UKIP Councillor: Don't 'Enforce' Equality, Defend Freedom to End Injustice
The French poet Baudelaire once said that “the finest trick of the devil was to persuade you he does not exist”. By the same token, the greatest trick of Harriet Harman was in convincing the British people that the Equalities Act 2010 has anything to do with ‘equality’ as most people understand it.
In truth, the British people have always been a particularly fair nation. They “play up, and play the game”, and they do so with an instinctive sense of fair play. In his latest book How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters, Daniel Hannan MEP charts over 1000 years of British history at the heart of which lies the simple, yet exceptional notion that the state is subject to the people, rather than the reverse.
An outcome of this notion is the idea that all are equal before the (common) law, from the King and Queen down to the lowliest of their subjects. Another is that each of us, if accused of wrongdoing, is entitled to an impartial hearing before our peers.
By upholding common law we British have for centuries enshrined the instinctive belief that the law should apply equally to everyone. The idea that the whole population, regardless of race or any other defining factor, are legally treated in the same manner is therefore most British people’s definition of ‘equality’. It is certainly mine.
But it’s not Harriet Harman’s. Her Equalities Act 2010 completely recasts the word ‘equality’ to mean not ‘everyone the same’, but ‘preferential treatment for certain groups’. The Act states that it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of “protected characteristics”, which are as follows:
- being or becoming a transsexual person
- being married or in a civil partnership
- being pregnant or having a child
- race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
- religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
- sexual orientation
In theory this sounds reasonable enough. No fair-minded person would want to refuse someone a job because he was in a wheelchair, would they? Not unless that job was as a fireman, and one of the duties was to climb ladders to rescue those in peril, perhaps. The problem with this state enforced version of equality is that it fails to take into account the fact that we are not all clones. Different people have differing abilities, motivations, interests. To acknowledge that is to celebrate the full range of human life in all its vibrancy.
And wait, what happens when two of those groups come into direct conflict with each other, as, for example, Christians and homosexuals seem to do so often? Whilst in theory they are on equal footing, in practice, it’s one rule for Christians, another for the gay community.
In addition, singling out certain characteristics implies that it’s perfectly fair and reasonable to discriminate against someone on grounds not listed, such as political leanings. To pick a hypothetical example from thin air, should the BBC tomorrow decide that henceforth it was only going to hire people with a left-leaning bias, it would be perfectly entitled, legally, to do so, whether or not the rest of us thought that was fair.
As Milton Friedman put it, “A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom”. He is being proved exactly right in Britain today. Not only is the legislation insulting to the people of Britain, assuming as it does that we are all closet racists and homophobes who need to be told what to think, it’s also divisive. One of the unintended consequences is that we are becoming less tolerant, not more. By equating the law with morality, active intolerance of opinions other than those deemed ‘correct’ is not only acceptable but to be encouraged.
For daring to suggest that freedom is more important than enforced equality, I have been labelled a ‘homophobe, racist bigot who hates women’; I have received hate mail both online and through the post; and more latterly I have been ordered by a secretive procedure to undergo ‘equalities training’.
Through all of this I have gone out of my way time and again to point out that I am not condoning or applauding discrimination – far from it. But in my opinion, following the British tradition, unless you can apply a law equally to everyone, it should not be implemented at all. Far better to let society deal with those it deems bigoted. I would not want to spend my money within a business that discriminated against any group, and I trust that the vast majority of my fellow Brits would feel and act the same way. That business would very quickly fold.
So, like Frederic Bastiat, who was writing in 1850, I believe that “the solution to the problems of human relationships [are] to be found in liberty.” Now, you may disagree with me on all of this. Like Ms Harman, you may feel that certain groups have been historically disadvantaged, and that we need to level the playing field in some way. Well, so be it, we’re all entitled to our opinion. What we are not entitled to do – whether left wing, right wing, socialist, anarcho-capitalist – is force others to share our opinions. We may well live in a corporatist, increasingly socialist state, but I don’t have to like it.
Since Breitbart published my little act of rebellion, I have been overwhelmed by the support shown by people both in the UK and the US, UKIP members and non-members alike. One gentleman emailed me to say:
“I watched this awful 'thing' creep into my own organisation. The creeping became a stream and then a torrent, creating a bandwagon to climb onto for those who wouldn't swim against it and, as the waves settled, it left a creeping paralysis in its wake. I was required to attend several equalities `training courses` during my 32 years public service. I was always a strong advocate of fairness in the workplace. I certainly didn’t need laws to allow me to do so. You nailed it when you implied it wasn't so much training as indoctrination.
“I believe freedom is more important than equality. If the only way to make things more equal is to reduce freedom, I’m not interested. Human nature being what it is, equality will have to be enforced, while freedom will have to be defended. I’d rather be a defender than an enforcer.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. I plan to be a defender until my dying day. I would encourage all of you who value freedom to be defenders, whenever the opportunity arises. Only in this way will the tide finally be turned.