Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

my blog
Lynne's Parliament and Haringey Diary, established 2003

Baby P at PMQs

There was an unedifying spat at Prime Minister’s Questions today between David Cameron and Gordon Brown, which seemed to turn the tragedy of Baby P into a political football. It was just awful to watch.

I didn’t think I’d get the chance to ask a question myself – but just before the end of PMQs, the Speaker called me. I made that point that when Leader of the Opposition on Haringey Council during the Climbie affair I was given all sorts of assurances about how lessons had been learnt, never again etc.

So – whilst the national review Gordon Brown talked about is welcome, it isn’t all that we need. We need an independent public inquiry into what went wrong in Haringey – and for those responsible to to be held responsible.

My goodness – if the Controller of Radio 2 resigns over the tasteless Brand / Ross prank phone call – then surely there will be people held accountable for the tragedy of Baby P?

Wed 12 November 2008
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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Lynne, Your serious and appropriate contribution to the exchange at least drew a warmly favourable comment from Ruth Kelly MP on World at One (she being anxious to contrast it, of course, with Cameron’s efforts). God, Haringey Council are a disgrace though, eh?

  2. sarinka says:

    Lynn – I am so offended by this fluffy website. It is not enough to be ” given assurances” – demand, don’t ask. Follow up to ensure compliance – don’t rely on what people say…this should NEVER have happened “again”. Its a disgrace. lots of people at blame -but follow up process on “assurances given” failed. If you are serious about your job, and who your stakeholders are, this should be the only news item you report on right now on this website….prioritze your work, instead of ensuring you get some nice photo opportunities to put on front page of this website.

  3. Anonymous says:

    hear , hear Lynne. There should be high level resignations from the chief exec down. But of course, this won’t happen. the good people of haringey need to bang on the doors of the town hall and demand these resignations – can the executive be suspended under emergency powers and an interim one put in its place until they get some competant governance in there??

  4. Mash says:

    Lynne

    I am pleased that you have raised the issue of baby P and strongly urge you to continue to call for the dismissal of Ms Sharon Shoesmith and her colleague, Cllr Liz Santry.

    As far as the strategic partnership boards are concerned, I have some issues with that, and would be interested to hear whether you think you should do a review of the work of the Children & Young People’s Strategic Partnership Board and exploring meaningful way of development at a strategic level. My own observation is that the Strategic Partnership has proven to be ineffective at protecting children and young people, and developing policies for protection, in particular that of young vulnerable people. I attended the previous meeting as an observer/public attendant and felt surprised by the lack of strategic thinking rather the meeting damagingly evolved into a political Labour supporting circus, with a purpose for scoring fast political points than about laying down long-term strategic goals for Haringey’s children and young people. The views of representatives supportive of Labour sounded similar to a cheap agitprop parody. Ms Shoesmith has provided extremely weak leadership, and clearly should resign along with those involved in this case. The strategic partnership boards, many of them, surprisingly, Haringey Labour politicians, the hierarchy of Haringey Council & a carefully selected group of professionals with absolutely no experience working with young people, were determining significantly important policies surrounding adolescence and young people in Haringey. These Strategic Partnership Boards are ineffective at protecting children and young people, and there is a lack of proper consultation with the communities of Haringey.

    I believe that, in a borough such as Haringey, there is a real danger that the discrepancies between local authorities in how children, young people and families are supported can be barriers to getting it right. The council refuse to engage with the communities, nor are the communities able to participate in local authority’s strategic partnership board or assist in their strategic thinking. The case concerning baby P and the child neglect involved is both staggering and unacceptable. This case is a clear indictment of Haringey Council’s social services, and the councillors who refuse to support the resignation of Ms Shoesmith and others involved.

    I also welcome the several politicians, including yourself and David Cameron who raised this issue in the House of Commons. Can you not introduce an EDM calling for the resignation of Ms Shoesmith and her colleagues? What action can you take as our MP?

    Thanks

  5. Mark H says:

    I fully agree with your call for an independent public inquiry into what went wrong in Haringey on this issue, Lynne. Please keep up the good work on this issue, which a lot of your constituents and council tax payers in Haringey feel extremely strongly about.

  6. Lynne Featherstone MP says:

    Mash – I have tabled an EDM calling for a pubic inquiry, and asked Gordon Brown for one at PMQs. I have also done many, many interviews etc. to keep up the pressure to ensure that Haringey doesn’t get away with this a second time.

  7. strapworld says:

    Dear Lynne,

    Harringey does not get any better. I worked there for 9 years in the sixties, at Hornsey nick!In my time in the police in London I had to deal with three child murders. One in which the poor young girl had been tortured to death. I often think of her poor battered body in her cot and the way she died. Her killer was her step father, just out of prison. He was sentenced to seven years for manslaughter! The whole police station attended the poor girls funeral.

    I thought your contribution to PMQ’s was measured and correct.
    I do, however, rather object to your, rather hysterical, first sentence. Why cannot you give credit to David Cameron for raising this issue which has disgusted millions of people? Why cannot you just say that Brown was the disgusting one?

    To insult Cameron by calling this killing a political act was both illogical and below the belt.

    But, you are attributed with a statement, today, that you welcome the enquiry announced by Balls as appropriate and that he responded quickly. Did he? how long ago did was this poor child tortured and murdered?

    HOW can you accept so willingly this statement when you, yourself, asked, quite rightly for a PUBLIC ENQUIRY.

    Surely a public enquiry is the only enquiry to satisfy the people.

    Stand by for yet another whitewash.

  8. Mash says:

    Thank you Lynne for your commitment to ensure this can be investigated, both robustly and effectively. I hope the public inquiry secures the appropriate outcomes into this matter.

    Please would you consider proposals for new local government structures that allow local people to better relate to and engage with, and that allow local people to assist in providing the leadership necessary to promote the social, cultural and environmental well-being of the people of Haringey. As only one local voice, and I don't think my voice is that important in this debate anyway, I think you and the council should seek structures that could provide the stronger strategic leadership necessary to ensure that such a case does not arise again in Haringey. My proposal is that local people, professionals locally, and those working for local authority should help shape the strategic policies surrounding children and young people. Lynne, I attended the Children & Young People's Strategic Partnership and was surprised that the participants were more interested in the monetary benefits gained from their participation, than about putting in place policies to ensure children & vulnerable young people are protected. As I said, that strategic leadership now imperative in Haringey, and I really believe they need to involve local professionals and people with requisitive skills and knowledge to such council forums and boards to shape policies.

    I still believe passionately that local authorities are best placed to understand the needs of their local communities and to bring together partners to tackle all types of problems. However, in this case, there was a lack of public engagement and engagement at grassroots working with vulnerable children and young people to put in place appropriate policies and strategies, which could have prevented such a thing happening. We should not simply blame the social workers, but this is a collective failure in strategic policies, the way it was implemented and those responsible should all be held accountable. I am pleased you call for George Meehan's resignation. I would rather have the Dalai Lama lead the council than Meehan.

    The review over this matter is certainly a development, as well as the opportunity to determine where the flaws were, and how we can prevent such a thing in future.

    I have e-mailed her, and I am sure many others have, with a polite suggestion of exploring council strategic partnerships & how we can prevent this in future. In the best interest of children in the borough, she should resign.

    I hope she won't use the children's involvement group to spread her propaganda about how much Haringey Council love young people. There have been reports that, the employees and Sharon Shoesmith have been given media training, the training of manipulating the public.

    Keep up the pressure Lynne! You have the support of your community, regardless of political affilation.

  9. marie p says:

    I am outraged to hear of this case and saddened for the poor boy in question. I am a teacher and cannot believe headteachers of Haringey are supporting the chief exec. People should be held accountable for this or a child has died in vain. The catalogue of errors and failure to act on the serious injuries the child sustained should call for resignation of all who were responsible for this case. You must continue to call for responsibility and I personally support any protests, petitions or other. How can a childs injuries be obscured with chocolate around the face…how can a child be paralysed from the waist down with a broken back – left to go unnoticed by a DR and how can we then say such PROFESSIONALS should only have a written warning for such failings? I will personally protest this and anyone in agreement then lets make that happen!

  10. SaritaFerchoDaniel says:

    I so agree with what you say about the comparisons (or otherwise) with the Radio 2 resignation, I thought exactly that myself (this is how I found your blog) and have written to Haringey council to voice that opinion (for what it’s worth). Here is what I said to them: “The director of Radio 2 resigned after Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand made obscene phone calls and lewd remarks on air, claiming that as it happened on her watch then that was the right thing to do. A baby dies on Haringey’s watch and no-one sees fit to follow this example. I am not of the “witchhunt”, hang-em-high mentality of many who are no doubt baying for blood, but feel that this matter is too serious to ignore. The difference in impact between the two cases is huge, and the public will be wondering what to make of this difference in humility and a willingness to admit failure. I feel the strong need to make my voice heard in this disturbing case that has given me nightmares, especially as mother of a two-year old.” Every loving mother and father in the country is traumatised by this case. It also leads to wider questions like the benefits system that allows women like Baby P’s “mother” to continue having child after child and presumably never feel the need to work and therefore “better herself”. I am from a decent working class family and have a university education through sheer hard work. Many people in the UK these days are brought up to expect to have everything paid for their whole lives, have a child, get a house for free, sit on the computer all day surfing porn… This is admittedly the extreme but there is something fundamentally wrong with the system. Many people in the UK are fed up with working just to see “layabouts” being given everything they need for a comfortable life. I have always been a very liberal person, with somewhat socialist principles, but it has been taken to extremes now.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Reviews, policies, strategic thinking… Isn’t it obvious that while all the above are necessary and laudable what we need now is ACTION?
    Shouldn’t energy be directed into making sure that every single one of those children who are on the Child Protection Register in Haringey (and across the country for that matter) and who are currently still ALIVE – be assessed by a team of medical and social professionals NOW for signs of abuse, that all these cases should be immediately cross referenced with all agencies dealing with them, (social services, Hospitals, GP’s, Police etc) and that decisive action should be taken to remove them from abusive homes immediately before another tragedy happens.
    Throw your energy and money behind an immediate remedy to the current situation and save the reviews for later.
    There simply MUST be a message sent that as a nation we will not stand back and let this happen to our children while we twitter on about policy and bandy about blame.
    Baby P has paid the ultimate price for our unforgivable procrastination – let’s stop it NOW and make sure he didn’t die in vain.

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