Party leaders fail to follow the equality rules they impose on others
By Harry Phibbs
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This morning there is still an official Lib Dem denial that Nick Clegg was aware of the allegations concering Lord Rennard's sexual harassment of female party activists. However, reading the abundance of revelations in this morning's papers about the scandal the denial stretches credibility to breaking point.
There is a long saga of hypocrisy on the Left when it comes to women's rights. There was Jean-Paul Sartre's treatment of Simone de Beauvoir. There was the way American feminists on the Left excused Bill Clinton's behaviour. The scandals involving fringe left-wing parties in our country such as the Socialist Workers Party and the Workers Revolutionary Party are well documented.
However, there is a broader hypocrisy which all politicians need to address.
In The Spectator (£) this week Ross Clark reflects on how politicians fail to follow the rules they impose on business. David Cameron "lectured a business audience in India" on the need to have 50% of company directors as women while "just four of Cameron’s 22-strong Cabinet are women" while "as for the educational background of Cabinet ministers, God help any university which showed such a bias towards public school types."
Mr Clark added that Tony Blair's government "bizarrely tried to impose 25 per cent female representation on the Iraqi transitional assembly" when at the time "only five of his Cabinet were women."
His government went on to pass a whole raft of equality and diversity legislation, lumbering firms with punitive fines and costs for firing staff without first going through all the hoops: verbal warnings,
written warnings and meetings attended by trade union representatives. Businesses were punished for falling foul of often dubious claims of discrimination by frustrated job applicants.
Yet Blair himself took no notice whatsoever of the rules he was happy to impose on others. When he wanted to fire an underperforming minister he didn’t go through that series of verbal and written warnings; he just picked up the phone and told them that their services were no longer required.
As for Blair, as for Cameron: equality and diversity are concepts for other people to observe. But since our leaders cannot seem to live with their own silly equality and discrimination laws, might it not be an idea to exempt the rest of us from them, too?
I think Mr Clark has got a point. Political leaders of all parties parade their virtue by demanding ever higher equality standards for business. Often these are rules they find it inconvenient to follow themselves.