Comparing Jeremy Corbyn and Labour to Lenin and his Bolsheviks seems rather crude and obvious, a cheap jibe, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Certainly, unlike Lenin, Mr Corbyn isn’t a homicidal dictator, but he does want the BBC to mimic the old Bolshevik practice of making people submit biographical details to their employer. This will include information about their class and their parents, so that ‘social diversity’ can be ensured.
According to the Telegraph, Mr Corbyn believes that the BBC should have ‘complete transparency on the makeup of its workforce’, and should publish ‘equality data, including for social class’. But if the BBC can be used to set a precedent, where else would Mr Corbyn like to see this? And it’s not just him. A report from the Institute of Student Employers shows that ‘companies have begun asking internship applicants whether their parents went to university’ to ‘ensure diversity among recruits’.
So here is another excuse for bureaucracies to prod us and weigh us – to sort us and classify us by criteria over which we have no control. Not just your sex or race or your sexual orientation. Now they want to know even more.
If you read the memoirs of Soviet defectors, many will tell how they often had to write detailed autobiographies giving full family histories. If you were applying for a job or university place or dealing with state bureaucrats, everything mattered. Not just your life but your parents’ and grandparents’ too.
Humble origins, being the child of a factory hand or poor peasant meant virtue. Anything ‘bourgeois’ made you dubious. Having the wrong parents was a problem. Despite Mr Corbyn’s fondness for much communist heritage, I don’t know if he intends going as far as deliberately excluding people with middle-class parents from specific jobs. But if an employer has to collate details on whose parents went to university or who went to a posh school, sooner or later someone will inevitably be pushed out.
Why collect ‘diversity’ statistics if you don’t want to enforce diversity? You can imagine it: the embarrassed HR manager telling you he’s sorry ‘but you don’t quite fit the profile we want’.
Where will it end? Which category do we identify and make restitution to next? Here’s my plea. According to the Institute for Economic Studies, ‘height is strongly related to income for men, after controlling for other social psychological variables,’ and ‘ninety per cent of CEOs, according to The Economist, are ‘above average height.’ Well, as a perfectly formed five foot four and a half, I’ve always fancied a title like ‘Chief Executive Officer’. Perhaps Mr Corbyn could help me with that.
We know mean and petty people judge you on irrelevant factors, that snobbery and prejudices still exist, but we don’t need to be patronised. Unlike you, Mr Corbyn, I’m a comprehensive-educated council estate boy with some resolutely blue-collar tastes. But I still know that you don’t create fairness, societal wealth or happiness by pushing successful people down or by judging them on characteristics, good or bad, that they didn’t choose. You do it by creating routes for people to move up.
And I’m not my parents, I’m me.