An interesting piece in yesterday’s Telegraph:
The Government has focused too heavily on “fashionable” race, sexuality and gender issues at the expense of poverty and geographical disparities, Liz Truss will say as she overhauls the equalities brief on Thursday.
The Women and Equalities minister will hit out at the dominance of “identity politics, loud lobby groups and the idea of lived experience” in the debate about developing a fairer society.
She will outline a pivot away from quotas, targets, unconscious bias training and diversity statements to improve equality, dismissing them as “tools of the Left” that “do nothing to fix systems”.
The state must not “waste time on misguided, wrong-headed and ultimately destructive ideas that take agency away from people,” she will say.
Her major policy reset, made in a speech entitled “The New Fight for Fairness”, will set out a fresh “Conservative values” approach to equalities based on “freedom, choice, opportunity, and individual humanity and dignity”.
It will centre on reforms that aim to promote equality by handing people greater agency over their lives and making systems more transparent, rather than focusing on equality of outcome.
She will point to the independent taxation of women in 1988, which finally gave married women control over their own money, and the 2010 Academies Act, the cornerstone of the coalition Government’s school reform programme, as the kind of equality-boosting policies she will aim at.
Marking a firm break with the interpretation of equalities spearheaded by New Labour, her speech will criticise “the narrow focus on protected characteristics” set out by the 2010 Equality Act, which include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation.
The emphasis on these categories has led to the “narrowing of the equality debate that overlooks socio-economic status and geographic inequality,” she will say.
In a bid to address these areas, equalities policy will in future dovetail with Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda by aiming to rebalance regional disparities and boost social mobility.
Speaking at the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, Ms Truss will announce a new equalities data project, to report next summer, that will amass information on life outcomes to work out where the most disadvantaged are based.
Existing data shows a gap between London and the South East and the rest of the UK in a range of metrics, including life expectancy, pay and gross domestic product.
Ministers will also look at moving the Equalities Hub, which sits within the Cabinet Office and comprises the Race Disparity Unit, Government Equalities Office and Disability Unit, from the capital to the North.
In another signal of intent the Social Mobility Commission, an advisory non-departmental public body currently sponsored by the Department for Education, will be brought into the Government Equalities Office.
In her robust intervention, Ms Truss will say the equality debate must be “led by facts… not by fashion”, which she is understood to believe includes the focus on protected characteristics.
She will argue that objective data should be prioritised over the subjective experiences of individuals in influencing policy.
She believes there has been an over-emphasis on campaign groups like Black Lives Matter and is concerned that the loudest groups have tended to attract the most attention, instead of evidence leading the debate, it is understood.
A Government source said: “The point is that fashionable causes may be good causes, but it leads to other people and real issues being ignored and neglected.”
Ms Truss will call time on “a small group of self-selecting activists” holding sway over the equalities debate.
She will also heap censure on tokenistic gestures with a swipe at “pink bus feminism”, a reference to the pink battle van launched by Labour in the 2015 general election to appeal to female voters, which drew ridicule.
Equalities policy must be prosecuted beyond the initiatives of “London boardrooms and the offices of Whitehall,” and aimed at “addressing the problems people face in their everyday lives,” she will add.
While her speech will suggest that too heavy a focus has been placed on the legally-defined protected characteristics at the expense of other imbalances in society, she will commit to continuing the Government’s work related to race and ethnic disparities, women’s economic empowerment, [J4MB: Feminist-speak for driving women into paid employment, often against their wishes] LGBT rights and the national strategy for disabled people.
On Wednesday, a freedom of information request revealed that the gender pay gap for staff in the Cabinet Office, which includes the Government Equality Office (GEO), has increased in the past year.
Female workers in the department earn a median hourly rate that is 15 per cent lower than male employees, up from 9 per cent the previous year.
The GEO runs the gender pay gap scheme, which forces companies with over 250 employees to publish gender pay disparity data annually.
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