Friday, November 14, 2008

Of course the death of Baby P is a political matter

Developments in the Baby P case today include the news that a former Haringey employee had raised concerns about the standard of social care in the borough with ministers. Rather than listen to her the council had obtained court injunction preventing her from speaking about the matter. See the report on the Daily Telegraph site.

If this is the attitude Haringey takes to criticism how will it ever learn when things are going wrong?

To keep up with developments I recommend the blog written by Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem MP for part of Haringey.

Lynne is quoted on the Telegraph site too, talking about Haringey's use of an injunction against Nevres Kemal:

"It is absolute obstruction," she said.

"You have to think that everyone is acting on behalf of their own self interest, to protect themselves.

"Nowhere is the interest of the child being served. An injunction on the social worker is madness."

I think she is right to take up this issue. But I wonder what those Lib Dems who seemed so appalled that David Cameron raised it in the Commons on Wednesday think about it.

On reflection I think those most at fault for those unedifying scenes were Labour backbenchers. They heard Haringey Council and social workers mentioned and rode to the defence of their people by barracking Cameron. It was this that made him genuinely angry and he had every right to be angry.

And one of the best things about being a Liberal Democrat is that you are not caught up in the often over-cosy relationship between Labour councillors and their Labour supporting staff. As Lynne shows, this leaves us free to raise issues like the death of Baby P.

Incidentally, wouldn't it be more dignified if we were allowed to give the child his real name?


Anonymous said...

I have no problem with it because Lynne isnt seeking an obvious advantage for our party...where as the right and the Conservatives clearly are using it to benefit their own agenda which doesnt just include issues around this case....

Witness the articles in The Times today to lead a full spectrum assualt on the welfare state or witness Iain Duncan Smiths article in the Guardian, the day after PMQ's, saying the solution to this was to 'mend broken homes'...

Jonathan Calder said...

I don't find it so shocking that Conservatives should propose Conservative solutions to the problems we face. Some Conservatives may even believe in them.

I would feel happier if there were a clear Liberal agenda on the social services. When I was on the Lib Dem policy committee we passed a document on children and the family. Every syllable of it could have come from the Labour Party.

Andy said...

I have to say, I'm pretty sympathetic to Cameron on the whole hoo-hah about PMQs (and I'm far from fond of Cameron). His constitutional role is Leader of the Opposition, he is at PMQs to ask questions of the government, preferably on issues that the public care about. It's hard to think of a better example of doing so than what he was doing at PMQs this week.

There's a bizarre, knee-jerk reaction from people who don't like politics that when an issue like this which provokes a genuine, visceral reaction in normal people comes along, politicians somehow aren't allowed to participate in that reaction, because politics is in some way inherently "dirty", and politicians are in some way sullying the issue by discussing it. Heaven help the politician in question if the general view of the world that informed their choice of party also informs their line of questioning or comment.

I agree that the backbench barracking was the most unseemly aspect of the whole thing. As far as Brown and Cameron are concerned, I was more disappointed by Brown buying into the ridiculous notion I outlined above, by accusing Cameron of making it a political issue. What does that mean? Is there a way Cameron could have tried to hold the government accountable that wouldn't have drawn this criticism?

dreamingspire said...

Brown is clearly having difficulty at PMQs when handling topics that at the time are unresolved and at the same time are being handled by another Minister. On Wednesday govt had received the fast track Haringey report in the morning and made their major decision on it by the end of the day, so Brown was stranded at lunchtime. Often his tactic is to recite facts about recent govt activities, but it would be better to tell the opposition to wait and see - and then sit down.
Much more interesting is the way that significant topics are being moved to the Lords, this week with Mandy making the ground-breaking announcements about the Post Office. Despite Lynne Featherstone's Tuesday grumble that unpopular politicians who are voted out get a seat in the Lords: "Don’t worry, just hang round for a while and you’ll be given a place for life in Parliament, complete with voting rights, without any risk of ever losing an election again", it is the upper house where Brown is putting key people, and also where the nonentities will be politely ignored.

Frank Little said...

I, too, have no difficulty with Cameron raising the matter at PMQs. This is a forum at which the administration is publicly examined, and something is still clearly wrong with social services throughout England & Wales. If Cameron had not questioned Brown on this, I trust Clegg would have done so. (It was touch-and-go as to whether Lynne F's question would be reached.)

What I object to is the spinning which took place around the question, as Vince Cable pointed out in the "World at One" discussion which followed.
Moreover, Cameron seemed to be thrown by the fact that the statutory report from the SS had already been made. His last two or three questions took matters no further forward, being of the pub car-park "What did you just call me?" variety.

Charlieman said...

JC: "Incidentally, wouldn't it be more dignified if we were allowed to give the child his real name?"

Given that Baby P was one of several children in the household, that would be inappropriate. The dead boy who was recovered from the Thames a few years ago was named "Adam" by the police investigating his death. That worked for them, and the model will work in most cases, but in other cases it may be difficult to assign a name that suits the family which is not racially identifiable.

Anonymous said...


No it's not shocking but I think it cuts against the likes of Iain Dale who are feigning anger that 'the left' politicised the question....

Maybe it is a area for further debate? My views on this specific question are that we have to wait for the enquiry's findings before specific judgement is passed.

Anonymous said...

thanks, very good =)