“Part of what it is to be courageous is to see reality accurately and to respond well in the face of it." ~ Jonathan Lear

29 August 2014

There’s no getting away from it: Rotherham exposes the liberal-left’s moral vacuum


In The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper quotes a passage from Hegel that shows how social ideologies can end up giving free rein to all sorts of bad behaviour.

Hegel says in it: “We may fairly establish the true principles of morality, or rather of social virtue, in opposition to false morality; for the History of the World occupies a higher ground than that morality which is personal in character – the conscience of individuals, their particular will and mode of action.”

Here we can see social virtue, or ‘social justice’ you might say, being consciously put up against personal morality and conscience, and beating it. Hegel’s true principles of morality trumped the false trivialities of people being good or bad to each other in real life.

The incredible failings of Rotherham Council and police in relation to the industrial-scale child sex abuse going on in that town show how such ideas are not mere fodder for dry debates in the fusty rooms of academia. They are rather having a huge impact on the way our public authorities manage us – and our most vulnerable people are sometimes bearing the brunt, as exposed in Professor Alexis Jay’s report.

In this case and others of similar abuse involving men of overwhelmingly Pakistani origin – as documented by Julie Bindel as far back as 2007 – public authorities have forsaken basic ethics and responsibilities to a dogma of diversity or multiculturalism conceived not as a basic fact of life but as a belief system.

This belief system, which is becoming more rather than less prevalent on the mainstream liberal-left, involves a specific favouritism towards people of ‘diverse’ backgrounds (non-white/immigrant) above those defined as non-diverse (white English/British).

In this way, diversity targets are set for public bodies and the Labour Party for example (with a desire to expand to private and voluntary sectors), public money gets spent (as Al Razi has pointed out, Rotherham spent £300,000 a year on a ‘diversity team’ in 2010) and a culture is established which discourages criticism and intervention against those seen as diverse. Normally the consequences are relatively benign (though sometimes corrosive for workplace morale). But the Rotherham case shows this attitude of protection and leniency towards those whose race is an issue can have dreadful consequences.

Take this from the Executive Summary of Professor Jay’s report:

By far the majority of perpetrators were described as 'Asian' by victims, yet throughout the entire period, councillors did not engage directly with the Pakistani-heritage community to discuss how best they could jointly address the issue. Some councillors seemed to think it was a one-off problem, which they hoped would go away. Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.”

Rotherham social services’ culture actually seems to have been stuck in a sort of an extreme ideological hole, as can be seen from it banning a couple of UKIP members from fostering for apparently belonging to a "racist party".

But a report from the Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children Board back in December 2013 shows another troubling angle to the authorities’ attitude. It says:

Both the media and public perception has been that Rotherham has failed to protect children involved in CSE or identified offenders and brought them to justice. Perception however is not always reality. It is now clear that CSE...is pervasive across the length and breadth of the country."

The explanation that they didn’t actually fail to protect these children because child sexual exploitation is happening elsewhere is clearly absurd. By saying it’s a wider national or societal issue they mean it’s beyond the responsibility of mere mortals, including themselves who are being paid and elected to be responsible for it in their area.

For Labour, which had been presiding as a virtual one-party state in Rotherham, the revelations from there and elsewhere will likely not have a disastrous effect at the ballot box next year. But they pose a big challenge to a party infrastructure, rulebook and culture that has institutionalised favouritism and wants to impose it much more widely on British public life. A minority or small majority Labour government will surely have serious problems implementing further ethnic favouritism, not least when we can see it contribute to such horrific circumstances for vulnerable young people who are not protected by these systems.

These practices also pose a philosophical problem for a party one of whose leaders, Harold Wilson, said, "is a moral crusade or it is nothing". For group rights without responsibilities means the end of morality: identity has trumped ethics.  


For more on similar themes, see Identity politics and the left page.

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