The personal is political

Baroness Chakrabarti – the British human rights activist who joined the Labour Party last year and is now shadow attorney general – claims “austerity is a feminist issue.” Henceforth women, disproportionately punished by cuts in social spending, must press for ‘gender neutral’ government budgets.  Regrettably, throwing a hijab over the class struggle is unlikely to end exploitation.

“Woman is the nigger of the world” proclaimed Yoko Ono half a century ago; “slave to the slaves” added Lennon. The Women’s Liberation Movement recognising “the personal is political”, connected the dots perceptively.

Not much has changed. Women’s unpaid work is estimated at almost half of global GDP, a crucial contribution to capitalism’s increasingly shaky profitability. In 2013, 49.1 % of the world’s working women were in vulnerable employment, often unprotected by labour legislation, compared to 46.9 % of men. Black and Hispanic women in the US are paid 9% less than their male counterparts and 30 to 40 % less than white men. For the majority of women, significant gains in education have not led to an increase in wages.

Baroness Chakbrati’s two-minute video for International Women’s Day reminded women that they remain at the bottom of the pile. But – judging from the comments – the idea that gender inequality can be audited away has not caught fire. Instead many felt the attempt to feminise austerity was divisive. Puggyboy wrote:

I think this article sums up for me what is so wrong with identity politics. Yes, it’s true that you can divide a population by gender and show that a particular budget affects one gender more than the other. But then you can divide by: disabled vs non-disabled; high income vs low income; North vs South etc etc. In most of these cases you’ll find inequality. Labelling this as a feminist issue is saying that the gender inequality is somehow more important that other inequalities. Whereas a much wiser approach would be to show solidarity with parts of our society that routinely miss out. Otherwise it turns into a rather sad competition to see who is the most hard-done by. I think it better to recognise our common humanity, and empathise with all groups that are treated unfairly.

Erasmus56 described the post as “self-parody”; Upton differed: “Sadly not – it will be lapped up by the London-centric falafel-munchers”  Going with the flow Petsbreakfast said the baroness was a patronising careerist with zero credibility who epitomised the “sanctimonious, right-on, self righteous metropolitan elite.”  SmartestRs, likewise, pulled no punches: “I am afraid that any intervention by Ms Chakrabarti leaves me stone cold. She is a prime example of champagne socialism. Austerity is not gender specific.”  And CL0009 observed:

She has clearly learned nothing from Brexit and Trump — seeking to abstractly divide men and women who are being fed through the economic meat grinder doesn’t work.

There is little doubt that a vicious media campaign to discredit Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his closest aides, has influenced public perceptions of the baroness. The claim that she was nominated for a peerage by Corbyn in return for “whitewashing” anti-Semitism within the party is patently untrue. It’s a shame she did not expose the allegations of anti-Semitism as baseless fabrications. But of course offending the Zionist coterie is a perilous enterprise.

Pel74 suggested the baroness go back to Liberty, the human rights organisation she used to head. Clearly readers were grateful for a piece last month in which she warned that a  Law Commission consultation on protecting official data could result in whistleblowers being silenced.

The provisional recommendations include sentencing provisions stipulating draconian jail sentences, which place leaking and whistleblowing in the same category as spying for foreign powers. According to the proposals, these sentences would apply to any leaker, whether or not they were a British citizen or operating within the UK. More alarmingly still, the commission says there should be no statutory public interest defence for anyone accused of the offences. Threatened by such grave consequences and offered little-to-no legal protection, it is surely more than we can ask of any journalist or genuine whistleblower to come forward in order to protect the public interest.

This is sinister but there is every reason to believe the rot has already set in. By way of illustration, I claimed the BBC had dismissed me for upholding the editorial and ethical values the Corporation insists all employees follow scrupulously. The matter was finally decided in the Court of Appeal in July 2014 in a judgment that suggests class is still a determinant of justice. Stonewalled by the human rights milieu, I wrote to Baroness Chakrabarti for help on 1 October 2016.

Thank you for forthrightly voicing your disapproval of Jeremy Corbyn’s cowardly treatment by politicians and hacks. Two reports about bullying at the BBC – and a mass of anecdotal evidence -suggest many of us are now being mugged in broad daylight and in cold blood, albeit more surreptitiously. The growing support for Jeremy reflects, not least, concern about the new normal in which decency has been displaced by hypocrisy and spin.
I have been trying to clarify whether the UK is in breach of a treaty obligation imposed by the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide adequate protection for freedom of thought and conscience in the workplace. Philosophical beliefs attract protection under the Equalities Act 2010. In Maistry v BBC a belief in BBC Values was found to be a philosophical belief (EJ Pauline Hughes 29 March 2011 Case No: 1313142/2010).
However Lord Justice Underhill’s judgment in Maistry v BBC [2014] EWCA Civ 1116 (9 July 2014) suggests establishing a philosophical belief is quite pointless. As I understand it, Lord Justice Underhill is saying that for discrimination to be possible mere knowledge of the relevant belief does not suffice. The alleged discriminator must be aware that such a belief is held as a philosophical belief. This however can only be established under cross-examination by a tribunal. Until then any alleged discriminator can simply claim to be unaware of a philosophical belief. If this Court of Appeal decision is followed claimants would have to prove what is impossible; that at the relevant time the alleged discriminator had knowledge of a philosophical belief.
Here is the crucial passage from the judgment:
“13. The Applicant’s essential answer, as I have said, is that it was impossible that the individuals in question could have been unaware of his belief in BBC values given that they are pervasive in the BBC, and perhaps also because he had, in the case of the disputes which gave rise to the acts of complaint or acts complained of, referred to those values, as the Tribunal acknowledged in the passage that I have read. But I am afraid to say that I do not believe that it is arguable that a generalised assumption that senior management employees will subscribe to BBC values can be equated with the knowledge that a particular employee has a philosophical belief in those values. That is not the same thing. The fact that to the applicant those values constituted a belief with similar status and cogency to a religious belief does not mean that will be so in every case. To others it might indeed be no more than their employer’s mission statement about the values that they were expected to observe at work.”
Some may regard Lord Justice Underhill’s argument itself as patronising and discriminatory. More urgently despite the increasing focus on human rights I have been unable to raise any interest in what appears to be a flaw in the legislation or its interpretation. I should mention that the judgment barred any appeal to the Supreme Court and that my application was swiftly dismissed by the European Court of Human Rights. A review of the relevant legislation undertaken by Oxford Brookes University for the Equality and Human Rights Commission omitted consideration of Lord Justice Underhill’s judgment. However, Professor Peter Edge, one of the authors of the report said: “I think we are still awaiting a decision which properly engages with the issues raised by your case at appellate level, but suspect it will come!”
I spoke to my MP Khalid Mahmood but have not received any response. Further emails have been ignored. The Labour Campaign for Human Rights says the case “falls outside the remit of the campaigns we are currently working on.” I responded to the call for evidence by Human Rights Check for its Joint Civil Society Report to the UN Periodic Review. Unfortunately, the Report includes no reference to my complaints. Or my suggestion that entrusting tribunals with a monopoly of the fact finding mission is encouraging capricious and arbitrary decisions. I attach my submission to Human Rights Check to provide an overview of Maistry v BBC which I believe provides valuable insight into the pervasive abuse of power that is now a disturbing feature of our society.

I wrote to Baroness Chakrabarti again at the end of October, and then in December. There has been no reply. The personal is still political.


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