Braverman’s Dog Whistle

The home secretary, Suella Braverman, announced at the weekend that the government will consult on a plan to ensure people working with children in England have a legal duty to report signs or suspicions of any form of sexual abuse. Of course, this sounds like a perfectly reasonable proposal by Braverman and Rishi Sunak. After all, nothing causes more revulsion than the actions of grooming gangs.

But Braverman’s announcement was quickly overshadowed by her accompanying plan to create a new grooming gang taskforce, led by police forces and supported by the National Crime Agency, to be made up of officers with extensive experience of undertaking investigations into child sexual exploitation by criminal gangs. In an article on grooming gangs for the Mail on Sunday, Braverman deliberately singled out British-Pakistani men as key offenders, claiming: “The perpetrators are groups of men, almost all British-Pakistani.” She also claimed that Labour councils had deliberately turned a blind eye to signs of abuse, over fears of being seen as racist. She told the BBC that ‘politicians in Labour-run areas … absolutely failed to take action because of cultural sensitivities.’

Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor in the northwest of England, has previously warned of the danger in focusing ‘entirely on the ethnicity of the offender’ rather than looking at best practice in protecting victims of child sex abuse. To add to concerns about this focus on ethnicity, the Home Office itself – Braverman’s very own department – produced a report in 2020 which found that group-based sex offenders are ‘most commonly white and under 30’. It concluded that there was no evidence that any one ethnic group was over-represented in cases of child sexual exploitation. The Home Office had previously tried to suppress publication of the report, stating it was for internal use only and that releasing it was not in the public interest, but had to bow to public opinion and publish the report [you can read here], in response to a Freedom of Information request by The Independent newspaper. The report said that although a number of high-profile grooming cases, including Rotherham, Rochdale and Telford, mainly involved men of Pakistani origin, ‘links between ethnicity and this form of offending’ could not be proven.

So why have the Tories latched onto the issue of grooming gangs now? Could it be to create election-time controversy, enraging voters, particularly those in the Midlands and the North of England? Is it to somehow demonstrate that they are the party willing to say that which is un-PC? To challenge the so-called woke-ness of the liberal centre-left? It seems to be a deliberate strategy to inflame tensions and to cause fear.

Just today, the self-elected spokesman of the far-right, Tommy Robinson, released a talking head video in response to Braverman’s dog-whistle comments, which is now circulating on social media. Robinson thanks the home secretary for listening to him and continuing on with his ‘work’. What a terrifying thought.

The Tories might consider their pre-election tirade against grooming gangs to be a roaring success with the public, but it should be noted that Labour called for mandatory reporting of suspected sexual abuse a decade ago. Starmer himself was the Director of Public Prosecutions at the time.

Nazir Afzal, who worked with Starmer and successfully prosecuted the Rochdale grooming gang, accuses the Home Secretary of ‘playing to a certain audience’ that is also anti refugees and asylum seekers and describes the focus on the ethnicity as ‘dangerous territory’. It also creates additional risks for victims of CSE, as could give them a ‘false sense of security’ when facing white predators. Mr Afzal welcomes the Government’s announcement on mandatory reporting but says that the majority of child sexual exploitation is not carried out by grooming gangs, and that he frequently prosecuted ‘virtually all white’ paedophile rings stating that ‘You are six or seven times more likely as a white guy to be a predator.’

Braverman’s plan for tougher sentencing on CSE and child abuse is further weakened by the fact that currently only 11 per cent of child sexual abuse cases end up with a charge, down from 32 per cent seven years ago. Convictions for child abuse dropped by a staggering 45%. Another major flaw in her plan is the fact that children’s social services have been quite literally cut to the bone, with workers having to focus on firefighting and having no resources for prevention. Children are less safe now than a decade ago.

The Government also appears to be attempting to create another wedge issue, to harm Labour’s place in the polls, but the likelihood is this will only serve to inflame racial tensions and damage community relations more generally. We’ve already seen what deploying incendiary language and ignoring basic facts has done in the context of asylum seekers and refugees.

In presenting her inflammatory and incorrect arguments, Braverman is merely emboldening the far right and the only likely winners in this dangerous game are the Tommy Robinson figures and his ilk, whilst also creating the very real possibility of electoral gains for Nigel Farage’s Reform Party.

But what is desperately, desperately wrong here is that the victims/ survivors of child sexual exploitation, who are being used as political pawns in the government’s game, could be placed in more danger. The strategy of employing dog-whistle politics and stereotyping sex offenders through incorrect, ethnicity-based assertions is likely to make girls even more vulnerable to predators. That is unforgivable.

Comments (11)

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    I think this is a reasonable take. In relation to this, the Guardian reported yesterday on the launch of the National Cyber Force, with a confusing remit to attack other states and tackle online child sexual abuse material:
    Now since the first is essentially illegal and antagonises other states, whilst the second involves law enforcement and requires international cooperation, I get the impression that the latter ‘role’ has simply been tacked on for public relations purposes. If our police forces are sometimes incompetent, corrupt and ill-equipped in the partial view of the public, why would we trust invisible and unaccountable spooks to better protect children?

    Perhaps our government might be advised to press its USAmerican overlords to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, if it wants to make progress in safeguarding children.

  2. John Learmonth says:

    This article is the classic example of why white working class people no longer trust the ‘left’ which is now dominated by middle class Guardanistas such as the author.
    Let’s for arguments say that hundreds of Pakistani heritage girls had been systematically been raped by white men in the towns and cities of northern England, what do you think would be the outcome?
    Stick your head in the sand if you want. That’s your choice, but those with friends and family in such places as Keighley/Bradford/Oldham/Rochdale (towns where I doubt the author has ever visited, if indeed she even knows where they are) know different.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @John Learmonth, what a pity you care nothing about girls being raped by European colonialists in the British Empire in places like Agra, Rangoon and it seems every tea estate (see Colonial Justice in British India: White Violence and the Rule of Law, by Elizabeth Kolsky), or perhaps you think ‘railways’ balances all of these crimes, or hey you’ve never visited those places therefore so what? Yeah, stick your head in the sand.

      1. Jim Fox says:

        World class whataboutary!

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Jim Fox, examples are needed to illustrate British world-class hypocrisy, and the specific case was chosen to reflect on a previous view expressed by commenter John Learmonth, who ironically seems fine with everything empirical except empirical evidence (as noted in response to article above). Although is actually England which dominates the History of Hypocrisy in Wikipedia’s page:

          and that is because the English were both leading practitioners but also leading caller-outers of it. It is hard to imagine that John Learmonth’s affectation of concern for women and girls is genuine, given his callous disregard for their sufferings under the colonial occupations of the British Empire. Unless of course, it is a racially-qualified concern.

    2. John Mooney says:

      Are you tommy robinson in disguise mr.learmonth?Onlyasking.

    3. Frank Mahann says:

      Aye, the Red Wallers stuck it to the establishment elite by voting for Old Etonians. Priceless !

    4. Frank Mahann says:

      The most notorious groomer in Rochdale was Cyril Smith.

      1. Antoine Bisset says:

        Indeed, Cyril Smith was clearly a bad person. Equally clearly he was protected from prosecution during his lifetime (after that, it was too late).
        More legislation is really not needed. What is needed is that people in positions of care, such as social workers, and those charged with protecting the public and enforcing the law should actually do their jobs.
        The terrible events in Rochdale and many other places occurred because the social workers gave up on their jobs, and the police blamed the victims and took no action in order “not to upset social cohesion”.
        Present laws should be enforced, children should be protected, and offenders should spend the rest of their lives looking at the world through prison bars. All this could have been done over the last 40 years. It was not. It probably isn’t being done now.

        Here is an FOI enquiry, together with a redacted response that is baloney.

        Here is a report that is closer to current reality. It notes countless rapes, lots of perpetrators and less than a handful of prosecutions, Operation Cerrar. 44 girls raped many times by 55 suspects. One conviction. (Oops, it is no longer available on the internet. I wonder why.)

        Then there is this, from last year.

        Can anyone look at this and imagine for a second that those who are supposed to protect our children, our society, really give two hoots?

    5. Man of Siam says:

      John son, a word to the wise. Don’t waste your precious time and energy on these idiots. A decade ago I was in your shoes, and the responses to my posts then were exactly the same as you are getting now. Modern interpretations of that classic genre: “Stalin/the Soviet Union is misunderstood’ beloved of 30’s Western “intellectuals” as millions were dying of starvation. I clocked in today – from Bangkok, to see how ‘Bella’ were reporting the SNP ‘implosion’, and was met by the sound of silence. These people are complete and utter clowns. Leave them to their silly woke nostrums, and get on with YOUR life. For the record, I was studying ‘Peace Studies’ in Bradford in the late 1980’s, and it was common knowledge amongst the nursing fraternity – my girlfriend at the time being a trainee nurse, that Asian rapists were clear and present danger. Bullshit about events several hundred years ago, have precisely zero relevance to the potentially explosive consequences of the very real degeneracy of a sizable section of the immigrant Muslim population. But sadly, you could post from now to the end of time, and have not the slightest effect on these religious zealots, and though almost none of them have actually read the damn thing, ‘Das Capital’ is their Bible, and faith, NOT fact is their creed.

  3. Tom Ultuous says:

    Good article Donna. The Tory press bias is now so out of control it’s made democracy a joke.

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