No title

WHY do I, an MP and a blogger, continue to want to write about the Baby P case, when all that happens is that I become angrier and sadder, and feel more unable actually to achieve anything positive, with every word I write?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself tonight as I’ve re-read the Executive Summary of Haringey Local Safeguarding Children Board Serious Case Review (in which, confusingly, the victim is referred to as “Child A”).

And here’s what I’ve concluded: it’s okay to get angry at the people who killed this innocent child. It’s okay to hate them for the terrible injuries they inflicted on him. It’s fine – I would suggest it’s even desirable – to want them to suffer in turn, to seek revenge, not just justice, against these sub-humans who once lived among us and, infuriatingly, will do so again one day.

Because when a child has already been tortured and killed by the deliberate actions of those who were entrusted to care for him, then hate for them is all that’s left.

Christians are supposed to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to love and never to hate.

Well, here’s a confession: I’m not a very good Christian. I’ve always been rubbish at it, which is why I’ve flitted in and out of church for the last 28 years.

And whatever God and the Bible says, here’s what I say: sometimes it’s good to hate. Sometimes it diminishes the worth of a victim by offering forgiveness to his killers. Sometimes people don’t deserve forgiveness. Sometimes they deserve to suffer. And when those circumstances arise, it is utterly maddening to know for certain that our justice system, our society, will not insist that they suffer as they deserve.

And before you start praying for my soul or worrying for my state of mental health, I know the difference between emotion and logic; I understand the need for politicians and law-makers to take a step back and to bite their tongues, to bite back the bile and to make the right decision, even when it feels like the wrong one.

So Baby P’s “mother” and her awful henchmen will be punished, though not for the murder they undoubtedly committed. Some lesser charge has sufficed because lawyers have pointed out that no court could say for sure which of the culprits dealt the killing blow.

Good for them.

No similar case has affected me in quite this way, so accept my apologies for the rant. I needed to get it off my chest. In fact, I had planned to write a post about the afore-mentioned executive summary. But it’s getting late, and as I said, I feel too angry, too sad and too tired to write any more.

I’ll go to bed now and hope I can wash my mind of that awful image of a 17-months-old child with a shaved head and with chocolate smeared over his face by his “mother” to hide the marks left by his attackers to ensure the attacks could continue unhindered by the authorities.

And, inevitably, now that we know of his fate a few short days after that photograph was taken, I dread what I see as the sorrow and reproach in his young eyes.

I hope we are all haunted, just a bit, by that picture. Baby P deserves that much justice, at least.

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32 Comments

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32 responses to “No title

  1. Andrew F

    For god’s sake, can you at least pretend to be left wing.

    “Sometimes it’s good to hate?”

    My political views are founded on the exact opposite sentiment: that it’s never</i good to hate. And whatever worth the cult of Christianity has – and I do believe it has worth – is rooted in the idea that it’s always good to love.

    So, as far as I’m concerned, if this post is a true indication of your beliefs, it shows you to be a crap Labour party MP and an abysmal Christian. Righteous anger? Yes. Self-righteous hate? Never. Go join another party; and when you’re done with that, find a hateful faith – there are quite a few of them.

    Yuck, yuck, yuck. Make a bitter story worse, why don’t you?

  2. Frank Davis

    I can’t say that I have the same response at all. It’s those 60 visits by the authorities – which you don’t mention -, which completely missed all the poor little boy’s injuries, that stands out for me. What on earth is the point of having this vast, ineffective superstructure of ‘care’, if it just doesn’t work? And worse, when its supervisor comes out with charts showing how she’d met all the right targets and pressed all the right buttons.

    Were his mother and her boyfriend ‘subhumans’? No, probably not. It never surprises me if children are beaten. They always have been, and they probably always will be. The little boy probably simply cried too much, or too loudly, and those blows were intended to shut him up. But the effect was probably to just make him cry still more, and be beaten still harder. It’s the sort of thing that’s all too likely too happen when children and adults are kept in too close proximity to each other. If it doesn’t happen in ‘decent’ middle class families very much, it’s probably because little boys have their own rooms upstairs where they can scream to their hearts content while mum and dad watch TV downstairs insulated from it all.

    Of course, they were responsible for this boy’s death, and they should be punished for it. But demonising them is really just a way of diverting attention away from the circumstances of their lives, and, more importantly, diverting attention away from the miserably ineffective and incompetent social services whose principal concern was clearly with their own comfort and wellbeing rather than those nominally in their care. No excuse there, of overcrowding in their spacious offices, I bet. No lack of funding. How much did those 60 visits cost, I wonder?

    This is a failure of government. And specifically of this Labour government, and is the dismal failure of a nanny state that has got its priorities lost. I bet that if his mother had been a smoker, he’d have been taken into care in next to no time.

  3. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom I know how you feel.
    The real hurt is that not long ago the same thing happened in the same council.
    Reports were made, and nothing has changed. Your party led by Brown ridiculed Cameron when he raised the issue as I have commented here before .
    So I am pleased that at least you are concerned in your party.
    Actions speak louder than words is a lesson your party has yet to learn.
    What would have been your parties reaction if it had been a Conservative led council.
    My belief is that it would have been totaly different.

    This is something that has touched you and perhaps you can see how we feel about the Labour government.
    It wants power for the sake of power, not to help and serve the people of our once great country.
    God help us all.

  4. Frank and Johnny – I feel sorry for you both. No matter what the story, you blame the Labour Party.

    Frank, you criticise the “nanny state” and then complain that there wasn’t enough intervention by the state! And even when an innocent child has been killed in such awful circumstances, you can’t resist banging on about your utterly bizarre hobbyhorse/obsession of smoking. Truly pathetic.

  5. Brian

    Completely correct post Tom all we need to see is action against those who failed to deliver the care that was needed in this case and punishment for the criminals.

    My mum used to tell me of a girl who starved to death in her school (the 1950s) and they teachers told all of the classes that it was a disgrace that it was allowed to happen in that day and age.

    Surely this crime is a disgrace that it is allowed to happen in ANY day and age; especially now.

  6. Madasafish

    Tom
    I guess I am older and more cynical having lived through the Moors Murder cases when they happened and the subsequent trail, digging up of bodies etc.. through all the various child scandals.

    That’s not to say I feel any less deeply but I have learned that anger as an emotion is essentially destructive. I tend to have an intial surge of horror, then anger and then the realisation that it is another tragedy I can do nothing about.

    I suspect if I lived near the area or worked in Social Sevices I would be far more affected.

    (On a personal level I remember my feelings some 30years ago when a colleague I worked with committed suicide without warning aged 23. The funeral was harrowing).

    I can say nothing more that is constructive.

  7. James

    Tom, what ever laws or rules are put in place you cannot stop every human being from causing pain to another. It’s an impossible task. There will always be mistakes made, no matter which party is in Government.
    Social Services will now be overcautious and take many more children into care and there will then be a public outcry about that. No system is or will be perfect.
    Don’t beat yourself up about it.

  8. Tom,

    For what it’s worth, I’d like to commend you for such an honest and forthright post.

    You are certainly not alone in the way you feel about this case. I think many in the community feel that Justice these days is more about the rights of the criminal than the rights of the victim.

    It’s something we need to address urgently if we are to have faith in the Justice system.

    Jim

  9. Gadgetvicar

    Ranting is ok in the circumstances. I think we all feel like that about this baby.

    By all means possible, hate the sin. That’s one of the factors that makes us work for justice isn’t it? But it’s important to differentiate between the sin and the sinner. Otherwise nothing changes. Hate breeds hate. We can’t know the circumstances of those who committed this atrocity – it may be that they themselves were subject to such abuse as children. If that is the only model of family life they ever had, it should not surprise us that they perpetuated that model. But how do we break the cycle? Followers of Jesus offer a different model – one of love, the possibility of transformation, forgiveness and rehabilitation.

    Try visiting a few criminals in jail. I’ve visited a few in my time, some of whom have committed crimes against people I love. I’ve been angry at them, for sure, but that anger has done me more harm than it has them. It’s tough to love an enemy, and you might be totally crap at it, but that doesn’t get you off the hook. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, then you have to love and not hate. Why? Because that’s what he did to and for everyone, including me.

    I hope (and pray) that those who are now being punished for the evil they did to Baby P, will somehow be loved enough to see their acts for what they are, have contrition, and be transformed. My hating them is unlikely to help in that process.

  10. AngryVoter

    A very good article, Tom. Straight from the heart and whatnot.

    Personally. I feel it’s a bit of a failure of government and the system employed. We have to get over who runs what at the moment, as a pair of commentators have decided to play Party Politics over this matter, when the commons tried to skirt the edge of such matters. [It failed, but hey. Can’t blame people for trying]

    Regardless of “who runs what” we have to seriously question what is wrong with Haringey Council and the head of it’s Child Protection department. This isn’t the first time this local authority has had something so tragic, and so blatantly able to be stopped numerous times. Fail.

    The “reforms” put in place after the Climbe case, from the same authority no less, have proven an utter and complete failure.

    That the department there was unable to stop this happening again [when other authorities may become a little more careful, watchful and even a tad over-zealous] is simply and utterly tragic.

    It also, perhaps, shows the tragedy of the “Target Culture” encouraged and supported over the last decade. With the supervisor coming out with charts and graphs, noting the councils “3 star rating.”

    [Which, despite her insistence, isn’t great. Considering the 3 local authorities I live next to, SDDC, NWLDC and ESDC are all four star, the top mark.]

    That action smacked too much of inhumanity. It reinforced “Us and them” in the divide between the political class and the public at large. Heads won’t be rolling at Haringey [again] and that perhaps is the most tragic of all.

    Lessons won’t be learnt by this, from that authority. Despite the insistence.

  11. Bedd Gelert

    Hmm… I don’t want to get all philosophical, but surely the more Biblical standpoint would be that it anger is understandable, but hatred is destructive ?

    I know where you are coming from, but I can see anger being channelled into finding a solution to preventing a recurrence of this, whereas I think that hatred may actually make that more difficult.

    Covering the situation in a ‘red mist’ may make it a lot more difficult to see what the mistakes and problems were – which is surely the first step to a resolution ? But I agree that is easier said than done..

  12. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom

    Your party cannot wash your hands of this. Action needs to be taken. The way Brown rubbished any concern expressed by Cameron displayed a deep malaise within your government. Anyone from your party who shouted Cameron down needs to take a long hard look at themselves.
    It was nasty.

  13. Tom, there is no such thing as a good Christian. A fairly important theme in the Bible is that all Christians are hypocrites and should know that, be humble and not judge others as a result – but that it’s better to make an attempt to follow Jesus and end up a hypocrite than not to try at all.

    It’s never good for our primary reaction to be hatred, but I can understand why love of some people (like Baby P) makes you hate the people that hurt them. I feel the same way about people including Joseph Kony and Margaret Thatcher. But if they deserve to suffer, and Baby P’s parents deserve to suffer, so do (to a lesser extent though) the people who failed to spot the abuse in over 60 visits, and so do (to a lesser extent again) all the people who refused to fund social services properly (that would be us, the voters, I suppose). The message of the gospel is that we have a way out of that cycle of repetitive violence; a way out of a scapegoating culture which frees us to think in response to crises like this “Not what can we do to avenge this tragedy but what can we do to stop it happening again.”

  14. Frank Davis

    Frank, you criticise the “nanny state” and then complain that there wasn’t enough intervention by the state!

    I was pointing at the complete ineffectiveness of that nanny state..This army of bureaucrats couldn’t save a single child. I bet if one tenth of the money that was spent on that army of self-serving pen-pushers had simply been handed to the mother, to pull her out of the subclass to which she belonged, none of this would have happened.

    And I was shocked that you focused entirely on the depravity of these ‘subhumans’, while completely ignoring that army of bureaucrats.which your party, and ultimately you, are responsible for.

    You’ve took the easy way out. You blamed the mother and her boyfriend. And you dehumanised them in the process.

    The Labour party used to be a party which reached out to the poor and the distressed, to give them a hand up to a batter life. Now it’s full of spiteful little hitlers who want to lecture everyone and blame people for their own misfortunes. To hell with all of you.

    And even when an innocent child has been killed in such awful circumstances, you can’t resist banging on about your utterly bizarre hobbyhorse/obsession of smoking.

    Yes, yes. It’s always the children. And in this case the authorities have, quite unconscionably and cynically, made the face of this unfortunate child available for all to see. Which is a filthy piece of propaganda, no doubt to be used to justify some further raft of interventions by Labour’s bully state.

    As for smoking. This government destroyed my social life, and the social lives of many people I know. It made me into a second class citizen. It’s not obsession. It’s hatred. Hatred of this government and everything it stands for.

  15. richard

    Not withstanding the overall subject of the article I find it staggering that apparently right-thinking people still think that God exists.

    We should be no more suprised that He allows evil to flourish than we would be that children from poor families are brought fewer presents by Santa or get less money from the Tooth Fairy.

  16. There are some good comments, like Gadgetvicar’s. Hatred is self-destruction.

    I know a young woman who was sexually abused for years as a child and has since flitted from one destructive relationship to another.

    I realise that to forgive the person (I nearly typed ‘monster’) is a massive undertaking, but I know it would transform her life if she did).

    I’m not a psychologist, but maybe the abuse has made her feel base and worthless, but to rise up and be able to forgive, would be empowering and raise her spirit.

    If those involved in hurting Baby P do not repent and turn to Christ then they will face worse than they meted out…

    Nahum 1:2:

    “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.”

    The baby is with the Lord, so it’s you, Tom, I’m more concerned about just now.

    “And whatever God and the Bible says, here’s what I say:”

    That’s a recipe for disaster and one that successive governments have used to destroy the fabric of society.

    Not so long ago, we had extended families, usually living and working in the same neighbourhood. We had good neighbours. The majority of children went to Sunday School. Children played safely in the streets and strangers were willing to intervene if something was wrong.

    If it wasn’t for the social engineering of the previous few decades, Baby P would probably have had many other people looking out for him – family and neighbours who may have realised what was going on.

    I don’t want to upset you further, Tom, but how have you voted in the Commons to preserve the family and defend God’s truth?

    The Christian Institute’s data on your voting history doesn’t look good.

    Every time we allow ‘alternative’ lifestyles to be granted recognition and disrespect life from conception and encourage gambling then we weaken families and communities.

    From this perspective, politicians are very much to blame and likewise, the media, Big Pharma, and others.

    Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m much cop as a Christian either and I rely on God’s grace a lot, but I can see what immense damage the injection of political correctness has inflicted on our people – and much of this is the fault of politicians.

    Tom, you can start to make amends by getting green ticks in future from the Christian Institute.

  17. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom

    Why did Labour increase the cost to councils of taking a case to court for child custody from £100 to over £2000. This has a direct effect in making councils think twice, that pleases the accountants and put more children at risk.
    We have learnt to our cost that what labour says and what it actually means and does are two different things.
    I respect you Tom that you always act in good faith, of that I have no doubt,
    But like us plebs you must be far more suspicious of your leaders and ministers. We have a BBC that is on your side and lets things pass that they would not if it were a Conservative government in power. So we need you many labour MPs to be far more rigorous in what your leadership does. If you do not then you are all tarred with the same brush.

  18. Chris' Wills

    What’s truly frightening is that this is one of the many child murder/torture cases.

    This one made the news becasue it was so awful and the council social work department so inept.

    I agree that we shouldn’t forget what these sub-humans have done (why sub-humans? because they have no civilised values only a self self all the time attitude and no redeeming graces I know of).

    Lock them up for a very long time and no parole.

  19. John

    Anyone else noticed the huge increase in the number of times the NSPCC advert appears on TV in the last few days asking for £2 a month donations???

  20. Now that you mention it, yes. But good luck to them. It might be cynical, but if it results in their receiving more funding, and more children better protected, I’m all for it.

  21. Donkey Kong

    I totally agree with you… it’s good to hate sometimes. I am one of those people who thinks that the mother and stepfather deserve all they get in prison. If their fellow inmates decide to use them as punching bags, knocking them so hard that their teeth end up inside their stomachs, I will certainly cheer. Won’t you?

    And still no words of contrition from Macavity about his disgusting claim that Cameron was trying to make political points last week about this. What a lowlife.

  22. Indy

    It’s understandable that people feel so upset about this but folk getting onto their hobby horses about PC-ness and how it was better in the old days should get back off again. It wasn’t better in the old days. Ask the kids brought up in Quarriers if things were better for them. Back in the old days the ‘authorities’ did not listen to children and if they did listen they refused to believe what they were told about abuses that went on. There has been enormous progress in the past half century in terms of reducing child abuse though there is clearly a lot more to do especially when children are too young to be able to talk and let other adults know what is being done to them. We need to do much more to help those children. But we should also remember it is precisely because incidents like the Baby P case are so rare that people are so horrified by them.

  23. Without wishing to sound patronising, Indy, that’s the most intelligent and thoughtful comment on this thread so far.

  24. Stewart Cowan: as a devout Christian I disagree with the Christian Institute on every single one of the issues they provide ticks or crosses for.

    Now I accept that amongst Christians there is considerable debate on those issues. But I’m massively offended by the way they limit certain issues as being “moral” issues. Poverty – something that receives extensive treatment throughout the bible – goes unmentioned while abortion – something that is never mentioned – and homosexuality – something mentioned at the most optimistic count four or five times – get top billing. Pathetic and un-Christlike.

  25. wrinkled weasel

    Nobody sane or feeling can cope with the images in this case. I would be surprised to meet anyone sane or feeling who could find forgiveness for the perpetrators. It has twisted me up inside.

    Your question about your faith is reasonable in the circumstances, but you are punishing yourself unnecessarily if you think that “hatred” somehow diminishes you. Are you sure it’s hatred? Might it not be outrage, anger, desire for justice? If it is hatred, then what? Do you think anybody but God cares what happens to the perpetrators? I wont lose much sleep if I hear they have met with an “accident” in prison. Will you? You are relieved, by the way, of forgiving, for that , mercifully, is way above your pay grade. In the old days, the Judge donned a black cap and ended with the word, “and may God, have mercy on your soul”. It was the tacit admission that in some cases, the final court of appeal was before the Almighty. The only person I know who has the power to forgive sins is the Lord God and possibly Barak Obama.

    Which brings us to politics.

    It is political, Baby P.

    It is political because there are structures in place, in social services and other agencies, that have been decreed by politicians. I am not saying this case, which is offensive to humanity, could have been different under another administration, but it is true to say that the tenor of systems implementation, particularly with regard to data collection, is infected with political correctness, in that, specifically, a decision has been made not to target or credit score “at risk” groups for the purposes of data collection/sharing, lest this be seen as discriminatory. No Tory in their right mind would be a party to that sort of twaddle.

  26. Tim, the Christian Institute only has the funds to campaign on a few issues.

    If you are a devout Christian, I presume you realise that the Bible makes it clear that life begins at conception and that homosexual acts are sinful.

    If you care about poverty then there are plenty of charities who deal with that, while the Institute deals with moral poverty.

    In fact it is moral poverty (greed, selfishness, sloth, lusting after and worshipping physical things) that creates the material poverty you are talking about.

    On your final comment, brother, I would point you to Matthew 5:22.

  27. Baby P died at the hands of her mother and two others, not the care system. But there have clearly been failings in the child protection system in Haringey and they need to be identified and rectified as quickly as possible.

    This tragedy gave me cause to recall the words of John Major. Maybe it is time to “condemn a little more, and understand a little less”.

    Finally, the Leader of Haringey at the time of Victoria Climbie’s death is also the Leader now. He should go.

  28. Archimedes

    Thank you very much for posting the link to the executive summary, which I could not find on the Haringey site when I looked.
    But I would like to see this case cause us to focus more on why the state is such a bad parent that it was thought better to leave the child and his sisters in a filthy house with a parent whose attention to them would not be tolerated in any other relationship (ie step mother, foster mother) than to take the children into care.

  29. Jesus didn’t hate.

    However, he did a good line in righteous anger (money changers in the temple, etc.) which achieved rather more than hatred would have done – maybe we should bear that in mind when talking about such things.

    As for your comment on not being a very good Christian – remember there was only ever one of them! I always bear in mind, when I think about practicing Christians like me, Ronnie Barker’s line on practicing homosexuals – “it’s one that ain’t quite got it right yet.”

  30. Nice to see Ed Balls setting up ANOTHER quango to block communication, employ a few more handicapped lesbians and suck yet more cash from the taxpayer.

    “Every area of England is to be covered by a Children’s Trust Board (CTB), the government is to announce. ”

    Have you signed Lynne Featherstone’s Commons motion calling for a public enquiry, Tom?

  31. Cath

    One post Tom which proves that you were just too damn honest and decent to be in this government.

    I remain (like you, I assume) opposed to the death penalty but the “oh well, shit happens” attitude of some of your posters is just astonishing.

  32. Jay

    I think that it’s right and proper to feel outraged by the case of Baby P, what kind of society would we have become if we didn’t? Baby P is, sadly, only the latest (and is sure not to be the last) victim of such brutality that the abuse has taken the victims’ lives. Sometimes only one incident is enough to kill the child usually, however, the abuse is sustained over weeks or months. I also wonder how many deaths don’t come to the public’s attention and, of course, there are the cases of years of abuse that go completely unnoticed by everyone.

    Who is to blame (in the specific case of Baby P) is a question that I believe needs to be asked, not so much to punish but to take steps to try to mitigate such crimes. Despite the fact that I strongly believe in individual responsibility and have little truck with ‘bleeding hearts’, I would apportion little blame to the family of Baby P. I don’t believe that people are ‘just plain evil’ and a crime of this nature so offends a universal notion of right and wrong that I think we have to ask what has happened to these people that they have become capable of it. I think that some blame attaches to government insofar as government policies affect our lives and I think that this particular government has encouraged people with little hope of upward social mobility to remain reliant on the State and disenfranchised from the rest of society. Perhaps only a few factors separate the Vicky Pollards from Baby P’s family. The Council must accept responsibility for its failure to intervene and what appears to have been a cover-up in the interests of targets. I quite definitely blame this Government for promoting a target-driven culture in which targets, in themselves no indicators of real performance, have themselves become objectives. And how many of us might be culpable? How many of us would ignore strong suspicions of abuse because we don’t want to interfere or for the, understandable, concern that if we were wrong we might not enjoy the protection of law enforcers from a vengeful neighbour? Rightly, or wrongly, there is a widespread perception that the police no longer protect the innocent. I’d also like to say that, although I’m not a member of the Church, for various reasons, I think that today’s society is very much the poorer for the decline in practise of the Christianity which used to inform our everyday lives. As a society, we don’t seem to see beyond the most superficial in all areas of life and appear to despise honesty and unselfishness which in the ‘I know my rights’ culture are ridiculed as weaknesses. I loathe the current fashionable, militant, atheism and I believe that it’s not the case that we are too sophisticated for religion, we are just too arrogant.

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