‘Let’s Cut Out Equality’ The independent steering group’s report of the public sector equality duty (PSED) review, September 2013

Robin Richardson 

Image © Evan-amos

On Friday 6 September a new report crept out from the government equalities office (GEO). It emerged without the company of an official press release and the only media coverage on that day was in the Telegraph and the Mail. Both these papers had apparently been influenced by a private, off-the-record briefing about how the authors of the report (or, anyway, some of them) wished equalities legislation to be trivialised, ridiculed and dismissed. ‘How many lesbians have you disciplined?’ asked the headline about the report in the Mail. The headline was followed by a summary of the report which it purported to be describing: ‘Pointless red tape condemned in new report into how public bodies have become obsessed by equality’.

The Telegraph headline was marginally less sensationalist: ’Red tape “overkill” leaves public bodies counting number of lesbians disciplined’. The heading continued: ‘Equalities rules have sent public bodies into a pointless “red-tape overkill”, a landmark report commissioned by David Cameron will warn today [6 September]’.  Incidentally, there is no reference in the report itself to lesbians, nor does the word overkill appear, nor is there any claim in the report that it was commissioned by the prime minister. It seems clear that the coverage in the Telegraph and Mail was based essentially on an unofficial briefing, not on a reading of the actual report. Read more of this post

The trouble with billionaires (book review) by Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks

Left Central Book Review 

Image© Andy Mitchel

I am indebted to the British Welfare state; the very one that Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, the safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major`s government, was there to break the fall…J.K. Rowling… Cited in `the trouble with billionaires`

This book is a fusion of rigorous academic analysis and sharp, witty journalism. The humour a necessary antidote, given the unconscionable economic detail outlined. Facts linked to the rapacious appetite of the super elite, gorging on tax avoidance. Aided and abetted by supine legislators in the UK and USA. Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks explain how the political right, adroitly undermined the post-war consensus of Beveridge and Keynes in the UK, the same result achieved in the USA with the gradual destruction of the New Deal consensus. Criticism articulated by Frederick Von Hayek who feared that benevolent government intervention would lead us down the road to serfdom. A ridiculous idea, predicated on the notion that social security; full employment, legal aid, economic growth and an NHS somehow reduced liberty. As this book points out, when Hayek required assistance from the social security system, he was not shy about utilising its collective provisions. It is indeed a strange sort of serfdom, which provides a hospital bed for the sick, a bizarre understanding of liberty that disregards the need of a safety net, when boom turns to inevitable bust. All those tens of thousands of post-war Higher Education students benefitting from free education in the UK or through the GI Bill in the States – hardly resemble serfs. But their counterparts today do; a bizarre twist on the Hayek model. The exchange of correspondence between Hayek and Charles Koch outlined in the text, makes for illuminating revisionist reading. Read more of this post

Cameron and the Referendum Game

Tom McGuire 

copyrigh European Union 2012 Council Union

David Cameron finally gave his long-awaited speech on Britain’s relationship with the EU last Wednesday morning promising Britain an in/out referendum on its membership of the EU. This referendum would come after the next election, and only if he does not succeed in changing the relationship as he hopes to over the coming months, and indeed years. This appeared to be a bold and surprising move from a Prime Minister usually averse to making his position so clear. Beneath the surface it was vintage David Cameron; the Prime Minister distilled into his purest form, in the shape of this one speech.

The promise of a referendum was that special type of promise: the David Cameron promise, the kind that upon closer inspection is nothing of the sort. Making any firm pledge on ‘when-I-win-the-next-election’ grounds is dubious for any politician; it is particularly problematic for David Cameron. With the Lib Dems withdrawal of support for boundary changes he seems increasingly unlikely to command an outright majority after 2015, having failed to win one in 2010 when it was his to lose. We have also seen the Prime Minister twist, turn and weasel his way out of a number of apparently firm positions on a variety of issues throughout his term of office. Most recently, most glaringly and most shockingly, when he overturned his prior assertion that he would adopt the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry if they were not ‘bonkers’. They weren’t, he didn’t, and tellingly nobody was remotely surprised. This is a man whose promises carry little weight, even by politicians’ standards. Read more of this post

Chomsky:1215 and all that…

Copyright Synne Tonidas

John Curran 

Professor Noam Chomsky the world`s leading public intellectual viewed by some as a wild-eyed radical is actually an old fashioned conservative. He is committed to the traditional values of Magna Carta, a document that shaped the Anglo-American legal system, ultimately establishing a presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. With this thought in mind, it is worth considering how traditional conservative ideas are today viewed as radical in both the USA and UK. As we know the Conservative Party in opposition went through a re-branding process as Cameron appeared to move his party leftward and in doing so rediscovered the Conservatives civil liberties antecedents. When the coalition government was formed, one significant judicial appointment was that of Dominic Grieve MP who, as Shadow Justice Spokesperson, was viewed as a politician with strong civil libertarian credentials he became Attorney General and the Coalition`s chief legal adviser. In a lecture given in 2008 Mr Grieve outlined what he saw as the essence of what it means to be British, extolling the virtues of freedom waxing lyrically about Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. But he was concerned that New Labour was dismissive of this heritage, as evidenced by restrictions of jury trail and permitting unacceptable periods of detention without trial. Grieve felt that the pendulum had swung too far and that the climate created by New Labour was one of tyranny. Labour he argued breached the ideals of the Bill of Rights and undermined the notion of Habeas Corpus. Grieve together with the Shadow Justice Minister, produced a policy document called `Reversing the rise of the surveillance state 2009`. Outlining concerns about a perceived reduction in citizen`s civil liberties in an eleven-point programme. Grieve now resides in a government that has generated concerns about civil liberties and Cameron has recently demonstrated the Tories have forgotten what Magna Carta means.     Read more of this post

Ed Miliband Leader of the Left?

Nora Connolly 

Ed Miliband on the mic

Copyright archived Department of Energy

Ed Miliband is the leader of the Left, a revelation made recently in a broadcast with BBC/Independent journalist Steve Richards. Although, Miliband appears more interested in identifying himself with Conservative politicians, concepts and with Mrs Thatcher`s legacy – obsequiously describing her as a conviction politician. In his early thirties we discover that Miliband`s summer reading was Iain Macleod’s biography, Ed Milibands`s `One Nation` agenda clearly has had a longer gestation period than cynics might have thought. The Disraeli citation highlighted in the broadcast was further evidence that the philosophical underpinning of Miliband`s big idea is a Conservative/reactionary one. The only left-winger mentioned during the programme was Ralph Miliband, the father of the Labour leader, a brilliant Marxist thinker who sadly died in 1994.

Miliband`s position was considered analogous to Mrs Thatcher`s period in opposition, a correlation that allowed for a comparison with Miliband by Charles Moore. Richards returned to Thatcher`s legacy indicating that she developed a strong populist message, a political outsider who produced a critique of the former government led by Ted Heath in which she served. A politician who overturned the Keynesian post-war consensus, whose populist message was based on the notion that the state needed to get off peoples backs.  Read more of this post

Institutional Racism In The Academy by Andrew Pilkington

LeftCentral Book Review 

Wall of Books

Copright Mr.T in DC

On April 22nd 1993, Stephen Lawrence was murdered, “Stephen was stabbed to death because he was black” this highly disturbing and incontrovertible finding emanates from a judicial inquiry, the Macpherson Report (1999), set up in 1997 to examine the flawed Police investigation into Stephen Lawrence`s murder. An investigation marred by a combination of factors most notably, “institutional racism” within the Police. As Professor Pilkington outlines the inquiry went further admitting that “institutional racism was rife in British Society”. Andrew Pilkington utilises institutional racism as a conceptual tool to investigate Midshire Police and Midshire University, an ambitious endeavour producing a stimulating book.

Pilkington unravels the thorny concept of institutional racism a term initially associated with Stokely Carmichael a Black Power critic of USA racial policy. There has been significant resistance in applying this concept to the UK, for example the Scarman Report (1981) rejected the notion. This reticence may be valid given the racial landscape that Carmichael/Hamilton surveyed in 1967, with its heritage of de facto and de jure racism, making direct comparison with the UK difficult. However, Pilkington quoting Carmichael illustrates that, “Institutional racism also has another name: colonialism” a concept in which British institutions are clearly not immune.  Read more of this post

Tory Hate and Red Tape-equality impact assessment and analysis

Robin Richardson 

Cameron CBI 2012

Copyright HarveyNash

On Monday 19 November the prime minister made a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). In it he made a claim which was at best disingenuous and at worst deceitful. Either way the claim was unlikely to rally his own core supporters, for they will quickly recognise that it was empty and misleading rhetoric. Further, it is extremely unlikely to give a valuable moral direction to society as a whole.

Mr Cameron claimed his government is going to abolish equality impact assessments (EQUIAs). This was naïve and misleading, or downright deceitful, because the decision to abolish equality impact assessments was formally taken on 8 April 2010, namely several weeks before Mr Cameron entered Downing Street two and a half years ago. That was the day the Equality Act 2010 received royal assent. EQUIAs ceased to be required from 6 April 2011, which was the day when the new public sector equality duty (PSED) established by the Equality Act came into effect.

However much he hates what he calls red tape, Mr Cameron cannot abolish a requirement that does not exist. So why did he mislead or lie to the CBI? Were he and his speechwriters simply mistaken? Or did they gamble on nobody in their audience, and nobody in the media, knowing or caring about the truth? And on the inability of people who do know the truth to make their voices effectively heard? Whatever his motivations and levels of knowledge and ignorance, what is the likely effect of his false claim? Read more of this post

Reflections from the decades interview with Robin Richardson

Robin Richardson interview with Sharon Duncan 

Robin Richardson

Robin Richardson speaking at Cross Border Human Rights Education Conference Belfast

Robin Richardson was the first director of the World Studies Project, 1973–79, set up by the One World Trust in London. He then became an adviser for multicultural education in local government (1979–1985) and the chief inspector for education in a London borough (1985–1990). From 1991 onwards he was director of the Runnymede Trust, a think-tank specialising in issues of race equality and cultural diversity.

Since 1996 Robin has been an independent consultant. His publications over the years include Learning for Change in World Society (1976), Daring to be a Teacher (1990) and Holding Together: equalities, difference and cohesion (2009). His most recent books are Pointing the Finger: Islam and Muslims in the British media (2011), co-edited with Julian Petley, and Changing Life Changes: projects and endeavours in schools (2012).

There is information about Robin’s recent and current work at http://www.insted.co.uk. He is interviewed here on behalf of the International Association for Intercultural Education (IAIE) by Sharon Duncan.

Sharon Duncan: Before we begin, I would like to thank you on behalf of the IAIE membership for agreeing to do this interview. As someone who continues to have an important influence on radical educators in the UK and further afield, this interview will provide intercultural educators with a privileged opportunity to reflect on issues that are central to our world vision. I would like to start, however, by asking you about your formative years; where you grew up, your family, your schooling and whether it is possible to identify a key experience or person (a turning point) that might have influenced the educational path for social justice you were to follow later in life.

Robin Richardson: I was born in 1936 in Birmingham. My father at that time was a bank clerk, and we lived in the small flat above the branch where he served each day behind the counter. He and my mother lived modestly and frugally, but they certainly weren’t poor and they spent money on private education for their three children, of whom I was the eldest, until the age of 11. My father had been a keen sportsman in his youth – rugby, cricket, swimming, boxing, tennis – and throughout my teenage years he was the men’s singles champion at a local tennis club. My mother, for her part, was the ladies champion at a church badminton club.

They were prudish in their attitudes to sex and related matters, and socially conservative in most of their opinions, and voted Conservative in all elections. The principal intellectual influence on them was Charles Dickens. My father had a complete set of Dickens’s novels and would often take down a volume and read a passage aloud to his children for their entertainment and moral instruction. Alas, the children were not as appreciative as they should have been, and this is one of the regrets I have about my childhood, looking back. Another regret is that I didn’t inherit any of my father’s sporting prowess. Read more of this post

Thoughts on the Draft Communication Bill: An Interview with Andy Phippen

The Left Central Writer

Professor Andy Phippen

As Professor Noam Chomsky points out, the internet is capable of liberating oppressed people while having the potential to be utilised for surveillance and for controlling opposition to state oppression. It is the latter observation that the pressure group Open Rights Group believe relevant, considering our civil liberties to be at risk due to the draft Communications Data Bill pointing out:

It marks a serious increase in the powers the state has to order any communications provider – whether it is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like BT or an Internet company like Google – to collect, store and provide access to our information about our emails, online conversations and texts.

The Orwellian feature of the legislation is outlined by Open Rights Group arguing it grants the technical ability to identify the political orientations of protestors who blog or write for radical websites. An issue relevant to whistle blowers or investigative journalists who might find themselves subject to the measures outlined in this draft legislation under the guise of ‘public interest’ or their journalistic work compromised by a vague requirement of the state to investigate a crime.

Professor Andy Phippen agreed to talk about the proposed legislation:

AP: Government’s respond to social problems by avoiding the issue and focusing instead on the internet, a knee jerk reaction motivated by ‘legislative hyper-activity.’ The internet mirrors society. We need to focus on the actual social problem and criminal activity rather than focusing on the internet.

LC: What’s the motivation behind the Bill?

AP: Technological advancement brings fears for governments; even the invention of the printing press produced a hysterical reaction. Biblical scholars were concerned that they were going to lose social control over the ‘common man.’ The availability of books meant those in power lost control.

Yet from history we learn that the printing press empowered humanity and in the same way the internet democratizes information. The government today fear a loss of control in much the same way as the biblical scholars did. Knowledge is power and the internet has empowered.  To take one example, look at academic research. It is becoming more freely available and as a result it has enriched the knowledge base. Academic research and other information, once available only to elites, is now widely available.

LC: Do you think the internet enhances our democracy?

Read more of this post

The Falkland Islands: How much has the game changed?

Daniel Crump 

Image © Tiger 2000

It was announced this week that the residents of the Falkland Islands will hold a referendum on their political status in 2013. The main focus of which will be their links with the United Kingdom, with 1,600 registered voters on the Islands deciding whether to remain under British rule or back Christina Fernandez’s view that ‘Las Malvinas’ should be a part of Argentina.

Views are mixed as to the seriousness of the escalated tension between the British and Argentine governments over the last few months. Some see the situation as harmless sabre rattling which should have been anticipated given that 2012 is the 30th anniversary of the 1982 War. Others are choosing to read more into the rhetorical exchanges between David Cameron and Mrs. Fernandez. Governments are rarely prepared to answer too many questions on their willingness to enter into global conflict through fear of provoking unnecessary alarm, but what can we divulge from the rhetoric so far, and what are the main areas of concern?

A different kind of Cold War?

Whilst categorically denying that their own country is willing to enter into a new conflict, both governments are doing their best to show that the other one might be. Britain is accusing Christina Fernandez of pandering to the staunch nationalists in Argentina and using bullish language, on the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, to increase her approval ratings. For its part, Argentina has accused Britain of stepping up its military presence on the Islands and viewed Prince William’s recent visit as an obvious sign of disrespect.

Underlying all of this, the Falklands dispute has always involved, to a certain extent, concerns over natural resources, particularly oil. According to Argentine observers, the Falklands are an important strategic asset for the UK and give them an important route into Antarctica, which is seen as a potentially crucial area for future oil extraction. Many Argentines also recognise the cost of allowing the British to seize important natural resources so close to their own shores. Indeed, a significant part of the Military Junta’s reasoning 30 years ago was the possibility of improving their economic situation at home, and turning public opinion in their favour as a result.

The Dangerous Mrs. Fernandez?

Christina Fernandez is not leading a military junta. As a democratically elected figure, she is accountable to the people of Argentina and has historically shown her support for international law. There is also an unwritten rule in International Relations theory that democracies have much more to lose from war, and are therefore less likely to instigate a conflict than dictatorships, say.  Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,349 other followers