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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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HomeCulture WarsOh for the days when competence counted for everything

Oh for the days when competence counted for everything

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I AM old enough to remember the days when the older folk, many of them conservative, took pity on the snowflake students who were ‘wasting their time with wimmin studies and gender studies’ in between doing Pilates and dying their hair blue. These students, with their demands for safe spaces, would soon enter the ‘real world’ and understand that their expensive degrees were worthless. They would be unemployed for ever. They would be out in the cold. How wrong these conservative commentators were.

What actually happened was that the public and private sectors adopted many of the demands of the snowflakes and from the job adverts below it is clear that a degree in gender studies and some strong views on Lived Experiences could land you a very well-paid job. And you can have the Pilates classes free.

Next the snowflakes took charge of all the major HR departments in the land. These people are now the gatekeepers of most employment opportunities. The result? It’s game over for the straight, white male. In the words of the US commentator Heather Mac Donald, he is ‘bottom of the totem pole’.

David Craig at TCW has highlighted how diversity and not patient care is the priority for the NHS. A recent recruitment ad from London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital for an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager with a salary of up to £65,095, demanded to know if the potential employee was passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion? Whether or not this person knew anything about ophthalmology was not mentioned.

John Ellwood covered a similar outrageous waste of public money when the Midlands Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust advertised for a ‘Director for Lived Experience’, offering a salary of £110,000 to £115,000.

And Elena Cosentino exposed more diversity delusions here. ‘Over recent years there has been a notable change in the nursing training delivered in universities. Forget the old ambition of equality of opportunity, today’s drive is for “equity”. Merit and ability are all but irrelevant, overtaken by the characteristics which diversity, equity and inclusion require.

If you read just these three pieces, it is clear that equity has trumped excellence in the public sector. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the equality, diversity and inclusion empire which  has killed the meritocracy.

In the United States things are even worse, as you would expect, but given how quick the UK is to import the very worst parts of the cultures war, you can assume that EDI trumps merit and has infected the entire system here also.

The ever-brilliant Heather Mac Donald explains in her book When Race Trumps Merit, How the Pursuit of Equity Sacrifices Excellence, Destroys Beauty, and Threatens Lives how the EDI empire dominates all the important institutions from the academy, the military to medical schools and even classical music.

As Heather explains, ‘After the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, prestigious American institutions, from the medical profession to the fine arts, pleaded guilty to “systemic racism”. How else explain why blacks are overrepresented in prisons and underrepresented in C-suites and faculty lounges, their leaders asked?

‘The official answer for those disparities is “disparate impact,” a once obscure legal theory that is now transforming our world. Any traditional standard of behaviour or achievement that impedes exact racial proportionality in any enterprise is now presumed racist. Medical school admissions tests, expectations of scientific accomplishment in the award of research grants, the enforcement of the criminal law – all are under assault because they have a “disparate impact” on underrepresented minorities.’

This abolition of the meritocracy is tragic and dangerous particularly as it took the West so long to get there. It is only  recently that your ability to do a job was what mattered and not who your family or class was.

Indeed when the diversity mantra first came on the scene it was intended to improve the meritocracy byseeking out the best from minority groups. The argument was that the meritocracy was not doing enough to find the best and the brightest from minority groups, and this hurt us all. Once all people from all groups could fulfil their potential, the meritocracy would be complete, and we would all benefit from the wonderfully talented people that diversity drives would find.

We were told that direct and implicit discrimination persisted – what else could explain the disparity in outcomes? And thus positive discrimination was necessary to find the hidden gems out there that the white folk sought to keep down. Do you remember when the then Prime Minister Theresa May called us all racists, so racist that she was going to do an audit? (That was a highlight, that one).

This proved be a classic ‘bait and switch’ by the left; offer excellence then switch to equity. Today no one bothers to argue that diversity is a means to improve the meritocracy; now diversity is the end in and of itself. It’s all about representation. Does your brain surgeon look like you? Does your pilot belong to an ethnic minority?

Does the first violin of the Berlin Philharmonic have some tragic back story to tell us, something so tragic she doesn’t even need to reach for her violin to get us weeping? Well does she, and if not, why not?

The result is that excellence means little, equity is the goal. Not a successful brain operation, or a pilot that can land the plane safely or indeed the first violinist playing Mozart perfectly, she shouldn’t even be playing Mozart as he is too white anyway.

It is equity in outcomes and not excellence that counts. No wonder productivity has stalled in the last decade. 

What makes matters worse is that this idea that equity trumps excellence and representation trumps merit has accelerated under 12 years of Conservative government. I do not remember once any MP raising an objection to this relentless drive downwards.

I am sure that it is just a coincidence that it was a woman, Paula Vennells, who was at the centre of the Post Office/Horizon IT scandal. And I was totally shocked when it was revealed over the weekend that ‘Theresa May’s government pushed through a CBE for Paula Vennells, the disgraced former Post Office boss, despite concerns raised on the honours committee about the Horizon IT scandal’.

At the end of the piece, we are told: ‘She joined the Post Office in 2007 as network director, having started out as a graduate trainee at the consumer goods company Unilever before moving to L’Oréal, Dixons, Argos and Premier Inn owner Whitbread. Someone who worked with Vennells at an early stage of her career expressed surprise at her inclusion in the 2019 new year honours list. He said: “She was a perfectly nice and pleasant person, but she was never going to be one of our champion business leaders who achieved a huge turnaround. It smacked of ‘jobs for the boys’.” No. It’s jobs for the girls these days. You may suspect there was an element of over-promotion here, but I’m not going to do that. Not publicly at least.

Then there was the first woman to run one of Britain’s big four banks and a board, the Dame Alison Rose lady of NatWest. That also ended badly. Then there was Dame Sharon White, who announced her resignation from the John Lewis partnership a while back making her the shortest-serving chairman in its history. But I could be unfair here – there are no doubt plenty of men out there who would have also done a dodgy job. But these three do come to mind when I think about diversity, equity and inclusion.

The abolition of the meritocracy is, along with the collapse of fertility rates, one of the biggest challenges of our time. I need a free Pilates class just to cope.

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