This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday September 22 2016.
In previous articles I tried to address the conundrum of why the UK media are taking so little current interest in Jeremy Corbyn’s dereliction of duty during the Islington care homes saga. I worry at the question further in this article.
Derek Sawyer was a Labour Islington councillor until 2006 and was council leader at the time of the inquiries into allegations of sexual abuse of children in care homes in the borough. These allegations had been brought to light by social workers, particularly Liz Davies. Dr Davies is now Emeritus Reader in Social Work at London Metropolitan University. At one time, Sawyer served as Corbyn’s constituency agent. Sawyer was a friend from university days and business partner of Derek Slade, who received a 21-year prison sentence in 2010 for brutally abusing twelve boys at St George’s, a military boarding school, in Norfolk, which Sawyer helped him found. Slade wrote English language school text books, under the name “Dr Edward Marsh”, which were published by a company which he set up with Sawyer.
In 1986, Slade was convicted of brutally beating a boy at a Sussex prep school. Sawyer provided the character evidence that kept Slade out of prison. Four days before the Ian White Report on sexual abuse in Islington care homes was published, Sawyer and Slade co-founded a company, IBEP, to set up schools and orphanages in India and Africa. Slade left them all under a cloud. The Daily Mail published a story on this but dropped it from the paper’s website after a libel threat. However, Roger Cook was not sued when he did a BBC programme on it, Abuse of Trust.
Abuse survivors at the Indian orphanage were planning to sue him in London’s High Court but the case was mysteriously dropped.
Journalists have been careful not to accuse Sawyer of taking part in abuse or of knowing what Slade was up to.
Sawyer achieved key positions on bodies running London’s police, magistrates and probation services. He represented all London’s councils on the Metropolitan Police’s Public Safety Board. He was chair of the London Region Courts Board. He was made trustee of two crime prevention youth charities. He was recently community representative on Islington SNB (Safer Neighbourhood Board).
The difficulties of squeezing information from Islington council are described in detail here: https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/?s=Islington
Corbyn Was Told
No one is accusing Corbyn of perpetrating child abuse himself, but why did he do nothing? If he was such a good constituency MP, (I am a former civil servant who worked in many government departments and can vouch that he was an assiduous letter writer on behalf of his constituents), it beggars belief that he could have been unaware of the horrors that were going on in Islington on his watch.
In fact, we have the testimony of several people that Corbyn was informed of the horrors going on in his constituency. Five social workers visited him and journalist Eileen Fairweather contacted him separately. Some of the victims said that they told Corbyn what was going on and that he promised to do something but didn’t. At the time of the allegations, I was a ministerial advisor on child protection at the Department of Health and saw files which indicated that Corbyn had been told of the abuse.
Matthew Collings asked why the mainstream media were not covering Corbyn’s lack of action on the child abuse. I shared the most recent article I could find. It was published on 31 July 2015 and written by Guy Adams. It gave an excellent summary of the situation and allowed Liz Davies and Eileen Fairweather to state quite categorically that they had told Corbyn “everything” about the child abuse in 1992. Corbyn had said that he had heard similar things from constituents and promised to take action. Davies recalls, “There was no letter. No phone call. I never, ever saw him speak about it.”
Because the article was published in the Daily Mail, Corbyn supporters, some of whom proudly boasted that they had not actually read the Mail article or my article, aggressively and abusively asserted that it must be lies.
These people were, in effect calling Liz Davies, Eileen Fairweather, former victim Demetrious Panton and myself liars for claiming that Corbyn had been told about the abuse and did nothing about it.
Just because You’re Paranoid…
I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. However, there are times when people really do conspire to cover up evil deeds. Particular areas which are prone to this are paedophile rings, military intelligence and Northern Ireland. All those ingredients are mixed up in this brew together with the peculiarities of Labour politics of the 1970s, which shaped the Corbyn we have today. Labour politics at that time allowed PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange, which advocated making sex with four-year-olds legal) to infiltrate the bien pensant community. It is difficult to avoid speculation when the perpetrators are indeed involved in a conspiracy to do horrible things and cover them up. It is unlikely that the establishment is protecting Corbyn himself. However, knowledge of what happened to Colin Wallace (who served six years in prison on a cooked-up manslaughter charge) may induce caution among journalists. I have been in communication with five different journalists who continue to take an interest in this issue. Let us see if they publish anything.
I have heard speculation that Corbyn may have been stopped from pursuing the matter by people more powerful than himself. I have been told that attempts were made to get stories about the Islington abuse “into the mainstream press last year and earlier this but hit that curious Islington brick wall…. again.” Islington has had more coverage than some other scandals but little is being said about Corbyn’s role.
It is unlikely that the media will take up this story again if there are no new developments. There is not much to add to the Mail article. Is there a sense of child abuse fatigue? All of the media right now is obsessed with Brexit, terrorism, and the migrant crisis. The Islington embarrassment began over 30 years ago. People felt guilty about letting Jimmy Savile get away with such horrors and then the authorities went too far in the other direction and seemed to be persecuting elderly national treasures. Many allegations turned out to be false.
There are so many worrying aspects to the Corbyn situation that the media has an uphill task covering them all. John Mann MP issued an open letter to Corbyn on July 23 2015, in which he said: “The extent of the abuse was only uncovered through the tenacity and bravery of whistle-blowers, journalists and survivors which led to a number of independent inquiries and the damning Ian White report in 1995”. The gist of John Mann’s argument is that Corbyn is not fit to lead the Labour Party at a time when much attention in Parliament and the media will be generated by the inquiry into historic sexual abuse of children.
No one, except John Mann (who was called an opportunistic fascist pig for bringing it up) seems to care that Corbyn effectively lied to the House of Commons.
“Perhaps most worrying of all are the implications of your question to the Home Secretary on November 3rd 2014. You stated that ‘Finally in my own borough of Islington there have been complaints about Islington children’s homes in the past and the council has investigated them.’ This statement at first glance is non-contentious. However, on reflection it is an extraordinary statement considering the representations made to you in the past that the council was in fact covering up abuse and not listening to the survivors, issues you were challenged on at the time.”
“Your carefully worded excusing of Islington Council in the House of Commons equally demonstrates why it is inappropriate for you to attempt to lead the Labour Party at the critical time of the Goddard Enquiry, as child abuse is the issue that will haunt this Parliament.”
Liz Davies does not agree with everything I write. She does not want conflict with Jeremy Corbyn and would hope to work with him to improve the lot of today’s children and of those now adult survivor of Islington. She told me that what she feels is important right now is assisting survivors in looking for their files, most of which are completely missing, piecing together some of their histories from other evidence, and seeing if any action legal or criminal can be taken or if current children need protection. Let us hope that Jeremy Corbyn does not disappoint her.