Freudian slips, bad jokes and equal opportunities rubbish



September 2011


Here we are, returning from summer breaks, and what the media describes as the silly season, back into real life.

Real life is ‘the usual rubbish’ about equal opportunities.

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University advertised for a trainee anaesthetist and allowed an inadvertent clause to slip through its recruitment ad: after describing the job spec, it added ‘the usual rubbish about equal opportunities employer etc.’

The Freudian slip provoked great amusement among the usual suspects, Tories and the Daily Mail.

It released another bout of ‘Positive discrimination has gone too far…!”

But how many people involved in recruitment didn’t bother to read that ad?

Who was taking seriously equal opportunities in this profession still dominated by  white, male, middle class men? Who was expecting this ad to do its bit?

And how come some people who should at least know how to read an Act of Parliament –that is, MPs – don’t know there isn’t and never has been  ‘positive discrimination’ in Britain’s equality legislation.

In a debate between me and the Tory MP Dominic Raab on the Jeremy Vine Show on 6 September, Raab insisted that positive discrimination was the problem.  But positive discrimination is not and never has been allowed by British equalities legislation.

What  is permitted is positive action: where candidates have equivalent experience            expertise, employers may select candidates whose presence will make the  workforce more representative. Who would not want to do that? Raab MP, for one.

Buried by the muddle over the law, and the scornful hilarity there is a bad joke: among UK medics there is ‘widespread discrimination’ against women, there isn’t positive discrimination in their favour.  Men earn around £15,000 more than women.  Women’s opportunities are constrained by a ‘hostile culture’. That’s the verdict of the British Medical Association’s first investigation into inequality among medics in the senior echelons of the NHS, published in 2009 and on its of its esteemed authors, Prof. Anita  Holdcroft, herself an anaesthetist.

There are twice as many male anaesthetists as female – 4382 men, 1774 women.  What’s positive about that?

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