Rotherham MP Sarah Champion accused of trying to distance herself from column on British Pakistani grooming gangs
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion has been accused of attempting to distance herself from a column she penned in The Sun on British Pakistani grooming gangs, after a number of Labour members called for her to be sacked as a shadow minister.
The Guardian reports that Ms Champion says her piece had been altered and 'should not not have gone out in my name'.
But a spokesperson for The Sun said Ms Champion's team had approved the column before it went to print.
The column appeared last Friday, following the news that 18 members of a grooming gang were convicted of offences including rape, assault, supplying drugs and trafficking for prostitution in Newcastle.
The defendants were mainly British-born Muslims and belonged to the Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish communities, while their victims are believed to be mainly white British girls and young women. The convictions followed similar patterns of abuse in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford.
Ms Champion's column began by saying: "Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.
"There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?
"For too long we have ignored the race of these abusers and, worse, tried to cover it up.
"No more. These people are predators and the common denominator is their ethnic heritage."
Ms Champion, the Shadow Women and Equalities minister, now says she did not write the headline or opening sentences, which she said were 'stripped of any nuance about the complex issue of grooming gangs, which have exploited thousands in my constituency'.
She told The Guardian: “The article should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did."
A spokesman for The Sun said in response: “Sarah Champion’s column, as it appeared on Friday, was approved by her team and her adviser twice contacted us thereafter to say she was ‘thrilled’ with the piece and it ‘looked great’.
“Indeed, her only objection after the article appeared was her belief that her picture byline looked unflattering. Her office submitted five new pictures for further use.”
In response to Ms Champion's column, Trevor Kavanagh, a senior writer for the paper, said MPs had to tackle what he referred to as the 'Muslim problem,' and praised Ms Champion for being prepared to speak out on the issue.
Over 100 cross-party politicians, including Ms Champion, signed an open letter to the newspaper condemning the column for using 'Nazi-like language' regarding the Muslim community in Britain, coordinated by the Labour MP Naz Shah.
Ms Champion responded to Mr Kavanagh's column by saying she was horrified to learn she had been praised in a 'repulsive and extreme Islamophobic' column.
Labour members have also called on the party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to sack Champion from the front bench through Twitter.
Paul Cotterill, a Labour councillor in West Lancashire, branded Ms Champion's column 'a sinister piece of propaganda'.
In 2014, a major report detailed how at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham over a 16-year-period, sparking nationwide outrage, led by Professor Alexis Jay.
The inquiry team noted fears among council staff of being labelled 'racist' if they focused on victims' descriptions of the majority of abusers as being 'Asian' men.