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Retention of Ken Livingstone's Diversity Officers at City Hall is NOT a statutory requirement

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has now published his equalities policy Equal Life Chances for All. Plenty of the document is bland and unobjectionable but a close reading also confirms the concerns I detailed last week that the divisive approach of Ken Livingstone's regime have been retained.

Which is unremarkable as most of Livingstone's ideologocal commissars at City Hall have so far been kept in place. When Livingstone lost the election last year he used his leaving party in Covent Garden to ask his supporters not to resign but to attempt to remain in place and they have taken him at his word.

An invitation has been issued to City Hall for a member of Boris's team to respond to last week's post. This hasn't been directly taken up so far. But the Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes took a swipe at me in a podcast with Guardian blogger and Livingstone cheerleader Dave Hill.

Richard says that promoting equality is a statutory requirement for the GLA. That is true. Under the Greater London Authority section 33 says there must be "due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people." Section 404 is a requirement "to have regard to the need— .to promote equality of opportunity for all persons irrespective of their race, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion; to eliminate unlawful discrimination; and to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups, religious beliefs and sexual orientation."

But it does not follow from this that the Livingstone agenda must be retained to obey the law. On the contrary treating people as individuals and ensuring each individual had equality of opportunity strikes me as a better fufilment of the legal requirement than giving special favours to interest groups. There could quite legally be a shift from a multiculturalist approach to an integrationist one. For example rather than spending money translating City Hall documents, spend it on teaching English.  Nothing could do more to "promote good relations." There is certainly not a statutory requirement to employ any Diversity Officers.

In his podcast Richard says:

Well I think Harry Phibbs has a lot to learn about life really hasn't he? It was drawn to my attention what he said and he also criticises the language we used that it's overly PC. Well when Harry aspires to be a little more than a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham then I'm sure we can address and sit down and recognise the real issues.

He adds:

The days of walking into an organisation with a machete in one hand and a sub-machine gun in the other are long gone.

I was surprised by Richard's suggestion that being a borough councillor is a lowly calling although I'm old enough to be flattered by his implication that I'm a young whipper snapper finding my way in the world. So far as his colourful imagery about machetes is concerned, what does it really mean? Wouldn't it be better for the GLA Council Tax precept to fall by, say, 1%, rather then the amount charged by Ken Livingstone being frozen?

Elsewhere Livingstone supporters have attacked me for an autorant and McCarthyism whose views can be disregarded as I am a Scrutiny Committee chairman which is a role for "drunken aunts."

All this is playing the man not the ball. There has not been a considered response from City Hall. Nor from the Livingstonian blogosphere - that members of Boris's adminstration are oddly preoccupied with seeking to ingratiate themselves. 


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