Esther McVey vs the diversitycrats

The ‘minister for common sense’ is right to take on wokeness in the civil service.

Elliot Keck

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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Be grateful for Esther McVey, the UK government’s ‘minister for common sense’ since November. It may feel a little late, but McVey has declared war on wokeness in government – and it’s gratifying to see a minister take on this divisive ideology.

McVey, whose proper title is minister without portfolio, has announced that she plans to put a stop to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) bureaucracy in the civil service. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, she promises that ‘there will be no more dedicated (or standalone) EDI jobs in the civil service outside of HR… no more staff dedicating 100 per cent of their time to EDI work’.

There will also be new guidance that will ‘cease all external EDI spending across the civil service unless it is specifically signed off and cleared by ministers’. The departments that spend the most on EDI will be identified and pulled into meetings, to find out exactly where the money is going. There will also be restrictions on rainbow lanyards and other ways in which our supposedly neutral civil servants covertly signal their political beliefs.

The Tories have failed to fulfil many of their anti-woke promises, so cynics can be forgiven for not taking McVey at her word. Yes, EDI has flourished under the Conservatives’ watch. Yes, they’ve had 14 years to do something about it. But these reforms are still very much welcome.

For too long, the diversity industry has wrought havoc at all levels of the public sector. What began as an attempt to remove barriers from historically disadvantaged groups has grown into a thriving grievance industry, forced to stoke divisions to justify its own existence. We have been paying diversity teams to tell departments that their structures, processes and policies are racist, homophobic and misogynistic – all on the basis of spurious ideology. Then come the endless recommendations. The gender-neutral toilets, the rainbow lanyards, the inclusive-language training schemes. There’s no end to it.

Research we conducted at the Taxpayers’ Alliance has uncovered that millions of pounds are being spent on these woke excesses. In 2022, the civil service splashed out £300,000 on networks dedicated to such characteristics as ‘neurodivergence’, ‘LGBT+’ and ‘LGBT+ Allies’. Thousands of hours of Whitehall time have been wasted on events hosted by these networks, including talks on ‘being queer and living your truth’ and ‘she / they breakfast’ events. Around £200,000 was spent on gender-neutral toilets for staff in 2022. And that’s just within the civil service.

Herein lies the real problem. As laudable as McVey’s announcement is, it only scratches the surface. This culture has spread well beyond Westminster. Woke ideology is deeply entrenched in quangos, councils, NHS trusts, fire services and police forces. Last year, these various organs of the state spent over £500,000 on Pride month alone. What did taxpayers get in return? Well, the state is now the proud owner of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of LGBT-themed merchandise, including flags, selfie frames, glitter tattoos, lanyards, face paints and tablecloths. Wolverhampton Council purchased three kilometres of rainbow bunting.

This raises an important question. If EDI roles and initiatives are bad for Whitehall and the civil service, why do we need them in the NHS, councils and the rest? Town halls have spent £52million on EDI jobs in the past three years alone. Within the NHS, 111 trusts spent £13million between them on EDI roles.

Now, some of the EDI exercises and action plans that civil servants and councils produce are legally required by the Equality Act 2010. But these requirements have taken on a life of their own, morphing into the bureaucratic leviathan we see today. They can be pared back. As McVey writes, ‘all EDI roles within the civil service will be consolidated into their department’s HR teams’, so that they can focus on ‘their statutory obligations around EDI’. In other words, civil-service HR departments will be forced to do the bare minimum required under the Equality Act.

This is no mortal blow to the sprawling EDI industry. But it’s a start. For too long, the civil service has been dominated by activists who care more about how superficially diverse their co-workers are than how good they are at their job. It’s about time we kicked out the diversitycrats and put taxpayers’ money to much better use.

Elliot Keck is head of campaigns at the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Picture by: Gareth Milner, published under a creative commons licence.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK


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