The resignation of Shaun Wright, the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), now looks inevitable after his own party said he should quit following the "devastating" report into child abuse in Rotherham, the Labour Party has said.
Mr Wright was the Labour council cabinet member responsible for children's services in Rotherham from 2005 to 2010, in the middle of a 16-year period when, according to a report released yesterday, 1,400 youngsters suffered wide-scale sexual exploitation including gang rapes, grooming and trafficking.
He apologised to victims of abuse today and insisted he had no knowledge of the scale of the problem when he was a councillor in the South Yorkshire town.
But the Labour Party said today he should step down from his post following the publication of the damning report into the scandal.
A Labour spokesman said: "The report into child abuse in Rotherham was devastating in its findings. Vulnerable children were repeatedly abused and then let down.
"In the light of this report, it is appropriate that South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright should step down."
But Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said the party could not force him to do anything.
"The Labour Party has no power to compel somebody who has been elected Police & Crime Commissioner to stand down," he told Radio Four's The World At One.
Jane Collins, the Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, said that Mr Wright's position was "untenable" and added that he does not "deserve a second chance".
Mr Wright, who was elected as the Labour PCC in 2012, insisted he had taken his share of responsibility by quitting Rotherham council in 2010 after the scandal was first revealed.
He told Sky News: "Clearly I'm very sorry for any abuse that took place - if I could have prevented it, I would. Any right-minded human being would want to protect vulnerable children, of that I am convinced.
"All I can say is that this is a top priority for South Yorkshire Police and it will remain a top priority for South Yorkshire Police for as long as I am in this role."
He added: "I take my share of the responsibility, there was systemic failure and I only wish that I knew more at the time - if I knew then what I know now, then clearly more could have done.
"I think I took appropriate actions where that was available.
"I do have regrets that perhaps I was not more aware of the issue at the time where I could have perhaps influenced services better.
"But in the end I regret my role in that systemic failure and I have taken responsibility for that."
Mr Wright said abuse report author Professor Alexis Jay should have gone further and "named names" in terms of council officials, politicians and police officers who had failed to protect youngsters from abuse.
He said issues identified in the report regarding culture and ethnicity came as a "huge surprise" to him because he had not been made aware of the problems at the time.
He told the broadcaster: "What Prof Jay has painted a picture of is really an industrial scale of child abuse that was taking place.
"To that extent I was simply not aware of the scale of the problem.
"Had I have been and I would have been aware of the issue then like I am today, then clearly much more action would and could have been taken.
"What this report demonstrates is that lots of information was not escalated up to political level or indeed senior management level. For that I am hugely shocked and hugely sorry."
Prof Jay's report - commissioned by the council - said failures of the political and officer leadership of Rotherham council between 1997 and 2009 were "blatant" as the seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers and was not seen as a priority by South Yorkshire Police.
Rotherham council leader Roger Stone resigned yesterday following its publication and there were calls for Mr Wright to follow suit.
The report, which looked at a period between 1997 and 2013, detailed "utterly appalling" examples of "children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally-violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone".
Prof Jay said that children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in northern England, abducted, beaten and intimidated.
The spotlight first fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
Umar Razaq, 24, Razwan Razaq, 30, Zafran Ramzan, 21, Adil Hussain 20, and Mohsin Khan, 21, were found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court of a string of sex-related offences against girls aged between 12 and 16, including rape.