Vir Cantium

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Category Archives: Equalities

The Equalities Industry: Where Every Day is Conference Season

As many will know who work in the public sector or are connected to it, one is regularly the recipient of junk mail and spam from various bodies flogging places at many wonderful gatherings which purport to be relevant to one’s role.

Sure enough, in the last week or so an invitation from a regular conference provider arrived in my inbox:

Hear from experts – Equality Act 2010

Dear Colleague [sic]

As you all know the Equality Act 2010 will be implemented from 1st October 2010. For this reason we will be holding the 2nd annual Making Equality Work Conference which will take place on Thursday 23rd September 2010 at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, Kensington, London.

OK. First thing’s first. You sent me this on the 17th September. Does that it not say something about the target audience, as well as the desperation of the organisers? I don’t recall working anywhere where I can drop everything at such short notice to take off a whole day drinking coffee and munching biscuits. Perhaps it’s a dastardly plan by Eric Pickles to root out those who can do such things and so help budget-setters to draw up their ‘little lists’.

Maybe I’m being harsh, though. If it’s something of vital importance to the survival of the organisation, then it may be necessary. Let’s have a look at the conference themes (emphasis not mine):

Read more of this post

Stephen Gately, Jan Moir and That Slippery Slope

Many will remember the article by Jan Moir that was published about the death of Stephen Gately. A not insignificant 25,000 people complained to the Press Complaints Commission about it. Now, the verdict has been passed:

The press watchdog has decided not to uphold a complaint about a newspaper comment piece on the death last year of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately.
Ms Moir’s article was published the day before the gay singer’s funeral. It discussed his lifestyle and suggested the cause of his death had not been natural.
Ms Moir said Gately’s death struck a blow to the “happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships”.

This was the right decision, however inappropriate or distasteful the comments*. The old maxim applies: “I disagree with what you say, but defend your right to say it”.

Ben Summerskill from Stonewall, interviewed on the Today programme this morning, seems to think differently. He disagreed with the IPCC ruling and suggested that more needed to be done to deal with such situations. He has, unfortunately, fallen into the familiar trap whereby someone sees that a self-regulatory mechanism doesn’t produce a result he agrees with, therefore “self-regulation isn’t working”. He expanded on the point thus (not verbatim – working from memory):

We don’t let investment banks say “don’t worry about the audit, we’ll self regulate” or to mining companies “don’t worry about health and safety” we’ll self regulate”

If investment banks aren’t audited, then a lot of money is at stake (including, somewhere down the line, yours and mine). Health and safety can literally be a matter of life, death or limb. Jan Moir’s ill-advised comments were simply upsetting.

The problem here, and I think it was cited this morning, is that offensive comments about black or Jewish people are now covered by criminal law. Well, in my view, hate speech legislation has already gone too far. It provides for someone to be jailed because they expressed a viewpoint the government and legislature disagree with. Of course, the line must be drawn somewhere, but we had perfectly sensible, tried and tested rules covering incitement to violence, slander and libel for many years before hate speech laws came about. Too many have died for the right of free speech for it to be compromised just because someone’s feelings were hurt.

The fact is that to put regulation of the press on a legislative footing will not be putting us onto a slippery slope … we are already on that slope. Even so, that doesn’t mean that we should dig the ski poles in and give ourselves an extra push.

* Update: I think I should clarify – it wouldn’t necessarily have been wrong, given the independent nature of the PCC, to have decided the other way, but on balance I think the decision was right. Jan Moir was suitably castigated following publication, and apologised afterwards. End of.

Room 101 Awaits Prince Harry

So Prince Harry is to receive further re-education equality training after the recent three year-old “Paki” incident.

I assume the Army thinks it must do this to assuage the widespread rage among the general public at Harry’s comments. Sorry … that should have read “the salaried rage among the professional equalities industry, republicans and left-leaning media”.

The Army just doesn’t seem to get it. They have, by all knowledgeable and unbiased accounts, a dire shortage of quality equipment, rations, time off, and so on, yet they can find the personnel, money and time to give equalities training? A few years back, it would have been a grimly amusing parody, today it seems it’s reality.

The lions are once again being let down by the most senior donkeys.

What If My Politics is My Religion?

Suppose I was back working on the tills at Safeway* (remember them?) and I walked into work wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Milton Friedman, or Hayek on the front.

My supervisor would have told me to take it off and don the then regulation white shirt and bow tie. I then decided to take the company to court for restricting my political freedom and right of free speech. Fair? No. Even now, in the age of the Human Rights Act, I wouldn’t expect to get away with that one. I would accept that my employer has rules and if I don’t like them I should find another job.

Now suppose that, instead of my Hayek t-shirt, I was wearing a symbol of religion. Then I would have, at least by today’s standards, a case for (religious) discrimination. So while an employer, owner of a property or indeed, say, a headteacher who is responsible for the day to day running of a school, can (I would say reasonably) exert some restriction on my freedom of speech, if I claim that my strongly held beliefs are part of a religious belief system, rather than a political one, I can sue under equality law.

Now I happen to think that there are aspects of the law on discrimination and equalities that do need to have some common sense applied. Some protection of religious freedom is justified, but in the same way as free speech generally should be. Equally, though, there are some justifiable restrictions on free speech (such as incitement to murder, to take an easy extreme example) which should apply to religions. More particular points can be argued around the balance between tackling unfair discrimination and respecting the rights of property ownership. Perhaps more esoterically, there is recognising the fact that minors might not yet have the free will to make up their own minds about their beliefs. I also think there is a necessity that head teachers, for instance, should be able to demonstrate fairness by treating all pupils equally, and not to see rules aimed at maintaining discipline in the school undermined (too many left-liberal educationalists have done plenty of that already).

These points alone could generate a good series of posts, but the basic question remains: why should religion be treated differently to any other type of philosophy? Whatever exceptions – restrictions or allowances – one might concede, they should be applied equally to religion and politics. Regardless of whether you or I agree with the treatment, why should a CND badge or my (now sadly lost) pound badge be treated differently from a Sikh bangle?

* My first (part-time) job while at school, when I had a Triumph Herald to run, at Biggin Hill. It escaped the clutches of Morrisons and is now a Waitrose, and joins a Marks and Spencer as evidence that Biggin Hill is “on the up”.

Back to School for the Race Industry

So there I was, sitting outside the headmaster’s office, waiting to be seen – yet I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. More than once I had been called to answer for some transgression, yet this time was different … probably because it was eighteen years after I had actually left the school and here I was, now a governor and visiting my alma mater properly for the first time since leaving, 3 A-levels in hand, to venture into the big wide world.

In some ways it was like I’d only left yesterday, except I’d occasionally come across a point where there should have been a door, or a classroom had suddenly grown in size. The school is fortunate in that it is backed in capital by a charitable foundation which has enabled it to grow in size – both physically and in pupil roll – and a new science block, sports pavilion and sixth form block have appeared where once was grass or tennis courts.

And they now have girls. A whole big bunch of them in the Sixth Form – which prepares both sexes for co-ed life at University, apparently.

And as with most Grammar Schools – as opposed to good comprehensives – entry is not dependent on parents’ ability to afford to move into the catchment area. And the egalitarianism doesn’t stop there (someone tell the Left, please):

A visitor from the Commission for Racial Equality asked once about the impressive performance of Afro-Caribbean boys at the school compared to the average for that racial pigeonhole group (in fact, around a third of the intake is from an ethnic minority). “What compensatory courses do you run then?” they asked innocently. “What do you mean?” was the reply, “we just treat them the same as everyone else.”

Quaint though the “colour blind” view may be in current race-relations groupthink (albeit held by the majority of people outside the professional equality industry), this school is an example, among many, of how you don’t need to pander to the victimhood culture that too many people are earning a salary on the back of. It’s not the colour of your skin that counts, but your attitude to life and those around you.