Thursday, March 02, 2006

First Among Equals


You may have noticed the rustling in the Equality undergrowth has been gettting distinctly louder of late.

Over the weekend, Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission For Racial Equality, told us he was thinking of taking legal action against the government for not obeying its own Race Relations Act:

"It is grotesque that the Government thinks the law that it wrote and passed applies to everyone else but Whitehall. I am saying: 'Wake up.' If the Government doesn't enforce the law, we are going to enforce the law on the Government."

Duh? As head of a £20m pa quango, should he really be biting the hand that feeds? Especially as even the most tinpot Whitehall department now runs its own massive internal racial equality programme.

Or what about Disability Rights Commission, a £15m pa quango, that as we blogged last week, is funding a high profile ad campaign explicitly to lobby government to change the law. Another bite at the feeding hand.

Or the Equal Opportunities Commission, a £10m pa quango, that recently had a real go at government over introducing compulsory "equality audits" .

What all three of these quangos have in common of course, is that they are all due to be scrapped when the government launches its new super quango- the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR)- next year.

This new quango will be a bureaucratic nannying monster, and for most of us that's bad enough. But business already fears it will be followed in short order by a new monster Equality Act. The CBI says “Rushing towards a single equality Act could be an attempt to rush through a one-size-fits-all approach, with all rights and duties raised to the highest common denominator.”

The costs and damage to UK competiveness are too dreadful to contemplate.

For quangocrats like Phillips, of course, the picture is very different: the chairmanship of such a monster would be a plum job. The only trouble is, there are currently three "Equality" chairmanships, whereas under the new super-quango there will only be one. So down there in the undergrowth an unedifying Darwinian struggle is underway. And it is the strange topsy-turvey nature of quangoland that the new head of Equality has to be someone who can give the appearance of standing up to all-comers. Including the government.

Expect much more screeching as D Day approaches.

PS Obviously all candidates will be expecting a substantial uplift in pay and rations from current levels. Trevor's package is currently £125 grand. The Chair of the EOC, is on 131, and the Chair of the DRC is on 134. So what do you reckon? Gotta be well north of 300. Sweet.

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