The UK Street Grooming Scandals: How the Left has Failed in its Responsibilities

Daniel Townhead
Mar 28, 2018 · 15 min read

The ability of the UK to deal with the grooming scandals, and their fallout, is instrumental to our political, social, and even mental well-being. So far — for 7 years — we have largely failed to deal with the fallout. People do not believe that justice is being served, anger and resentment festers; the topic is taken up by those who want to spread hatred. A major factor in this failure is the insufficiency of the reaction to the scandals by the left, on all levels. In short, it has failed to do what it was supposed to do.

What is the left supposed to do? What are our responsibilities? I will identify several relevant general responsibilities:

- To empathise with, care for, protect and be a voice for those who were and are at risk, those who are oppressed, those who need aid, etc.

- To act as a counterweight to the worst elements of the right wing; to prevent these elements from achieving their aims insofar as their aims are harmful, sinister and against the interests of the people.

- To allow events to inform our understanding of the world; to change our theories in accordance with facts in order to remain relevant.

These are responsibilities of the left in its most general sense — not the Labour party, not the Guardian but everyone in the country who regards themselves as on the side of the poor; everyone who vaguely identifies with ‘the left’ as that which cares for people, and fights against needless oppression. These responsibilities should have manifested themselves in the media (public commentators, journalists, newspapers etc), in academia, and in our activism. The last responsibility should have especially manifested itself within and between each person, according to our understanding.

I will make the case that this loosely defined left has failed terribly in all of these responsibilities in relation to the grooming scandals. I think it is likely that all of this failure revolves around an inability to face and deal with potential cultural and racial elements in this abuse. This inability — especially the long-term inability, in the face of evidence and a clear strategic reality — is due, in part, to deep problems in left theoretical positions.

Failure of responsibility

The first failure of responsibility is that of care. This failure was manifested in a general lack of action in proportion to the situation. The situation is that, in every single area of England — possibly the UK — girls were and are being publicly lured and manipulated into sexual slavery, and threatened, beaten and killed to prevent them from escaping that slavery.

This is happening in patterns that are, apparently, easily observed and understood (although they are not, of course, easy to deal with). For instance, in most cases there are a limited number of readily identifiable public locations where it is happening. These locations are children’s care homes, nightclubs, night-time businesses like taxi firms and takeaways, and schools.

The left has a very strong activist tradition. When things are happening that we know are wrong, we take action to stop it. When the Yorkshire ripper killed 13 women in the 1970s, reclaim the night marches were organised. Antifa act like informal detectives, keeping sophisticated information on the movements and actions of the far right. When stories of celebrity harassment emerge, boycotts are made and articles are written. There have been extensive campaigns against verbal harassment across the country in recent years.

Of course, there was reaction to the crimes of the grooming gangs, in the press. In the left-wing press, I will characterise this reaction as being one that subsumed the problem under that of general sexual abuse, and as being one that attempted to counteract racist rhetoric. But the reaction was less than it should have been, while the activism was far less than it should have been, in fact almost non-existent. The activism instead came from the right.

This is most easily demonstrated by the reaction to the recent major piece of journalistic research on the subject, on Telford, by McKelvie and Sommerlad in the Sunday Mirror.

We had seen, by the end of 2017, months and months of press coverage, Guardian opinion articles, and tearful social media hashtags, decrying sexual abuse. Much of this was specific; focused on the workplace, the internet, sexual boundaries in new or potential relationships or casual encounters, etc. People recognised that sexual abuse is contextual — that there are specific power dynamics that need to be specifically analysed, for instance, dynamics between a powerful individual in a workplace or industry and their employees or potential employees. We recognised that small events make a big difference in people’s lives.

The Telford story — that girls, in numbers estimated at around 1000, had been subjected to a systematic, relatively public campaign of violent sexual enslavement over decades, with some murdered, in a relatively small town of 170,000 — did not receive the same amount of coverage on the left, nor did it receive anywhere like the same amount of social media hysteria. Type in the #Telford hashtag in twitter; who is talking about it? Only people who now align themselves with the right. The power dynamics are not analysed. The specifics, on the left, are not discussed. Silence reigns over the people who are supposed to shout the loudest.

I have been living among the left activist subculture for many years. I know that the people who comprise it are largely intelligent and brave. I know that they act when a problem is identified and understood, and that combating sexual violence and slavery is important to them. I have never heard of acting on this issue to even be considered.

Further lack of reaction — cultural and racial dynamics

The above failure to react in proportion to the situation is accompanied by a failure to actually face the specifics of what was and is happening, and, as mentioned in the third responsibility listed above, ‘change our theories in accordance with facts in order to remain relevant’. The inability to do this contributed heavily to the failure to take appropriate action.

The specifics of what was happening, the facts that were ignored, are the racial and cultural power dynamics of the abuse scandals. To start on a generous note, the difficulties the left had in getting to grips with these things were made far more extreme by the immediate and unsurprising use of these events by the far right in furthering their own cause and propaganda. The use of anti-Muslim rhetoric by these groups, and by the poorer quality writers in the press, understandably made the left want to counteract these tendencies.

This counteraction was, unfortunately, knee-jerk and devoid of any subtlety or moderation — it was, simply, “our opponents are invoking race and culture in these crimes with hatred as their motivation, therefore we will avoid any mention of those elements, and furthermore judge any mention of those elements as a sign that you are in fact our opponent”. This is a pattern of reaction that should be familiar to any person who has studied the political discourse of recent years.

The fact that some readers on the left will feel that an analysis of racial and cultural relations in these cases, that is not inherently far-right or racist in nature, is impossible, is an indication as to how bad the situation is. Indeed, even if there had been no racist rhetoric from the far-right, the left would have almost certainly not mentioned or investigated these elements anyway.

Given that the desire to not ‘be’ far-right is so important & self defining for the left, we should note what these ‘racial and cultural power dynamics’ are not, and what they may have been characterised as by some elements of the far-right and/or incautious writers:

- They are not a ‘racial predisposition’ to commit these types of crime.

- They are not a ‘cultural predisposition’ to commit these types of crime.

- They are not a ‘religious predisposition’ to commit these types of crime.

All of these explanations or beliefs will result in discrimination against the individual according to factors which that individual cannot control. It is correct to counteract such beliefs, although due to the confusion and lack of communication which has reigned in this area since the 1990s, this counteraction should always be empathic and understanding.

Potential cultural and racial dynamics that need to be discussed

The following are all potential racial and cultural factors that should not result in discrimination, but rather if fully dealt with should improve current racial relations, which have been so terribly harmed. They should, by now, have all been explored by the left. Perhaps some of them would have been explored thoroughly and found to be not relevant to the events of the grooming scandals — in which case so much the better, and so demonstrating the necessity of the process.

The first set of dynamics are centred around the problem of conscious or unconscious prejudice or racism from some of the perpetrators towards some of the victims. Also an issue is whether cultural or community separation, outside of the mind of the individual, contributed to facilitating the abuse.


- Did in-group/out-group dynamics facilitate the abuse practically by the fact that the victims were not a part of the community in which some of the perpetrators lived each day?

- Did in-group/out-group dynamics facilitate the abuse in terms of inner perception? Did some of the perpetrators have a lower opinion of the victims because they were part of an out-group?

- Did some specific aspects of cultural history/religious history and practice contribute to the abuse? If the radical left can analyse specific genealogies of western culture which contribute to misogyny, racism, etc, when will similar genealogies in other cultures be ‘allowed’ to be analysed? Is not this analysis being held back by the left, even and perhaps especially when it comes from people who are from those cultures?

- Did plain old racism contribute to the abuse? Did some perpetrators, for instance, hold internal beliefs about ‘white women’? Or did some perpetrators hold the victims to be of less worth due to being outside their religion?

The second group of aspects are to do with the native English society and culture, and the dogmas of the left.

- Did politically correct ideas and norms regarding race and culture contribute to the silence and lack of reportage of the events over many years? If so, why? How were these ideas and norms misapplied?

It has often been written in the press that it was not “white girls” that were predominantly targeted in the public aspect of the abuse, but “vulnerable girls”. If this observation were made, the following question should immediately arise:

- If the vast majority of the victims of public grooming were white, and yet it was their ‘vulnerability’ that made them into targets, why are the vast majority of ‘vulnerable girls’ in these areas white? Surely this directly contradicts certain dogmas on privilege that have been continually propagandised in recent years? Are there certain aspects of the condition and situation of the white working class or underclass which demand specific action and aid? Is it the case that their family and community structures have been specifically harmed, that they face specific difficulties just as the Muslim community faces specific difficulties?

- Furthermore, why did ‘race privilege’ and ‘racism’ not function the way in which they were supposed to, according to the predominant theories we hold, in many specific instances? For instance, in a specific case in which a white father went to a house in which his daughter was being raped in order to retrieve her, why when the occupants of the house called the police did the police arrest the father rather than the occupants of the house? In other words, the basic race/sex/power dynamics portrayed in the parable of racism and anti-racism, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, did not happen; in fact the complete opposite happened.

I follow these points with some limited evidence that in fact they are relevant concepts, and they do need discussing.

Evidence in the form of testimonies, from the Pakistani community:

Dr Taj Hargey, Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, Daily Telegraph, 2013:
“race and religion were inextricably linked to the recent spate of grooming rings in which Muslim men have targeted white under-age girls.”
“The view of some Islamic teachers towards white women can be appalling. They encourage their followers to believe that these women are habitually promiscuous, decadent and sleazy — sins which are made worse by the fact that they are kaffurs or non-believers… According to this mentality, these white women deserve to be punished for their behaviour by being exploited and degraded.”

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan foundation, quote in the Express, 2016:

“This is not a white conspiracy dreamt up by the far right, or victimisation of the Pakistani community, as some claim. This is a concerted effort by a minority of Pakistani men who have groomed, abused and raped young white girls.”

“This is a form of racism and we shouldn’t hesitate to condemn it. Blaming or deflecting attention away from the evil men who carry out such actions is despicable.”

Sayeeda Warsi, co-chairperson of the Conservative Party, Evening Standard, 2014:
“There is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game, and we have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first.”

“This small minority who see women as second class citizens, and white women probably as third class citizens, are to be spoken out against,”

Evidence from the words of the perpetrators themselves:

In the Newcastle grooming case, 2017, the court heard that one of the men convicted, Badrul Hussein, was heard telling a ticket inspector on the Metro: “All white women are good for one thing, for men like me to fuck and use as trash”.

Reporting on the Rochdale case in 2012, the Independent quoted the judge’s remarks:
“All of you treated [the victims] as though they were worthless and beyond respect,” he told the men. “One of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion.”

But the judge also made it clear that such an interpretation should not have too much weight placed upon it. “Some of you, when arrested, said it was triggered by race,” he continued. “That is nonsense. What triggered this prosecution was your lust and greed.”

Note that in this case, we apparently have direct evidence, the substance of which we do not know, that the defendants testified when arrested that their actions were “triggered by race”. The judge simply dismissed these testimonies, and ‘made it clear’ that in-group out-group dynamics shouldn’t have ‘too much weight placed’ on them. We must disagree with the Judge.

In the Daily Mail, December 21st 2014:

“An Asian father-of-four dragged a young pub worker off the street and raped her for three hours saying ‘you white women are good at it’.”

Evidence of political correctness, or fear of discussing racial or cultural aspects, impeding the investigation/discussion of these events:

There is enormous amounts of this evidence. I will provide a small sample.

Confidential document for Rotherham’s ‘Safeguarding Children’ board, 2010:
“The crimes have ‘cultural characteristics’…. Which are locally sensitive in terms of diversity”

“There are sensitivities of ethnicity with potential to endanger the harmony of community relationships. Great care will be taken in drafting… this report to ensure that its findings embrace Rotherham’s qualities of diversity. It is imperative that suggestions of a wider cultural phenomenon are avoided.”

Ann Cryer, who campaigned to bring the grooming crimes to light, from The Telegraph, Bunyan, 2012:

Complaints to social workers and the police were ignored because they were “petrified of being called racist”, former Labour MP for Keighley Ann Cryer said.

“This is an absolute scandal. They were petrified of being called racist and so reverted to the default of political correctness,” she said.

“They had a greater fear of being perceived in that light than in dealing with the issues in front of them.”

From the Wikipedia page on the Rotherham grooming ring, regarding the report by Alexis Jay, 2013:

“The concerns of Jayne Senior, the former youth worker, were met with “indifference and scorn”. Because most of the perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage, several council staff described themselves as being nervous about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others, the report noted, “remembered clear direction from their managers” not to make such identification. 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.”

A Limited Discussion

Even if some of these points were relevant for just a minority of the cases, it would be completely irresponsible not to deal with them in public discourse.

Writers on the left have attempted to silence discussion of these issues — or at best attempted to silence the more racist or simplified versions of them while ignoring the above. This silencing largely goes along the lines of unbelievably simplistic arguments such as that white men account for X% of CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation, the umbrella term that has begun to be used to refer to a broad category of crime). As white men account for X%, the crime is not racial in nature — which is of course correct. However this does not mean that some of the crimes do not have some of the above racial dynamics inherent to them, just as the fact that there are non-racist murders does not disprove the fact that there are racist murders.

Just as in the case of racist murders, such as that of Stephen Lawrence, the cases of racist grooming and abuse, which almost certainly account for at least a handful of the individual grooming gang cases, require media coverage and societal pressure in order to properly discuss and condemn them. The other dynamics mentioned above, though more subtle than simple racism, are also essential to discuss and to attempt to resolve. The importance of this is not lessened by the attempts to cover these issues by the right wing media; these attempts make it more important that the issues are covered by the left.

This is the responsibility of the left, in accordance with the three basic responsibilities I have listed above.

It is a responsibility of care, because the attempt to heal and try to resolve these issues will hopefully lessen similar crimes in the future. There is also a responsibility of care to those who are burdened with ignorance and prejudice. The left has, apparently, completely forgotten its commitment to moral transformation and the benefit that this brings to the individual.

In fact, it could be said, if I were interested in pursuing that line, that the concentration of anti-racism as a moral responsibility that is ONLY beholden on white people is a manifestation of white supremacy. Freeing oneself from racism or prejudice is an act of liberation. As the black liberation activist and writer Edridge Cleaver wrote:

“If a man like Malcolm X could change and repudiate racism, if I myself and other former Muslims can change, if young whites can change, then there is hope for America.”

And furthermore:

“… there were those of us who were glad to be liberated from the doctrine of hate and racial supremacy. The onus of teaching racial supremacy and hate, which is the white man’s burden, is pretty hard to bear.”

(i.e. liberated from the racist Nation of Islam, which teaches black supremacy and that white people are literally devils, into Malcolm X’s teachings. Both quotes from ‘Soul on Ice’.)

It is a responsibility of counteracting the right, because without discussion of these issues, that discussion is ceded directly to the right. This strengthens the right in many ways, ways which can be thought of as positive and negative manifestations. The negative manifestation would be the solidifying of the worst elements of the right and their agenda of old-school racism. This faction can only make this agenda work by lies, hatred and hypocrisy. The only way to fight lies is through truth. It is impossible to truly counteract the above tactics through covering things up, silencing people, hoping that problems go away, and so on.

The positive manifestation would be the rediscovery and full embrace by the right of inner morality. This issue has been identified with the left at least since WW2; charities, welfare, protest, the fight against hatred, environmental consciousness, selflessness and generosity have all been associated with the vaguely defined ‘left’ in general for this entire period, to its immeasurable benefit. If the left refuses to countenance that people with brown skin or a different religion have an inner morality, by refusing to discuss potential negative manifestations of their morality, it is in effect indicating that it abandons the area altogether. If the best elements of the new right overcome the worst elements, the right will take up this banner of inner morality and millions will follow its inestimable power. Jordan Peterson has already begun to do this.

Finally it is a responsibility of having a somewhat self-consistent theory. Some of these issues directly challenge certain theoretical concepts which are regarded by many as cornerstones of left analysis. Most of these concepts are part of more recent intersectional or privilege theory, while others go all the way back to Marxist analysis. However, as this piece is already long enough, we will leave this analysis to another time.

I hope that with the help of your own actions, reader, in sharing this piece and helping to discuss and resolve the above problems, we can begin to heal some of the harm that individuals, communities and the relations between communities have suffered.

Daniel Townhead

Written by

Attempting empathic cultural and political analysis.

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