Labour did it for female parliamentary candidates, senior police offers have asked to change the law to do it, the judiciary recently said it was the type of radical way forward that was necessary and now it is suggested that the civil service should adopt it. We are talking about positive discrimination.
‘Positive discrimination does not set out to change society: the aim is to ensure that senior posts in the public sector represent the diverse society we live in’
In the case of the civil service it is to address the under representation of black and minority ethnic people in senior posts. They do it in the US and as we know many senior public posts in major cites are occupied by BME people, the most obvious example being the president.
So positive discrimination does appear to work in ensuring senior public posts are more representative of the people they serve. Yet no one would claim the US is a more equal society, BME people are disproportionately represented in the poorest groups in society, disproportionately represented among the unemployed and disproportionately represented among those with a significantly lower life expectancy.
It would appear that on its own positive discrimination, whether for university places, job opportunities or senior public sector posts, does not address inequality in wider society. Nor does has it proved effective in tackling racist attitudes and racial profiling.
‘So yes to positive discrimination and quotas, yes to all-women short list for MPs and yes to all-BME short lists for top NHS posts’
Then again, positive discrimination does not set out to change society: the aim is to ensure that senior posts in the public sector represent the diverse society we live in more accurately. Positive discrimination says there should be more BME judges, senior police officers, mayors and MPs – and more BME people in the top NHS posts.
Until this happens, some parts of the community will not have confidence in these institutions. It is also clear that if radical action is not taken then the racial profile of these public sector organisations will change very slowly indeed, and that before it does public confidence and trust will have long since been damaged.
So yes to positive discrimination and quotas, yes to all-women short list for MPs and yes to all-BME short lists for judges, senior police officers, senior civil servants and top NHS posts until their numbers represent the national population profile.