HAVE you heard the latest dog whistle? No, not a dog whistling but the lay-it-on-thick trope about who is, and isn’t, a child abuser/groomer. Yes, that whistling coming from Home Secretary Suella Braverman and PM Rishi Sunak PM. Their combined latest outpourings have specifically targeted British men of Pakistani heritage in relation to gangs, sexual exploitation, abuse and grooming.

The Home Secretary has attempted to rationalise the statements by claiming that authorities “turned a blind eye” to the allegations, fearful of “being called racist”. Isn’t it equally possible that the authorities involved were institutionally incompetent, ill-equipped, understaffed and under-trained? Where was the joined-up information-sharing across the services and agreed action routes?

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So much has already been written about the various failures across the institutions. But sadly, so much negative focus was laid on the victims: their race, class, poverty, and portrayal of so-called dysfunctional families.

Let’s give thanks that so many men were brought to justice and convicted. That is the way it should be for all criminals, no matter race, background, or religion. But with these announcements, where is the confirmed funding for personnel, training, all part of preventative structures, along with post-trauma support for victims?

And why now? And by this government? In 2020 a previous Tory government, headed by Boris Johnson PM with Priti Patel as Home Secretary, published their own Home Office report showing it was “difficult to draw conclusions” regarding the ethnicity of offenders, adding: “It is likely that no one community or culture is uniquely predisposed to offending.” The report stated: “Some studies suggest an over-representation of black and Asian offenders relative to the demographics of national populations. However, it is not possible to conclude that this is representative of all group-based child sexual exploitation offending.”

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In a way we know only too well, stats can be used as headline fodder: “50% are opposed to X” without mentioning the 50% that are all for X. So why the dog-whistling? Why now is there a plethora of soundbites, of red meat thrown? Tories slipping in the polls? Appeasing the far right in general and those in the Tory party? All-round government failure? Take your pick: Northern Ireland minus Stormont for years; losing border control; ripping the heart out of the NHS; a failed Met on their London doorstep.

This is not a plea to ignore child abuse or the perpetrators, far from it. But the NSPCC say: “There are many, many predators, who prey on vulnerable children, who are from a range of cultural backgrounds. And there are many victims who are not white girls, who deserve our attention and support.”

No matter how the Tory government tries to dress this up as support, action, and tackling crime, it’s a dangerous example of “othering” a section of society, scapegoating one, seeking to divert from its own political neglect. As a society, have we learnt nothing from the 1930s? The propaganda, the portrayal of a minority as the source of all ills?

Bad as that is, how much more depressing is it that the this government will be believed, that there will be support for the Tory party, its soundbites, its politicians? How worrying is it that they will be voted for at the coming local authority elections and the next General Election?

Is this Scotland?

Selma Rahman

THE Home Office’s report in 2020 on grooming gangs found no credible evidence that Pakistani men are the mainstay of grooming gangs. This started as a far-right trope and has entered the mainstream. Home Office research has found that group-based offenders are most commonly white. That doesn’t fit the narrative though.

Elspeth Nicol
via thenational.scot