus of condemnation on moral and ethical grounds, all to no avail. In the meantime, asylum seekers and other migrants continued to make the perilous channel crossing in hundreds and thousands every day. Clearly, the threat of deportation to Rwanda was an insufficient deterrent.

Quite suddenly, Braverman left her cabinet position as Home Secretary on 19 October 2022. She said that her departure was because she had made an “honest mistake” by sharing an official document from her personal email address with a colleague in Parliament, an action which breached the Ministerial Code. Controversially, following Liz Truss’s resignation, on 25 October Braverman was then reappointed as Home Secretary by new prime minister Rishi Sunak upon the formation of the Sunak ministry. Despite audible calls for an inquiry into her rapid reappointment from both sides of the House, Sunak stood by her appointment, due to pressure from her back-bench supporters, whose votes he needed to remain in power. Braverman stands on the ‘hard’ right wing of the Conservative Party, unflinching in her support for the withdrawal of the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights and the sending of cross-Channel migrants to Rwanda. She has said,

“If I get trolled and I provoke a bad response on Twitter I know I’m doing the right thing. Twitter is a sewer of left-wing bile. The extreme left pile on is often a consequence of sound conservative values.”

Braverman has described herself as a “child of the British Empire”. Her parents, who were from Mauritius and Kenya, came to the UK “with an admiration and gratitude for what Britain did for Mauritius and Kenya, and India”. She believes that on the whole, “the British Empire was a force for good”, and described herself as being proud to be its ‘daughter’. But despite her own Indian heritage, Braverman has said that she fears a trade deal with India would increase migration to the UK when ‘Indians’ already represented the largest group of people who overstayed their visas.

Suella Braverman has continued to use inflammatory language in speeches in the House of Commons as Home Secretary, despite the reservations expressed by the Minister for Immigration (though not, apparently, shared by the Prime Minister). Braverman has become the leading cultural ‘wedge’ warrior in a Conservative Party desperately determined to cling to power by fair means or foul. However, there is no record of her speaking or writing about Child Sexual Exploitation or ‘grooming gangs’ until her statements a week ago. As Home Secretary (and a relatively recent MP), she is obviously ‘catching up’ on these issues, but also, unfortunately, using language that once more stereotypes, stigmatises and demonises Muslims and South Asian heritage communities in Britain, and further stokes the embers of inter-racial intolerance and ethnic division ahead of pending local and national elections.


The Guardian Weekly,  30 November 2018. London.

Douglas Murray (2018), The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. London: Bloomsbury.

Simon Schama (2002), A History of Britain III: 1776-2000, The Fate of Empire. London: BBC Worldwide.

Andrew Marr (2009), A History of Modern Britain. London: Pan Macmillan.

John Morrill (ed.), (2001), The Penguin Atlas of British and Irish History. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: