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Nick Booth: How quangos use their pious equality rules to deliver jobs for the boys


The Equality and Human Rights Commission is throwing its weight around again, according to a report in The Sunday Times.

If newsagents advertise for a paper boy, they could find themselves getting a visit. Don’t get any funny ideas if you run a bed and breakfast or a hotel and you want to advertise for a waitress. Or a handyman. Because the EHRC might send the boys – sorry, the legal enforcement officers – around.

The equality watchdog has thought of a new way to shake down small businesses. If any of these evil capitalists advertises a job that’s deemed to be specifying a specific sex, age or nationality – including a Polish builder – the EHRC now has an excuse to prosecute.

Naturally, this equality law won’t be applied equally. Big corporations – from both the public and private sector – know how to get around these laws.

If you’re a victim of these time thieves, it’s worth analysing how the public sector panjandrums manage only to employ the people they’d have to a dinner party.

I’m indebted to Blairite blogger Dan Hodges who, with admirable honesty, revealed how the Bollygarchs of public sector corporatism get around these pesky rules they impose on the lower orders. (Private sector corporatism is just as bad, but at least the bankers haven’t got the brass neck to lecture us about equality. When they want to impress us with their social responsibility, at least they’re honest enough not to look you in the eye while they’re lying. Instead they hire loveable left wing actors like Alan Davies to help them mis-sell their poverty trap financial products).

It’s been fours years – four bloody years I’ve been grinding my teeth! – since Hodges revealed how it works for those at the top. (By the way, can we please stop calling them the ‘liberal elite’? They’re not very liberal and they are definitely not the cream that rose to the top. Crap is pretty buoyant too you know).

When Ken Livingstone hired Hodges, it was ‘technically’ to be director of communications for Transport for London. I say technically, because the article seems to imply Hodges was hired to promote Livingstone’s mayoral campaign and to hell with the TfL. The job of understanding and explaining TfL’s merits as an employer, and its modernisation programme and why train drivers deserve to be paid as much as a junior doctor was left to hacks like myself. While I was taking my train driving lessons at Willesden Junction (as research), Ken’s crony was being shown into the executive offices at TfL’s HQ in Victoria. I worked for them and I never got past reception!

Appointing Dan Hodges was an odd decision for a company with TfL’s supposed ethical values. (Here’s a copy of the Code of Conduct that would have applied at the time). Not only had Hodges missed the deadline for applying, he wasn’t remotely qualified, he says. He’d never managed budgets, or teams of writers or worked in a ‘high profile customer facing public sector environment’. Or indeed, studied the new TfL Trip Advisor, interviewed staff and researched all the routes and the history of one of the world’s biggest transport infrastructures. Or taken lessons in driving the new overland rolling stock.

I’m not asking you to cry for me as, if I’m going to be as honest as Mr Hodges, I wasn’t director material either. What’s really appalling is that they could have saved the British economy at least 8,000 wasted man hours by telling every other applicant they were wasting their time researching their applications, typing out essays on the challenges faced by TfL, devising model strategies and retyping their entire life history, presenting the details in the particular order that the HR department of TfL like to see it in. Then tackling the PC minefield that looks like a simple questionnaire about ethnicity, religion and sexual preference. It can take days to give these applications your all, if you really want the job.

But everyone could have saved all that time, agonising over everything we think the selector might be looking for, from the on trend management clichés to how we present our ethnicity, because the job was only ever going to a crony.

Still at least Dan Hodges appears to be decent enough to be guilty about it.

But this happens every day. All public sector organisations use their equality legislation to create an admin barrier that keeps people out and ring fences jobs for the select few. If Donald Trump built a wall this unfair and discriminatory, there’d be uproar. But you can find literally thousands of time-wasting admin barriers to entry on any public sector recruitment site.

That’s the game. Human resources management is discrimination by red tape.

I bet you any money if the EHRC needs to recruit someone, they’ll advertise the position, as they’re legally obliged to, but the job will end up being given to one of the condescentii.

The lesson here, for the humble foot soldiers of the free market, the self-employed and the small business owners, is to follow the examples of the EHRC. If you need a barmaid, advertise for a barmaid. Tell your preferred candidate they’ve got the job but, just to cover yourself, make all the other applicants fill out a 94-page questionnaire. Just cut and paste one from the NHS jobs site and find and replace the words “Communications Director” with “Barperson”. Most of the admin is meaningless and copied from elsewhere anyway.

It’s a massive waste of everybody’s time, but that’s the only way to stay compliant. Yes, it’s cruel, counter-productive and cynical, but that’s how equality works.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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