A small postscript to my piece about Any Questions, which you’ll find below. There was a question about child abuse, and the recent scandals. I took the opportunity to air a point that I know has been of great concern to UKIP members. I started my reply more or less as follows:
“This discussion of child abuse was raised, of course, by the Rotherham scandal. It’s worth noting that the Labour Council in Rotherham took decisive action to remove three foster children from two very competent and experienced foster parents, because those foster parents supported UKIP. Yet they allowed serious child abuse to continue on an industrial scale for more than a decade”.
This seemed to shock a number of people, including Jonathan Dimbleby, who immediately cut in to ask whether I was sure of my facts. I said I was sure. Indeed thinking about it afterwards, I am a bit surprised and concerned that someone so in touch with the media and the news agenda as Jonathan Dimbleby felt the need to ask for confirmation.
Then Anna Soubry, in her response, said “Helmer’s remarks show that UKIP just doesn’t get it”. I waited, agog to hear her explanation of just how my remarks showed any such thing. But no further explanation was forthcoming.
So for the avoidance of doubt, and to ensure that Anna is entirely clear on the issue, let me spell it out plainly. Here we have a Labour Council which was prepared to use its child protection powers in pursuit of its own particular political prejudices, but totally failed, over many years, to use them to protect children. It is clear from Professor Alexis Jay’s report that those responsible for child protection in Rotherham ignored appeals from victims, ignored complaints from parents, and indeed ignored earlier reports which the Council itself had commissioned. We can speculate about why they may have behaved in this way, but the fact is that they did, and their failure was utterly reprehensible.
This seems to me to be an important point to make, and I should be glad to hear from Anna quite how my remarks relate to her criticism. I’m afraid, Anna, that we do get it. And given that your parliamentary majority is only 390, perhaps that should worry you.