WeeklyWorker

19.11.2020
From ‘old Etonian Marxist’ to liberal Powellite

An arm of the state

David Goodhart’s appointment to the EHRC reveals the truth about the quango and its wretched report into ‘Labour anti-Semitism’, says Eddie Ford

Before Keir Starmer announced that Jeremy Corbyn would have to sit as an independent MP, his grovelling ‘clarifications’, his pledges of unity, his promise to join with the fake campaign to “root out anti-Semitism” evidently satisfied the NEC disciplinary panel, which insiders said had decided unanimously to end his suspension. Presumably Corbyn’s fate now hangs on establishing the farmed out disciplinary process as recommended by the EHRC report. That is expected early next year and you do not need to be a genius to guess what it will decide.

Anyhow, this latest sorry chapter in the ongoing anti-left witch-hunt clearly exposes the class nature of the EHRC. Established in October 2007 at the initiative of Harriet Harman, a loyal minister in Tony Blair’s warmongering government, this superquango came stuffed full of progressive pretensions, the equalities watchdog’s brief was “the promotion and enforcement of equality and non-discrimination laws”. To this apparently laudable end, it took over the responsibilities of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission - not to mention other aspects of equality law: age, sexual orientation and religion or belief.

The EHRC has the powers to apply for judicial review and intervene in court proceedings, assess public authorities’ compliance with their positive equality duties and enter into “binding agreements” with employers, whereby - for instance - it can agree that they must commit to “equality best practice audits”, which sounds marvellous.

But that is enough of the fairy story, even if it bedazzles liberals and the dozy official left. Whilst the ERHC might have been set up by the Blairite right, it has been thoroughly colonised, first by the ConDem coalition government and then the subsequent Tory governments. Either way, there can be no doubt that the EHRC is an adjunct of the state. After all it is ministers who hire and fire board members.

There have been the usual petty scandals. Its last chair was David Isaac, whose tenure came to an end in August 2020. Prior to his appointment, two parliamentary committees warned that there was a potential conflict of interest, because his legal firm, Pinsent Masons, carries out “significant work for the government” - with Isaac conceding that his annual legal income of over £500,000 would dwarf the £50,000 he would earn from the EHRC. Nice work if you can get it. Concerned by this development, Christian Concern called for his appointment to be blocked. But Isaac was enthusiastically acclaimed by the rightwing Jewish Chronicle. In May 2019 another EHRC board member, Suzanne Baxter - nothing dodgy here - joined Isaac’s Pinsent Masons.

Then there is the inevitable identity politics assiduously promoted and so beloved by official society nowadays. Amusingly enough, at least for me, back in March 2017 the EHCR was criticised for allegedly “targeting” BAME staff for compulsory redundancies and for failing to appoint BAME personnel to senior positions. It was also said that there were “no visible minorities” among the senior management team. Until very recently, only one of the nine commissioners were BAME. Liz Truss, Johnson’s, minister for women and equalities, has, of course, moved to fix that and now the EHRC can pass itself off as a fit and proper anti-racist quango ... meanwhile the government presses ahead with plans to criminalise asylum seekers and refugees.

Outrage

However, outraging even mainstream opinion, amongst Truss’s latest batch of appointments is a certain David Goodhart. A former FT correspondent in Germany, he went on to help found Prospect magazine. Goodhart has written about himself as being an “old-Etonian-Marxist” in his youth. Of course, he has long ago left behind his “liberal London tribe”. Famously Trevor Phillips branded his views “liberal Powellite”. Nowadays, Goodhart serves as head of the immigration and integration unit at the Policy Exchange. Suffice to say, what marks him out is his opposition to “high immigration” because it weakens national cohesion.

Policy Exchange is itself a prominent libertarian think tank described by The Daily Telegraph - it should know - as “the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right”. Indeed, its reports “often inform government policy in Britain” - like possibly its 2017 paper, Clean Brexit, which argued that the UK should leave the European Economic Area and that the British economy could “thrive” trading under World Trade Organisation terms and tariffs. Sound familiar? Naturally, Policy Exchange is a registered charity and its funding has been described as “opaque” - all par for the course in this line of business.

Not surprisingly, Goodhart is a strong supporter of the “hostile environment” introduced in 2012 by the then home secretary, Theresa May. This is doubly ironic, as the EHRC is currently investigating the home office over its … yes, hostile environment policy towards migrants and the ensuing Windrush scandal. In various articles over the last few years, Goodhart has argued that these iniquitous policies should not be watered down, as “home office incompetence on Windrush is no reason to end the hostile environment”: the government “rightly tries to bear down on the corrosive, anti-social phenomenon of illegal immigration”.1 The Windrush “oversight”, he mused, was “probably down to an absence of institutional memory, combined with a lack of people with relevant life experience at the top of the department”.

Goodhart went on to remind us, going by his own statistics, that in 2018 there were possibly close to one million people living in the UK illegally and they are being added to at the rate of 70,000 or 80,000 a year. But it is “frustrating work” for Goodhart, because of all “the obstacles to removals” - meaning that, although enforcement costs £500 million a year and employs 5,000, “only about 12,000 people were removed against their will last year and half were criminals”. Just not good enough. He points the finger at - you guessed it - human rights law that give people “an incentive to spin out the asylum process in the hope that they can then qualify under the right to family life”. For him other problems include “too few detention centres” and the “non-cooperation of countries of origin”. Build more detention centres!

Further alienating liberal opinion, Goodhart has argued that “white self-interest is not same thing as racism”.2 Instead, he wants to distinguish between “white racism and white identity politics” - or white “racial self-interest”. The way forward, writes Goodhart, is “accepting that all groups, including whites, have legitimate cultural interests is the first step toward mutual understanding”. The problem, he thinks, is that “majority rights are uncharted territory for liberal democracies and it is not always clear what distinguishes legitimate group interest from racism”. Many in the white majority, it appears, “feel a discomfort about their group no longer setting the tone in a neighbourhood” and labelling that as racist “risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy driving white resentment”.

Yes, Goodhart acknowledges, minorities often have real grievances “requiring group-specific policy solutions”. But, he adds, “white grievances are more subtle” - like lower-income whites sometimes lacking “the mutual support that minority communities often enjoy”, leading to a “sense of loss and insecurity”. Goodhart sadly concludes that the “liberal reflex to tar legitimate majority grievances with the brush of racism risks deepening western societies’ cultural divides”.

Responding to the appointment, Halima Begum - director of the race equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust - said Goodhart’s appointment had “completely eroded her confidence” in the EHRC. Shocking! The Muslim Council of Britain are not impressed either, as Goodhart is not a “credible figure” - following a long line of government appointments of those who “either oppose or are sceptical of anti-racism efforts”. The Liberal Democrats too have railed against the appointment.

Demarcation

The appointment of David Goodhart ought to get the official left thinking about the EHRC report on the Labour Party. It won’t. They are far too cowardly. Too attached to party ‘unity’ and the ‘next Labour government’. But, the fact of the matter, is that the EHRC report is neither ‘fair’ nor ‘balanced’. It is a Tory report. A state report. Why on earth Jeremy Corbyn allowed the EHRC to freely investigate the Labour Party without vigorously objecting, without condemning the inevitable ‘findings’ well before they were published, only goes to show how pathetically weak, myopic and stupid he is. That Corbyn now says he fully accepts the report certainly shows that his main priority is saving himself. He shows no thought, no concern for the hundreds, the thousands, of the ‘lesser’ victims of this completely cynical witch-hunt.

Interestingly, as a footnote, Harriet Harman - in her capacity as chair of the parliamentary joint committee on human rights - published a report last week savaging the EHRC. We read, in ‘Black people, racism and human rights’, that the EHRC is “not fit for purpose”; fails to represent black people at its “top level”; has a built-in “asymmetry” in how it handles cases involving black people; has no interest in implementation, because it “doesn’t think it has a role in making sure anything actually happens with recommendations to protect black people’s human rights”; and “compares unfavourably” to the Commission for Racial Equality it replaced.

Jewish Voice for Labour ironically asks, will Starmer suspend the former interim leader for having the nerve to criticise the EHRC?3 No, of course not, because she is on the right of the party and accepts the slander that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism - she wants Corbyn’s head on a plate too, preferably served with an organic side salad.

The authentic left needs to draw a clear line of demarcation. The EHRC report was a Tory-state hatchet job aimed at Corbyn, the left and the very idea of socialism itself. It should have been rejected out of hand.

eddie.ford@weeklyworker.co.uk


  1. telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/04/17/home-office-incompetence-windrush-no-reason-end-hostile-environment.↩︎

  2. policyexchange.org.uk/white-self-interest-is-not-same-thing-as-racism.↩︎

  3. jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/ehrc-not-fit-for-purpose-in-protecting-black-rights.↩︎