Children’s champion Esther Rantzen has slammed a Conservative
councillor who criticised the appointment of Childline chief
executive Valerie Howarth as a peer in the House of Lords.
Councillor Bob Blackman, leader of Brent Council’s Conservative
group, has attacked the award of a peerage to Howarth on the
grounds that she was head of Brent social services at the time of
the Jasmine Beckford murder in 1984.
In a statement circulated following the announcement of 15 new
peers by the House of Lords appointments commission, Blackman
criticised Howarth’s handling of the Beckford case. He claimed her
tenure as director of social services was characterised by a
“culture of political correctness”.
He also added: “Now she has been appointed to the House of
Lords… what will it be next, an MBE for Myra Hindley?”
But Rantzen, chairperson of Childline, issued a
counter-statement which said: “I am saddened and appalled at the
stupidity and ignorance of the statement issued by councillor
Blackman attacking Valerie Howarth. There was no criticism of her
in the excellent report of the inquiry undertaken by Sir Louis
Blom-Cooper at the time of Beckford’s tragic death. In fact he
described her as ‘an excellent director of social service’.”
She added: “He should apologise to her immediately for his
shabby attack on an outstanding woman.”
The list of new appointments, who will join the Lords as
non-party political life peers, also included Sir Stewart
Sutherland, chairperson of the Royal Commission on Long Term
Sir Stewart is an outspoken advocate for free personal care for
older people who has urged direct action in support of the
commission’s recommendations and encouraged groups throughout the
UK to pressurise government to change its policy on charging.
Other well known figures on the list include Victor Adebowale,
chief executive of homeless charity Centrepoint, and who is soon to
go to Turning Point; Richard Best, director of social policy
charity Joseph Rowntree Foundation; and Sir Herman Ouseley, former
chief executive of the Commission for Racial Equality.
The list of peers must now go to the Prime Minister and the
Queen for final appraisal.”