In ‘The Story of Baby P: Setting the record straight’, Ray Jones explains how the media distorted the sad saga of the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly in 2007, following terrible domestic neglect and abuse.
The focus is on the reporting and how The Sun newspaper in particular led a campaign against the social workers involved in the case.
It captures neatly the double bind that pressurises social services even now. They can be attacked for being all too ready to snatch children away from their families. And, as in this instance, remiss in allowing children to stay in the harm's way of their dangerous families.
The book confines itself to the on-the-record documents, so we never hear why the story was constructed that way - the political motivations. Nor are we given any insight into the conversations between Sun editor Rebeka Brooks and David Cameron, or between Brooks and her editorial team. There’s nothing on the way journalists operate day to day to find, write, edit and present stories: we never go inside the newsroom or accompany a reporter to an interview or a press conference, or sit in on an editorial meeting.
Politicians also come out poorly. Both Ed Balls for Labour (in government at the time) and David Cameron for the Conservatives (whatever happened to him?) are revealed as heartless opportunists.
Jones has no feel for SF – the Solution-focused approach that features peripherally in the story - and seems to readily accept that SF could have led to a too soft approach. He seems to lack the independent knowledge of SF that would have informed him that an SF approach to child protection (Signs of Safety, for example) would have been as robust as anything the UK system was supposed to have offered, and would arguably lead to far better outcomes in the field.
You end up feeling that the household actions that killed Baby Peter mirrored the relationship of the Sun towards Haringey Social Service workers: a double picture of powerful bullies picking on defenceless victims undeserving of the hammerings they received.