Child abuse: we need to remove this corrupt elite

Felicity Dowling on the child abuse scandal

We should raise our voices in deep anger against what has been uncovered in the child abuse reports, abuse involving the some of the very rich and very powerful. We pledge cold determination that children will never be treated as second class, non-people. We hope such cases are purely historic but will remain vigilant. This scandal goes to the core of this rotten class based society and the situation of children within it.

Scandal after scandal, from the Catholic Church to the Tory party, the same story of abuse; men (and a few women) using their power against youngsters in their care. Children were being hurt, frightened and abused by wealthy men. Wealthy men conspired together to show their power and, by cruel contrast, their victims powerlessness. Using privilege and a sense of entitlement, backed up by political power, by the entertainment elites, by attitudes in the press and the prosecuting authorities, these pampered wealthy men chose to force themselves sexually onto children.

Just as the child abuse in the Catholic Church was reflected in the murderous neglect of babies in their care, and the oppression of women in the Magdalene laundries and mother and baby homes, so sexual abuse of children was mirrored in Tory Britain by the poverty and social and economic neglect of children.

Thatcher and her ilk deserve the hatred and contempt with which they are held in many working class communities, amongst trade unionists, amongst those who fight for children’s rights, amongst the LGBT community, and amongst those fighting for women’s rights. This was the the government of Orgreave and the Miners Strike, of Hillsborough, of the attacks on Liverpool Council, of the Wapping dispute and the rise of News International, of the homophobic Clause 28. The exposure of the child abuse and its cover up amongst the Tory political elite is, though, more than confirmation of our prejudice.

Child abuse is a real and present danger for all children, even those of the elite. All teachers now are trained in child protection issues, to defend children. Grooming and trafficking are part of that horror. It is a dangerous reality across our society.

The national crime agency report’s key findings showed that children in institutional settings are not only at risk from abusers but from adults who fail to notice abuse or, if they do, fail to report it. Our children are at risk from child abuse because of the patriarchal structure of this society; but those removed from their families into institutions are at particular risk. This is an especial worry when the Tories intend to open the biggest ever children’s prison, where even babies could be locked up. Frances Crook describes “A prison within a prison for children with children”.

When ‘Austerity’ is imposed, the needs of children are hit and especially those in state care. The denigration of the needs of children implicit in ‘Austerity’ is dangerous to children, in healthcare, in poor nutrition, in safety and in happiness and wellbeing.

I believe though, that the examples of abuse where the very rich raped the children of the very poor, in children’s homes, demonstrate something that throws particular light on child abuse, amplifies the horror and shows its roots.

Children were taken into “care”, already scarred, and often scared, scared by leaving home and family, but then forced into an abuse circus, a circus that extended to Amsterdam brothels. Our children in state care were taken to Amsterdam to be abused. These children were deprived by the state of their family and community support, stripped of their rights and given as playthings to these corrupt and rotten individuals, individuals who, fresh from their conquests of captive children, go on to rule the country. Then the children were tossed aside, disbelieved and left to live in the hell that follows abuse.

Children in children’s homes from North Wales, from Grafton Lodge children’s home in Hanworth, and it is believed in others in Scotland, were abused by wealthy powerful men.

Reflect on those rich elite men. All of the opportunities of the world were open to these wealthy individuals: travel, sport, art, music, education; but they chose instead to organise an ‘entertainment’ for themselves by abusing children. “Shall we go to see the Northern Lights? Dive to the bottom of the seas? Hear opera in Rome or Rock at Glastonbury? No let’s go and hurt kids! Working class poor kids! We have that power.”

Our anger stretches also to the minions of these rich abusers who organised to give the children to these creatures. People who were working for and in these homes, who were prepared to trade their human charges for money and the chance to bask in the reflection of power.

Those brave staff who raised objections were dealt with in many ways but the most scandalous is the case of Bulic Forsythe, whose mysterious death remains unsolved.

Sexual violence against women is well documented. Legal progress has been made since Thatcher in rights for women and rights for LGBT people. Children’s rights too have improved and safeguarding procedures have become much more thorough. Modern rape figures, we hope, are an improvement on the 1980s, but still are shocking: 69,000 female victims, 9,000 male victims per year. 1,070 convictions per year.

In the currently reported scandals, abuse extended beyond the women not believed in rape and assault cases, to other adults who were for some reason vulnerable. Savile took Rolf Harris to gawp at mentally ill women forced to strip and shower in front of staff and these disgusting onlookers. This is so far from human love and affection, so far from human sexuality that it clearly demonstrates the terrible use and abuse of power.

Kindness, care, time and nurture can help heal many woes, even the multiplicity of wounds involved in abuse. But none of this was given to these victims of the well-heeled, well dressed and powerful abusers. We are told childhood bullying can impact on people into their fifties. How much more so childhood abuse? It has taken decades for the survivors to be believed. Then these abusers lied and lied and used the power of the state to cover up. Their circles of protection were powerful indeed; ‘D notices’ which forbid publications were employed in some cases, it is said. No kindness care or nurture was offered to these victims.

A dirty and malevolent belief lay at the core of this abuse: a belief that they, the elite, had rights quite different in nature from the rights of ordinary folk, and certainly different from the rights of the children of the poor. The children of the poor were, available to the elite, available to them as part and parcel of their privilege. The rights of the children of the poor were utterly dismissed. Rich friends of the abusers who might have thought “it’s not on!” still thought it more important to cover up for them than to protect the children.

The abuse of children in children’s homes is at the core of this whole scandal. This is where the most explicit abuse of the children of the poor occurs.

Children are traditionally disbelieved. Thirteen little girls told the police the Soham murderer had assaulted them, but none were believed, so he was free to kill.
Dangerous, dismissive attitudes to the children of the poor are found today. Many hours of media time and much money has been spent developing hatred for the poor, the ‘chavs’, hatred of people with disabilities and the jobless. No one by this logic is more reviled than the children of the poor up to and including today.
Just as we need to listen to women, we need to listen to the voices of children

Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall, Rolf Harris have all now been found guilty. Savile’s story is well researched in Dan Davies book “In Plain Sight”, here reviewed in the Observer.

“‘I have a policy,’ he told the officers. They were calling him Jimmy. ‘Can I call you Jimmy?’ they said. ‘What do you mean by a policy?’ ‘Well, I have a policy that I will pass this to my people and my people are big important people and we will be able to put time in the Old Bailey and you will be in the Old Bailey and these people will be in the Old Bailey.'” It worked. The investigation was dropped.

Some of the survivors have been heard and been believed, but the sickness at the heart of this is still there. Thatcher, we are told, knew of abuse by senior ministers. Edwina Currie gave Savile the keys to Broadmoor!

Children are open to abuse right now because the services in place are being dismantled by ‘austerity’. Children’s centres across the country are closing. Inadequate and relentlessly impoverished social services mean even the most vulnerable children are looked after by a succession of agency social workers, foster carers often with inadequate support and in privatised children’s homes, employing workers with great heart but in inadequate professional development and support and rotten working conditions. High turnover is again a major problem. How then can this system protect our children?

The media, the police and others know that politicians have decided that the unborn babies of very poor mothers are no longer entitled to free NHS maternity care. They know this policy will kill but they keep quiet because these are the children of the poor, of the immigrant community.

The whole experience of childhood has changed since Thatcher’s time. The James Bulger killing, the Dunblane massacres and strings of child abuse cases marked turning points. Traffic and the press descriptions of the prevalence of violent crime have changed the whole experience of childhood. Children no longer play on the streets, few even play outside unsupervised. Wildlife geek Chris Packham complains that children are not even allowed to get slithered on and scratched by the snails and twigs.

Children are, in the ideas of the present, the responsibility entirely of their parents. When parents can’t cope family members are left to struggle. The struggles of kinship carers raising children on old age pensions are unbelievable in the 4th richest country in the world.

Two education ministers, Keith Joseph and Rhodes Boyson, are mentioned in the press comments on the issue of sex parties involving teenagers “bought” for the purpose. These men had huge power over the whole state system of schools and are seen as the forerunners of Gove’s policies on schools.

These people were part of the government that passed Clause 28, intended to sow hatred of gay people and to demean and oppress them and their teachers. The amendment stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

The lies and hypocrisy stink. That gap between the truth and the “message”, though, is one of the ways the ruling elites manipulate political discussion. Blame public services and the North for child abuse, blame public servants for the financial crisis caused by the bankers, claim concern for the failings in the NHS whilst privatising it, claim to be improving schools whilst wrecking them. Claim to be making peace whilst making war. Claim concern for children whilst letting them go hungry and un-protected. Keep the truth far from the message; that’s the spin doctor way.

Left Unity is committed to LGBT rights. Stonewall has shown the extent of hate crime against gay people. A quarter of young gay people report that many have no adult to talk to, partly because many teachers are uncomfortable or untrained to do so. The prejudicial message of Clause 28 still affects schools all these years later. If these children feel unable to talk, how safe are they to report abuse?

David Cameron linked homophobia to the child abuse crimes in an interview, for which his office offered an apology of sorts. Peter Tachell commented, excusing him.

We have to make very, very clear that homosexuality is not linked to child abuse. Child abuse is a pervasive evil across society. Girls and boys, children and young teens are at risk.

The UN Convention on the rights of the child has been ratified by every country except the USA and Somalia. It would be a good starting point for challenging the vicious anti-child attitudes of our rulers.
The Convention states that every child has:
•The right to a childhood (including protection from harm)
•The right to be educated (including all girls and boys completing primary school)
•The right to be healthy (including having clean water, nutritious food and medical care)
•The right to be treated fairly (including changing laws and practices that are unfair on children)
•The right to be heard (including considering children’s views)

Across the globe reactionary regimes damage the rights of children – to life, to education, to peace, to housing and to health care – by their rhetoric and by their actions in peace and in war.

Left Unity must be the party of children, defending their basic rights to food, education, childcare, health care, family life (including shorter working hours for adults so parents, grandparents and the community have time for children) and, of course, a planet fit to inhabit. More than that, children must be allowed to be happy, free for the stresses of poverty. Our children must be free from the hate speech pushed by the Tories and their media friends in attacks on benefit claimants, on asylum seekers, on immigrants and disabled people and people in ill health. Children must have access to the inherited cultural wealth of our society in libraries, museums and art galleries, national parks and zoos.

We must call for far-reaching studies into how best to help survivors of abuse and how best to prevent it happening now and in the future. Our prisons must be reformed to become therapeutic rather than crudely punitive, so abusers do not go though a revolving door. We recognise the link between the abuse of children, women and men as part of patriarchy (the rule of men in society). We know that the rule of men permeates the institutions of our society, in law, in the economy, in the media, in sport and much more. Changing the legacy of abuse will take many resources and much time.

An enquiry into this organised “historic” abuse was initially intended to be headed by Lady Butler-Sloss, sister of Sir Michael Havers, himself mentioned as attending some of the sex parties. Surely, some organisations other than those of the elite who perpetrated these abuses must be involved in an enquiry, organisations like the trade unions, organisations of care leavers, of the survivors of abuse?

On the left, in the unions, in women’s organisations and children’s support organisations, we raise campaigns for good childcare, decent wages for women, funded social services and an end to ‘austerity’. We raise good points of discussion on how “our leaders” operate.

In talk of this scandal, though, our politics must go publicly to the need to remove the rule of a corrupt elite. They are a very efficient elite, efficient at gathering ever more of society’s wealth into their own pockets, efficient at delivering mass media hate campaigns, at creating war out of peace. They are efficient at pollution of the land and water, at delivering terrible inequality and at championing an economic system good only for a tiny elite. By opposing the rule of the elite we begin to protect the children of the poor, the children of the working class and perhaps all children.

By raising the idea that the elite must go, that we must become a real democracy – political, social and economic – we open up a chance to talk of how a different world is possible, a world where generations might thrive without the cancer of child abuse, without poverty, with more joy, and healthier, happier and safer children. A future worth fighting for!


13 responses to “Child abuse: we need to remove this corrupt elite”

  1. John Tummon says:

    A magnificent rallying call, Felicity, with which I wholeheatedly agree.

    Having said that, taking a class perspective on this does need also to look at and acknowledge what happens within the working class. Abuse of children is much more likely to be inflicted by a trusted adult than a stranger and this includes family members. Many of the women I have had close relationships with have eventually confided that they have been sexually abused by a close family member. My wife supports foster carers and most of the birth families I have heard from her about over the past 22 years have acute 2nd generation problems of neglecting or abusing their children, often linked to alcohol or drug abuse.

    By far the best thing about New Labour was its Sure Start Centres, although their actual performance did not live up to their potential ( If we are developing a policy on children, which I think your posting should inspire us to do, then I would like a group taking this forward to look at how we would improve on Sure Start and braoden the concept out to address the other issues you raise.

  2. Patrick Black says:

    What Left Unity should be demanding is a full public inquiry into the Establishment paedophile ring and cover-up (Tebbit…’there may well have been a cover -up..’) of which Liberal MP Cyril Smith and Jimmy Savile’s state sanctioned keys to Broadmoor are but the tip of the ice berg and even these matters are struggling to see the light of day for the very reason that they are The tip and The powers that be want to ensure it stays that way.

    An inquiry into ‘historic’ child abuse is all well and good ‘depending’ on its remit, terms of reference, the misuse of the Official secrets act and those who are ‘selected’ to investigate all that has gone on but The Cameron Government has moved this into the picture to further cover up and obscure the whole question of a Full Public inquiry into the Establishment paedophile ring and the cover up which should be the focus of our attention.

    Until this is made open and fully exposed then it is premature to even begin an ‘historic’ inquiry. We need to know who exactly was and is involved in this Establishment paedophile/sexual abuse ring, who was involved in covering it up, when, where and how.

    What happened to the al important ‘missing’files ?

    Norman Tebbit makes out it was a few rotten apples ‘here and there’ when the reality could well be very far from the truth.

    For all we know it could have and still does involve numerous Mp’s of all parties,members of The House of Lords,members of The Royal Family, Judges,Intelligence, Police and Military chiefs,top civil servants,BBC and media heads,Heads of top Public schools, The Churches and beyond into a much wider vast network. Who knows ? But we need to know and it doesnt appear to me that anyone is really pushing for such a necessary inquiry as the mainstream capitalist media tries to shove it off the front pages.

  3. John Tummon says:

    AFter looking agin through Felicity’s post and discussing it with my wife, I think my enthusiasm was OTT. I now think we do need more focus rather than a scartergun approach to all this, so I agree with Patrick. Research has shown the cross-class nature of child abuse and violent child neglect. I don’t think it is a class issue in terms of perpetrator vs victim, although it is more of a feminist issue, but not in fundamental terms. What drives it is petty power – adults over children, including adults with poor self-esteem whose only way of exerting power is over children. This disfigures capitalist society at least partly because of the alienation endemic in capitalist social relations, which people internalise into self-doubt & lack of satisfaction. In the sense that the personal is political, then this is the aspect of politics into which all this best fits,

    • Felicity Dowling says:

      I am, and I expect my comrades and friends to be, opposed to child abuse with every fibre of their being, both personal and political .Child abuse is cruel and utterly foul. It happens in many situations, where children’s right to say “NO” is disrespected, or where the child is never taught that it is ok to say “no”, nor taught that they have rights and there are big people to protect them. Child abuse also happens where vicious and overwhelming power is used against a child.
      We site the conflation of sexuality with the abuse of power firmly in the patriarchal society. Our current society is both capitalist and patriarchal but patriarchy predates capitalism. We know that women have raged against capitalism and patriarchy for many generations.
      The role of women in opposing austerity cuts and restructuring of society is crucial to our chance of victory, our chance of building a better world. Unchallenged child abuse like unchallenged sexual violence as a whole serves to weaken women’s resistance and enhance the power of all violent men. And we see today across the world the horrors of those violent men in personal actions and political actions and war. Women play an essential role in campaigns across the world in protecting the wealth held in common such as the NHS and education and, in many countries, in food production
      Abuse happens where the child is not likely to be believed if they report it. Often with slightly older children, they are first persuaded to do something they are ashamed to tell their parents, carers or teachers.
      Our prisons are counterproductive in dealing with abusers and many have no interventions at all and abusers come out to abuse again. Indeed they often come out as more informed and more confident abusers.
      The current crisis though is child abuse of nightmare proportions. The horror of the child abused at home is not made better or worse by discussing this. The pain is pain wherever it is experienced. It is perfectly true that child abuse occurs in many situations. The current scandal is something more. Yes John is right that “petty power” lets family and small organisation abuse occur.
      This present crisis though is an organised and virulent form of the abuse, far from petty. Children’s homes across the UK were involved. The men involved are an amoral elite who believed they were safe to take our most vulnerable children and use and abuse them, then threaten the survivors and the whistle blowers, involve the whole power of the state machine, feeling themselves untouchable, and,by viciously use of power, make themselves untouchable.
      It is of fundamental political importance for millions of people to openly acknowledge this fact and the political ramifications of it. Deference is a key part of maintaining capitalism, and patriarchy, and the regular child abuse in this country. Deference to these clever men I stops people voting for and acting in their own interests. We cannot tackle the problems in our own communities whilst our communities are run by these corrupt elites.
      Most people find it incredible to hear these stories. These scandals are exploding like small hand grenades in the papers day after day, yet no senior politician has resigned because of it. Their names are emblazoned across the papers and still they go to parliament and make life changing decisions for us.
      This is a form of crisis management for them, a white out. Make it sound as though it’s horrible but it is normal. The favourite weapon of the Tories; normalise the problem, make people think there is nothing you can do about it anyway. The abusers and their protectors hope things will subside. Patriarchy wobbles, but straightens itself up and carries on as normal.
      Meanwhile their austerity policies make more and more children vulnerable so another generation will repeat the experience.
      Women in the labour movement fought for the right to keep our own wages, for the safer conditions at work for maternity leave for equal pay for the recognition that marriage was not ongoing consent to intercourse but that each time people had the right to choose, we fought against the right of men to hit their wives for divorce and fair(ish) divorce settlements, for the right to contraception and abortion. We are losing much of what we gained but no doubts we are right to fight for it
      Let’s fight it for the rights of children to be free of this organised and accepted abuse by the people who run our corrupt society. Let’s fight to keep our children safe from Austerity
      A much better world is possible. To win that better world we must challenge all who hurt our children, and organise all who want a better life for their children and for children across the globe.

  4. ben madigan says:

    an interesting story to keep an eye on is whether the scandal about Kincora Boys Home In East Belfast, Northern ireland will be included in the Enquiry.
    here a former assistant chief constable gives his view ssible-mi5-were-complicit-in-child-abuse-in-northern-ireland

  5. Patrick Black says:

    The title of the above article is ‘We need to remove this elite’

    Who then is the ‘We’ ?

    This corrupt elite has been in power for centuries.

    How then are they to be removed ?

    The organised Left is at present tiny. Left Unity itself is tiny though growing albeit very slowly. It appears to me that it is presently lacking clear focus and is unclear in what it is trying to do and how. The rest of the organised Left is much reduced in size, less influential, fragmented and much weakened compared with the height of the resistance to Thatcher 30 years ago.

    We need more Left Unity in action , not just within Left Unity itself(all too often lacking) but across The whole of The British Left (still capable of realising the importance of working together instead of continuing pointless competitive stupidity otherwise known as sectarianism) and through clear communication, cooperation and coordination Left Unity in action can and must be achieved.Otherwise there is NO HOPE

    Left Unity appears to be seriously losing it’s early momentuum and ‘newness’ and urgently needs to refind it and play a vital part in bringing The Left together, to talk to each other and work together.

    • Felicity Dowling says:

      “We”, Patrick, is the working class organisations.
      Yes we intend to challenge the corrupt and violent elites that run our society. That’s what socialism is about.
      Yes our forces are small but growing. At present we are supporting campaigns, running some campaigns our selves, building policies and organising step by step across the country.
      I agree on the need to pull more and more of the left to work together informally and if people choose to join us in Left Unity

  6. John Smith Cohen says:

    It is obviously admirable that Left Unity wants to take a stand against the abuse of children.

    But it is more complex than simply a single elite sex abuse ring, vile though that may be, covered-up though it obviously was. The problem is also far far bigger than this.

    Economically developed nations are only just beginning to understand the scale and history of sexual abuse of children. We are horrified because we are the first set of people in human history who have begun to fight back against these crimes and social distortions.

    Outside of richer OECD nations that process has barely begun.

    Ms Dowling is right that sexual abuse of children is connected to power. But it is not just about our society, our economic system, today, in the 1970s or any other time. Sexual abuse of children has been in every type of society, in every context, in every class, in every religious group and political system.

    And these organised groups, or individuals, often act within closed systems. Schools, care homes, foster homes, parliaments, religions…even the BBC…and of course, most of the time in families, the great foundation block of the right’s social message.

    I know Dan Davies who wrote the book on Savile. But as he – and others – point out it is more than just a single disgusting abusive man. And to combat it needs more resources. Imagine if society had spent the same amount of money fighting child abuse as it has on `fighting` drugs.

    But I really don’t think Left Unity can conflate child abuse with Orgreave or the Miners’ Strike. When we talk about these very serious issues we do need more focus as John Tummon says.

  7. Felicity Dowling says:

    It is necessary to relate the abuse of state power in its many different but linked forms.The same power structures that produced Hillsborough and Orgreave covered up these child abuse rings amongst the very powerful men at the heart of government.

    • John Smith Cohen says:

      I completely agree with you Ms Dowling on the degradation of the system and the establishment which controls it. Also on the way power covers up its faults, investigates itself and so on. And I commend your work I have seen on the site and your anger over this issue.
      It is just with very emotive and disturbing subjects such as this that conflating a whole series of issues doesn’t always work, I feel.

      I do think Left Unity can make a very tough law and order issue around the sexual and physical abuse of women and children. We can – and in my view should – pen policies which are far tougher on perpetrators of these awful crimes. If people want to build jails, lets build them for this type of criminal, not boys selling marijuana and E, debtors and borderline mental health victims.

  8. Felicity Dowling says:

    Left Unity calls for full, long term, social, economic, health and legal support to be made available to all victims of child abuse.
    We call for fully funded children’s services in every local authority with good professional development and trade union representation
    We call for children’s voices to be heard in all services.
    The legal processes must be reformed.
    Those in public office who have hidden and protected child abuse and abusers must go. This includes the abusers in high places in this country. Questions must be asked about police in Yorkshire. Hillsborough and Orgreave are now joined in the hall of shame by Rotherham.
    Abuse is endemic in this society. No-one with any responsibility must be excused, not one perpetrator or accomplice. All networks of support for abuse must be broken. Men (and a very few women) of all races and some of in high office have been involved.
    We need a better world for all our children. A better world is possible”

  9. Phil Pope says:

    the worst case scenario is that abuse has taken on a self-sustaining functional role within the political elite. rising political figures are drawn into and implicated in abuse which is then used to control and blackmail them for the rest of their careers. the full disclosure system within the care system is also problematic because once the state knows everything about you and your family it gives the system a huge capacity to control whistle-blowers.

    this is a disgusting and terrifying possibility that no one wants to believe is true but there is growing weight of evidence pointing towards this. the similar revelations that began to surface in Belgium fifteen years ago suggest that it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.

About Left Unity   Read our manifesto


Events and protests from around the movement, and local Left Unity meetings.

Sat 20 Oct, 10.00-17.30
How Do We Defeat The Rise Of Fascism & Racism? International Conference

A great line-up and a vital event in London.

Info and tickets

Sat 20 Oct, 12.00
People’s Vote March

Park Lane, London. Contact us if you can help distribute LU broadsheets.


9-11 Nov
European Forum of Progressive Forces, Bilbao

To debate, build and act to ward-off current threats.

See website

Sun 17 Nov, 11.00-16.30
Reclaim Social Care Conference, Birmingham

To explore how to reverse privatisation and secure quality, stable, publicly funded and accountable social care services for all.

Speakers from Health Campaigns Together, the Labour Party, DPAC and more.

Get tickets

Sun 17 Nov, 12.00
National Unity Demonstration Against Fascism and Racism

Central London. More info on Facebook

More events »


Sign up to the Left Unity email newsletter.


Get the latest Left Unity resources.

Broadsheet: Trump, Brexit and the Global Far Right Surge

Broadsheet: No One is Illegal!

Transform journal

More resources »