The child sex abuse inquiry descended into further chaos today when a senior MP called for its fourth chairwoman to be sacked.
Labour’s Chuka Umunna spoke out after the largest victims’ group, representing 600 victims who lived in London children's homes, quit the inquiry – calling it an “unpalatable circus”.
The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association said its members had voted “overwhelmingly” to pull out, warning it had no confidence in Alexis Jay, its fourth leader.
Many of the group’s abuse victims live in the South London constituency of Mr Umunna, a member of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which recently quizzed Professor Jay.
Today, the Labour MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that only the leadership of a judge, at High Court level or above, could rescue the inquiry.
He said: “The concern here is whether you've got a chair that can command the confidence of the majority of survivors and whether they are up to doing the job.
“Can Professor Jay bring the heft and forensic capacity of a judge to this inquiry, which is what is needed? I’m not confident that she can.
“There’s an ongoing issue about the fact that she's come from three decades in social work.
“For many of the survivors that is a problem, because a lot of the perpetrators came from that profession. You can’t just sweep that under the table and it's never been dealt with by the panel properly.”
Raymond Stevenson, chairman of the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association, said it is now preparing to publish its own report naming 60 people as paedophiles.
“In the last inquiry, some of our members committed suicide, and people need to take that on board,” Mr Stevenson told Radio 4.
“The inquiry needs to sort itself out. They need to get rid of Alexis Jay, who’s been parachuted in by the Home Office. She’s not the right person.”
The developments are the latest, possibly mortal blow to the troubled inquiry, set up by Theresa May, in July 2014, when she was Home Secretary.
It is investigating historical abuse allegations made against local authorities, religious organisations, the armed forces and other institutions in England and Wales, as well as people in the public eye.
Three chairwomen – former president of the High Court Family Division Baroness Butler-Sloss, leading lawyer Dame Fiona Woolf, and Justice Goddard, a New Zealand high court judge – have already stood down.
Labour MP Lisa Nandy used Parliamentary privilege to name the inquiry’s most senior lawyer, Ben Emmerson QC, who also resigned, as the person accused of a sexual assault in its offices – an allegation his lawyer described as “categorically untrue”.
A number of senior lawyers on the inquiry have also quit – the most recent of which was Aileen McColgan, on Wednesday, amid growing concerns about the inquiry’s leadership.
And, this week, it was announced the inquiry has also delayed hearings into the late Lord Janner.
However, Ms May defended the inquiry and its current leadership in the Commons, saying: “Having seen the work that Professor Alexis Jay has done in the Rotherham inquiry that she undertook I have absolute confidence in her ability to undertake this inquiry.”
The Prime Minister said it was the victims and survivors “that we must always keep at the forefront of our minds”.