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Saturday, April 03, 2010 

It's all just a little bit of history repeating.

It looks increasingly likely that we have a repeat of the whole "sexing up" scandal waiting in the wings, this time not over intelligence concerning Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction but instead the evidence of incompetence and failings that led to the sacking of Sharon Shoesmith, head of children's services at Haringey council when Peter Connelly was killed by those meant to be caring for him. While at least part of the drafting of the September intelligence dossier was done in-house by the government, Ofsted, which is meant to be at least quasi-autonomous, appears to have surrendered to the demands being made of it by Ed Balls and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and ensured that Sharon Shoesmith was to be the ultimate sacrificial lamb, after it was made clear to them that Balls wanted "clear attribution of responsibility".

Balls himself was similarly under pressure at the time, the Sun leading a campaign which was demanding the equivalent of heads on pikes, calling repeatedly for the sacking of all those involved, regardless of whether or not there was any conclusive evidence that their failures had led to the death of Baby Peter. The opprobrium that was poured down on the heads of social workers in general led to a culture of risk aversion that is still continuing now, while Shoesmith herself was the witch that justified the hunt. While the judge in the case is yet to make his ruling, one has to wonder whether or not this time round it might be decided that Balls' influence on Ofsted was more than just subconscious, as Lord Hutton so memorably described Alastair Campbell's attempts to "beef up" the September dossier.

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