Delays in setting up a meaningful inquiry into child abuse are the personal responsibility of Home Secretary Theresa May.
Her successive decisions to appoint people to chair an inquiry panel who were compromised by their close relationships with Establishment figures linked to previous failures to investigate accusations fully raise questions as to her competence.
May’s response to the criticism over her announcements of Fiona Woolf and then Baroness Butler-Sloss to chair the panel was entirely foreseeable.
It was the classic Establishment attempt to weather the storm by stressing the personal qualities of nominees before bowing to the inevitable.
The process need not have been such a shambles. May could have consulted more widely before appointment.
Failure to do so invites the charge that she and those close to her were more concerned with having a safe pair of hands than with getting the drains up over how children were abused by the wealthy and powerful.
Having made a complete pig’s ear of it so far, the Home Secretary must act decisively to make up lost ground.
Survivors of abuse must be central to any inquiry. They must have confidence in its independence and integrity. There must be no more backstairs whispering to ensure that “one of us” chairs the panel.
The inquiry and the procedures for appointing panel members must be open and their powers must include compelling witnesses to give evidence under oath.
Victims and survivors have waited decades to be taken seriously, to have their complaints heard and to have this can of worms opened.
It would be criminal to have come this far, with the pain and suffering borne by children treated as playthings by people in authority, only to be met with another whitewash or cover-up.
There is too much at stake for this long overdue investigation to be seen later on as inadequate and a betrayal of those who spoke out for justice both for themselves and to protect other children from similar abuse.
Evidence from abuse survivors is increasingly coming to light and confirms allegations previously made by campaigners that has routinely been swept under the carpet.
The amount of testimony that has already been “lost” in official circles speaks volumes for the scale of the scandal and the tendency of friends in high places to watch each other’s backs.
Labour MP John Mann revealed recently having placed evidence of “abuse parties” in the hands of Scotland Yard back in 1988 when he was a councillor in Lambeth, only for the case to be closed by police top brass.
Mann’s reference to violent events taking place at the Dolphin Square luxury flats and other London addresses used by politicians and prominent people in the intelligence, military and legal top echelons bears a powerful resemblance to allegations emanating from anonymous abuse victim “Nick,” whose complaints are being investigated.
Late Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens and Labour MPs Simon Danczuk and Tom Watson have all given voice to victims’ stories passed on to them.
A letter from Dickens detailing child abuse evidence has apparently been “lost.”
The dangers of an Establishment cover-up are very real. It’s what the rich and powerful have always done.
If an effective inquiry is to take place, in which survivors can have every confidence, they and their supporters must guard against all attempts to weaken efforts to unmask the guilty and win justice for their victims.
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