Who's afraid of Britain First? Quite a lot of people it seems. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to learn just how influential they are in the wake of the latest in a long and wearying line of grooming gang scandals. This particular kerfuffle is a little different though, as the action is taking place right in the heart of Whitehall rather than in some grey, far flung northern town.
It's hard to know which is worse, the wholesale abuse of vulnerable young girls by grooming gangs, or officialdom's complicity first in turning a blind eye and then actively suppressing the truth of this industrial scale exploitation.
Now it seems that Home Office Mandarins have determined that not even our elected Home Secretary should be permitted to see her own department's report into the organised ruination of so many young women and girls. It goes without saying that if the Home Secretary is essentially being told to jog on by her own department, the unwashed rest of us have no chance when it comes to seeing this mythical report. Not in the public interest, you see.
Naturally, the usual suspects in the Twittersphere are happy to endorse this politically motivated suppression, arguing that “far right extremists” (cue scary music) will exploit the report's findings for political ends. Of course that hoary old chestnut makes about as much sense as defusing a bomb that's already detonated. In case anyone hasn't noticed, the far right are already exploiting the establishment's complicity and cowardice by claiming that the institutions designed to protect us from harm are actively conspiring to let that harm to continue. You know you've stepped through the looking glass when Britain First actually has a point about something.
What are we to say when the far right claims that the establishment has actively protected known criminals and mendacious public officials from scrutiny and prosecution? We have no answer because their claim is broadly true, and quibbling about this or that detail simply reveals a desperation to avoid serious discussion about something real.
Whatever their faults may be, the likes of Britain First had no involvement in creating this appalling situation, so it's a bit rich for the chattering classes to use them as a fig leaf to justify withholding information as and when it suits their own agenda. It's exactly this kind of selective concern for the “public interest” that has allowed the groomers to continue their hobbies in relative safety, while swelling the ranks of the far right with the angry, the ignored and the exploited.
With this shameful suppression of the grooming gang report, the establishment is actually helping the far right and the only way to stop the rot is to publish immediately and in full. Now that the petition to do so has passed 100,000 signatures the matter is ready for open debate in Parliament, but this will only be the first step in the healing process.
Public trust surrounding this issue has collapsed to such a degree that only full publication and an open public enquiry will suffice to repair the damage. We need to know how these gangs organise themselves, what police and social services knew and more importantly, when they knew it. We need to know on what basis both the police and government officials believed they were justified in ignoring and actively suppressing evidence that could've prevented thousands of young women and girls suffering the most heinous exploitation.
People can get mad at the far right if they want to feel morally superior, but our society can no longer have it both ways. Each of us must decide whether we care more about real harm done to real people, or preserving a toxic status quo that allows us to mouth empty platitudes about tolerance and diversity while that harm is allowed to continue.
As for me, I have no tolerance or respect for those who rape and abuse young girls, regardless of where they or their ancestors might come from.
What's your position?