'By lying to ourselves, more vulnerable girls are put at risk'

'Sarah Champion is not the first MP to stick her head above the parapet and get it blown off'
'Sarah Champion is not the first MP to stick her head above the parapet and get it blown off'

BRITISH author Frances Hardinge once wrote: “Truth is dangerous. It topples palaces and kills kings...And yet there is one thing that is more dangerous than Truth. Those who would silence Truth’s voice are more destructive by far.”

I don’t know if Labour MP Sarah Champion is a fan of Ms Hardinge, but surely those words must carry some resonance with her today.

Because Ms Champion, elected by the people of Rotherham to be their spokesperson in Parliament, has been ruthlessly silenced – and sacked from Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet – simply for telling the truth.

Truth was indeed dangerous in this case – it resulted in a dedicated MP who has emerged as staunch advocate for child victims of sexual abuse, being smeared as a racist and hounded from her job.

Let’s be clear at the beginning what Ms Champion did not say. She didn’t claim that all Pakistani-heritage men are rapists or that the vast majority of decent people in the Muslim community are not horrified by sexual exploitation of children.

Neither did she deny that men in the white British community commit the majority of sexual offences in this country.

Read more opinion: 'Sarah Champion's mistakes should not obscure her work to protect children'

What she wrote, in the light of the latest in a long line of court convictions for the street grooming of vulnerable girls, was this: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls. There, I said it. Does that make me a racist?”

She went on to say that for too long we have ignored the race of the abusers, and worse, tried to cover it up.

Can any sane person deny these words are indeed true? The list of remarkably similar cases is a long one – Newcastle, Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford, Telford, Blackpool, Keighley, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford – in fact it would probably be quicker to list those towns and cities where the rape gangs are not operating.

In each case, men of overwhelmingly Pakistani heritage groomed girls as young as 11, often from chaotic homes or in local authority care, before plying them with alcohol and drugs, carrying out gang rapes and then forcing them into prostitution.

This is a national scandal. If we cannot protect vulnerable children, we have absolutely no right to call ourselves a civilised society.

Yet there are those amongst us – not just in the Labour Party, but sadly in the police and social services too – who would deny these straightforward facts and who smear anyone who challenges their politically correct narrative as “racists” and “Islamophobes”.

One of the most shocking aspects of Professor Alexis Jay’s 2014 report into the sex abuse scandal in Rotherham, where 1,400 girls were raped and trafficked, was that police and social workers were so terrified of being branded “Islamophobic” they were prepared to turn a blind eye to horrific abuse of very young children and, even worse, actually helped the rapists cover up their crimes.

Traumatised victims were warned that they were “racist” if they dared mention the ethnicity of their attackers. One Home Office researcher who pointed out the rape gangs consisted of Pakistani Muslims was forced to attend “racial awareness training” by her boss.

Sarah Champion is not the first MP to stick her head above the parapet and get it blown off. Back in 2003 the then MP Ann Cryer rang alarm bells after worried mothers in her Keighley constituency told her that Asian pimps were recruiting young girls at the school gates.

Like Ms Champion she was vilified, smeared as a racist and hounded from her job.

I don’t know what has gone wrong in Britain’s Pakistani communities. What are the attitudes that lead to these vile crimes? It is culture or religion? Is misogyny to blame, or is it, as former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald said, a “profoundly racist crime”? Perhaps a combination of all of these? But whatever it is, clearly something is dreadfully amiss.

And we are never going to tackle this issue unless we are honest and brave enough to admit there is a problem in the first place.

By lying to ourselves and pretending it isn’t happening, as the Labour Party is doing, we are simply ensuring that the abuse goes on and more vulnerable girls are put at risk.

There are fears that admitting the reality of rape gangs will encourage the far right. Perhaps so. But covering up and ignoring these crimes will encourage them even more.

And as the quotation I began with has it: “Those who would silence Truth’s voice are more destructive by far.”