Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Professional Diversity and Mission Creep

One of our long established professions is asserting that “the case for diversity is simple”, and promoting forums to its members, to enable them better to understand equality and diversity, in the following terms. “Society is changing fast and with it our clients, from hard done by citizens who walk into a high street firm, to multinationals with multiple Magic Circle firms on their roster. We must understand our clients. We also need to ensure we’ve got the best team to serve them. To do this, we need a diverse workforce.”

Hang on a minute. If this was supposed to be referring to the need for a diversity of skill and expertise across a wide variety of professional specialist areas, few would dissent. But that’s clearly not what they’re promoting. It is plain in context here that “a diverse workforce” is meant as one that deliberately and overtly includes individuals with differing personal characteristics, notably those protected under the Equality Act regime.

Now consider the word “need” in the italicised sentence. Might it not be considered patronising and insulting to clients to assume that their professional needs can only be fully met by someone sharing their personal characteristics, as opposed to holding the necessary knowledge to provide accurate and cost effective advice?

The mission creep that the profession’s model diversity questionnaire displays in turn may be a taste of things to come. Over and above the range of questions that an employer is invited to put to its employees, many of which we would not dream of asking our best friends, we find a section covering “socio-economic background (education) and caring responsibilities”. No, it’s not yet a prohibition under the Equality Act to discriminate against the differently educated. But how long before it is suggested that it should be?

And why stop there, they might ask. Not long ago, there were suggestions that the visibly tattooed community might be facing difficulties in obtaining and holding employment, because interviewers and bosses found their corporal decorations offensive, or thought that customers might be similarly inclined. Well, there’s the next big thing, you equality zealots. Take no notice of the fact that these downtrodden individuals may have been the authors (almost literally) of their own misfortune. Here’s the next milestone in your crusade - the Body Art Discrimination Act. What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Where Do You Go To My Lovely revisited: Peter Sarstedt meets an Essex Girl

How fascinating it was to watch a recent Top of the Pops nostalgia journey back to the 60s and 70s. No, not to find out how the Beeb would manage to airbrush Jimmy Savile out of history, but to see some of our best known musical performers in their innocent (?) youthful days, before indulgences took their toll and the cosmetic surgeons stepped in. Not forgetting some memorable performances of long forgotten songs.

One notable example, Peter Sarstedt. What a haircut. Bouffant does not do it justice. More like a crash helmet, or a bearskin from Royal Guardsmen's Surplus. Not that this should be taken in any way as a denigration of his performance of Where Do You Go to My Lovely, that immortal tale of a sophisticated continental jet setter who rose to the heights from humble origins.

Now just suppose that our performer had been transported forty years into the future, and found himself contemplating an entirely different subject for his lyrical tribute - an Essex Girl, one of the UK's finest. The song might have turned out something like this.

You talk like Denise Van Outen
And you dance nothing like Fred Astaire
Your clothes are all made by Primark
And there’s bling and fake pearls in your hair, yes there are

You live in a run down apartment
On a Brentwood council estate
Where you keep your R&B records
And you play them full blast when it’s late, yes you do

But where do you go to my chavling
When you've thrown up in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I won’t find much inside your head, no I won’t

I see you’ve no qualifications
From the bog standard school down the street
And the picture you knocked off from Poundland
Your lack of taste stands out a treat, yes it does

When you go on your summer vacation
You go to Club Med for the booze
With your carefully designed string bikini
You show off your frightful tattoos, on your back and on your legs.

And when the snow falls you'll party in Essex
With the others of the chav set
And you neck down your Bacardi Breezers
You spill them and get your tits wet, yes you do

But where do you go to my chavling
When you've thrown up in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I won’t find much inside your head, no I won’t

Your name is heard in low places
You know a baron from Tilbury Dock
He gave you a vajazzle for Christmas
And you keep it just for a shock, for a laugh, ha-ha-ha

They say that when you get married
It'll be on reality TV
And they’ll certainly know where you came from
So OK! will fund it for free, yes they will

But where do you go to my chavling
When you've thrown up in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I won’t find much inside your head, no I won’t

I remember the back streets of Harlow
Two teenagers dressed in fake tat
Both touched with a burning ambition
To get pregnant and a new council flat, yes they were

So look into my face, Chardonnay
And remember just who you are
Then go live your mad life forever
But I know you still bear the scars, deep inside, from your tattoos

I know where you go to my chavling
When you’ve thrown up in your bed
I know the thoughts that surround you
`Cause I can’t find much inside your head.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

RIP Sir David Frost: yesterday TW3, today HS2

The sad news that Sir David Frost is no longer with us has reminded me of an MP in the early 80s who sought to attribute the UK’s moral decline, at least in part, to the ground breaking TV show from 1962/63 That Was The Week That Was, otherwise known as TW3.

Presented by Frost, TW3 was said to have broken ground in lampooning the establishment and political figures of the time, notably those involved in the Profumo scandal. As they put it, every hypocrisy was highlighted and no target was deemed out of bounds.

With that in mind, the MP in question was surely mistaken. Respect for moral standards was hardly to be equated with unthinking deference and loyalty to those supposedly responsible for their upkeep, especially when they let themselves and their electors down in the process.

And TW3 led in turn to its successors, Not The Nine O’Clock News and Spitting Image, two TV classics from an era where its politicians had some distinct character to them. We would have been poorer without them.

Which leads to the present day. With the honourable exception of Have I Got News For You, where is our flagship political satire? Could it be that the current crew of ministers and opposition spokesmen have unintentionally rendered themselves beyond parody? Just look at their enthusiasm for the great white elephant of HS2, their worship of the green energy delusion, their impatience to get involved in foreign wars that are none of our business (thank God for backbench independence) and their loyalty to the dismal millstone of EU membership.

So let’s leave the last word to Sir David from his TW3 days. This is how he would end many a satirical attack on a political or establishment figure, a quotation which may be well overdue for resurrection. “But seriously, he’s doing a grand job.”