Keep Rishi Sunak away from our Equality Act

Richi Sunak

First, let me state the obvious, just in case anyone missed it. The bunch of Conservative MPs who have been competing to take over as Prime Minister are all members of the government that has dragged this country into the worst mire of debt, poverty and dysfunction I have seen in my lifetime. I sincerely hope none of them ever becomes PM.

Second, this isn’t really a realistic idea but, if there were one person alive who you could blame for the 2008 financial crash…

But the situation being as it is, Sunak appears to be many people’s ‘best of a bad bunch’ option for PM, so this had better be said, loud and clear: many of us are glad that both Sunak and Truss are talking about rescuing women’s sports, and the language we use to discuss women’s issues, but…

Read what Sunak said about the Equality Act

BUT

We have the best Equality Act in the world

Okay, maybe that’s just my opinion but the 2010 Equality Act is a very ambitious and fairly well thought out law. Where we have problems around the “protected characteristics”, it is normally because, through ignorance or a desire to twist the facts, people misinterpret it. Sunak, speaking about such manoeuverings, says “It must stop. My government would review the Act to ensure we keep legitimate protections while stopping mission creep.”

That’s fine as far as it goes – the problems we’ve had in recent years stem from powerful campaign groups lobbying for one of the characteristics at the expense of another, lobbyists supressing the language of those working for others and political groups demonizing ‘rival’ campaigners. All these saboteurs could be repelled by making sure definitions and implementation guidance around the act were clearer, and that provisions were properly enforced. None suggest to me that the main body of the law needs changing.

Chart of the protected characteristics

On-the-hoof policy making

I remember a history lecturer ranting and raving about ‘ad hoc’ law making. Irresponsible and amateurish politicians, he said, will make, amend and dissolve laws to win campaign points, to get attention, or even for personal business gain. “Laws,” my erstwhile lecturer would yell, thumping the desk, “are a work of art.” They need balancing, thinking through, and painstaking, thoughtful tweaking from time to time, as and when courts of law find loop-holes or anomalies.

Disabled by tech

I experienced an example of the temptation to make ‘ad hoc’ laws recently, when a friend who has a similar problem that I do with a lot of online facilities suggested a new protected characteristic. She teaches children with ASD and other neurological conditions, and has realized that many of those children have major problems with websites and technology that society requires people to use. She said that there should be a provision in the Equality Act for those whose access to online services is disadvantaged by disability.

 My first thought was yes, a brilliant idea. My second thought was, but isn’t that covered by the protected characteristic ‘disability’? Is this yet another implementation problem? My third thought was, people suffering from financial and social deprivation, and people living in isolated conditions, have the same problem. If you can’t get online time, or can’t get near a computer or smartphone, you are disadvantaged when required to complete tasks online. How do we include those people in our new characteristic? My fourth thought was, should financial and social deprivation be a protected characteristic?

My fifth thought was, I need to read up on this, talk to some people, get some legal opinions….

…and I can’t imagine any of the Conservative Party’s offerings for PM spending that much time thinking and researching before they opened their mouths with an opinion all ready to go. So…

Please keep Rishi Sunak away from our Equality Act

Our 2010 Equality Act is superb, and I say that despite the fact that I was at the other end of the much-conflicted Labour Party to the one that formed the Act. I’m really not prone to gushing about the achievements of that particular Labour government, it’s just that that is a very well-balanced and potentially effective law.

What we do not want is some clod-footed Conservative who hasn’t grasped the realities of systemic racism, sexism and ablism to start messing with the law. If you see that happening, please join in the resistance as loudly and strongly as you can, even if it means joining in with others who have been in opposition to you because they were biased towards a different protected characteristic to the ones that apply to you.

Stand up for the 2010 Equality Act!

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Cheers,

Kay

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