On Saturday went on Ken Livingstone’s LBC show.
Most of the time was spent on Baby P, not surprisingly. Just to break for a brief moment from Baby P – Ken said at the end that I could spend the last minute ranting about whatever I wanted. So I did. I made an appeal to Gordon Brown to re-open the sub-post offices in London that he has closed. Having decided to stop any further closures it seems to me that those of us who were unfortunate enough to have had the axe already fall should have the closures reversed.
Back to Baby P – Saturday was the day Sharon Shoesmith received some support in the form of a letter to the media from 61 head teachers in Haringey. Sharon is Director of Education here in Haringey. As Ken put it on air – she’s their boss.
But this isn’t about her competence or otherwise in education – it’s about her responsibility and accountability for the social services side of her brief – which includes having – under the Children’s Act of 2004 – the responsibility for child protection in Haringey. Under this legal framework her and the political leadership side of the equation have the ultimate responsibility.
Whilst she has – rightly – been in the firing line, thus far George Meehan, Labour Leader of Haringey Council, has not had the decency to step forward to take his share of the responsibility. He was leader too during the Victoria Climbie affair – and it is worth remembering some of the damning conclusions in Lord Laming’s report:
The manner in which a number of senior managers and elected councillors within Haringey discharged their statutory responsibilities to safeguard and protect the welfare of children living in the borough was an important contributory factor in the mishandling of Victoria’s case … I was left unimpressed by the manner in which a number of senior managers and councillors from Haringey sought to distance themselves from the poor practice apparent … [The report’s criticisms] are directed not just at the front line staff … but at senior managers and councillors.
Neither George nor any of the other councillors so criticised resigned their posts then.
What Sharon Shoesmith, Geroge Meehan and Liz Santry (the Haringey Council Cabinet member for this area) don’t seem to understand is the really, really deep sense of outrage amongst the public.
One illustration of the depth of public concern and anger over this issue is that in the last week my website has been read more heavily that at any time ever before. My office is inundated with phone calls and emails – all virtually of one voice – how could this happen again in Haringey and this time they must not be allowed to get away with it.
During the time of the Laming inquiry I wrote a newspaper column, quoting Ambrose Bierce – and the quote seems all too apposite once more: responsibility is “a detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbour. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it on a star”. If only it were not so.