Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Kings New Clothes...

Today, in the House of Commons, Gordon Brown came under fire from the leader of the opposition David Cameron, for defending Haringey councils decision, to investigate internally, the horrific Baby P child abuse scandal which has shaken the whole country.

In condemning the Government for endorsing Haringey councils decision to investigate itself in order to try and cover up the alleged abuses of this Labour council, when the department of the council in question is accused of neglecting their duty and when the head of the department responsible for this alleged neglect still maintains, that despite the horrific death of this baby boy, good practise and I quote "had still been maintained", David Cameron really championed democracy. He was so very right to attack this government and Haringey council and so very right to state in the House, that those accused of wrong doing investigating themselves was, quite simply, wrong.

When I saw Mr Cameron on the news tonight, I was pleased that someone had had the courage to stand up and say what most other MP's in the house are thinking, state what most other MP's in the house can see, but have said nothing about. Namely, that how can justice ever be done if those accused of wrong doing, are allowed to investigate themselves?

I then thought about times over the last couple of years, where this same kind of cover up has been implemented by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. There have been times where members of our group have called for the now ex-chief executive and the now ex-finance officer to be investigated because of their alleged unlawful behaviour, only to be told by the legal officer, that all complaints had to be made to these two people themselves, basically so that they could carry out the investigation of themselves!

I remembered the time in October last year, when we met with the Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby Robert Goodwill, to tell him about the scandalous things that have and are taking place here in Redcar, even though he was MP for a neighbouring constituency.

As a result of this meeting, Mr Goodwill agreed to let us show a film that has been made about the scandals taking place in Redcar and Cleveland called "Coatham a Common Concern" in the House of Commons, and agreed to call for an independent investigation into the things that were taking place in Coatham and into other things that have taken place within Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. He agreed to these things because he said that and I quote, " If he did not, then he would be neglecting his duty".

I then remembered how Redcar MP Vera Baird, solicitor General of this country, stopped Mr Goodwill from doing these things, by threatening him with the speaker of the House and by telling him that the things that we had told him were not based in reality.

How she must have been left smarting when not only did we win a High Court Judicial Review last December based upon the things that we had told Mr Goodwill, but also when Redcar and Cleveland Borough council, only recently, was downgraded to a two star authority because of the same things that we presented to the District Auditor.

To complete this stifling of free speech and democracy and to complete the whitewash Vera Baird, shortly after threatening Mr Goodwill into silence, then called for Redcar and Cleveland Borough council to hold an internal 'investigation' of the things that we had made public and had brought to Mr Goodwills attention.

As if this wasn't bad enough, she asked for this 'internal investigation' to be headed by the now ex-finance officer Ray Richardson, a man who had been featured three times in Private Eye for his alleged unlawful and untrustworthy behaviour including the surpression of an Audit financial report and the collusion with the Audit commission to replace it. This was a man who had been up to his neck in a lot of the the alleged abuses that had taken place within our council! How was he ever going to hold an unbiased investigation into the alleged abuses of the council, some of which he had been involved in?

Finally, what makes this whole afair even more of a disgrace, is that in March last year we had given Vera Baird a dossier containing the things that we knew at that time, the council had done wrong. Infact, late last year the Serious Fraud Office sent us a letter stating that what has taken place here in Redcar and Cleveland, should be investigated by the police, possibly assisted by the CPS.

So why did the Solicitor General of this country, bearing all of this in mind and bearing in mind she had just threatened another MP into not calling for an independent investigation, then write to the ex-finance officer and acting Chief Executive calling for an 'internal investigation'? An investigation that was never going to be fair, or democratic, or deal with the alleged wrong doing that had taken place?

As I have grown older I have realised that sometimes party politics clouds issues and situations that should not be party political. When something is wrong it is wrong, no matter what party you belong to. The investigation of at best, negligence in Haringey council, should not be carried out by Haringey council because how will any such investigation ever be unbiased?

The investigation of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council for all of the abuses that they have so far gotten away with, should not be carried out by them either, especially by people who have already been shown to have been involved in the alleged wrong doing. It would seem that the Labour parties endorsement of a council investigating itself today, isn't the first time that this has happened.

Only in our case here in Redcar, it wasn't the Government just endorsing an internal council investigation that had been ordered by the council themselves, who are obviously going to try to cover up, it was a senior member of the Government, the Solicitor General of this country herself, telling the council to hold an internal invetigation, knowing that any such investigation would ultimately fail to condemn or expose fully, the terrible behaviour of the Labour controlled council in her constituency.

It is all so very wrong and so very undemocratic and not what you would expect from one in such a lofted position within our Government.

I have always, up until the death of Mo Mowlam, voted Labour. But today I applaud David Cameron for rising above party politics in order to speak the truth that we can all see and for standing up for what is right, fair and just. Lets hope that more people in the house follow his lead and lets hope that more people in the house stand up against the Kings new Clothes mentality that seems to be all around us.

Lets hope that independent investigations into both Haringey council AND Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, now take place.

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