You’ve got a friend…


As Madam Miaow reports, things haven’t been going too well for Trevor Phillips over at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Although Harriet Harman has just re-appointed Clever Trevor to a further three-year term heading the super-quango, his fellow commissioners seem less than enamoured of Trev’s leadership style. Six out of eighteen have resigned in the last few months, most recently Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, which is significant in itself given Stonewall’s proven willingness to roll over and have its tummy tickled by New Labour. If those guys are pissed off, something must be wrong somewhere.

Reasons given centre around Trev’s management style, which will be entirely plausible given his Birtist background. There have been complaints about his tendency to go on the Andrew Marr show and come out with some sweeping but half-baked pronunciamento – say, on the ideology of multiculturalism, or the internal dynamics of Muslim communities – that his hard-pressed officials then have to work hard to turn into something resembling a coherent policy. (It sounds a bit like the way the late Tony Cliff used to run the SWP, and God knows that was enervating enough.) This sort of thinking aloud would be fine, perhaps, if Trev was running a think-tank like Demos or the IPPR, but maybe not quite as much of an asset when you’re the chief executive of a statutory agency.

It has also been alleged that Trev views himself not as the EHRC’s representative to the outside world, but as New Labour’s representative to the EHRC. Almost as if, in addition to Harriet Harman and Maria Eagle being the parliamentary ministers for equality, Trev is a sort of supernumerary minister.

But hark! What do we read in today’s Mail?

Peter Mandelson tried to persuade equality champion Trevor Phillips to quit by making him a Minister as ‘compensation’ – but the plan was vetoed by Gordon Brown, it was claimed last night.

Deputy Prime Minister Harriet Harman was also said to be involved in the desperate attempt to avoid reappointing Mr Phillips as chief executive of the troubled Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Ms Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, reportedly insisted that any new job found for Mr Phillips would be of equivalent status.

Mr Phillips would have received a peerage in order to join the Government. But Business Secretary Lord Mandelson’s plan was rejected by the Prime Minister, according to the respected and influential magazine Equal Opportunities Review.

This would be the same Lord Mandelson who was Trev’s best man. Such is the incestuous world of the political class.

The journal also published the findings of a leaked report which reinforces claims that staff at the Commission have lost confidence in Mr Phillips. A total of 365 of the 404 permanent staff took part in the questionnaire.

Asked if ‘considering everything, are you satisfied with the Commission at present’, only one in five said yes.

Staff were given a string of questions about the organisation’s leadership and, again, fewer than one in five gave a positive response.

Dear God, it calls to mind the blatant jobbery of the Lloyd George administration. By this account, we have a Harman-Mandelson plan to ease Trev out of his sinecure by offering him… another sinecure, in this case a peerage and ministry. It really isn’t what you know, is it? Next thing you know, Sir Fred Goodwin will be turning up as a Treasury minister.

Meanwhile, what is all this doing for the benefit of the ethnic minorities, women, gays, disabled and all the other myriad of constituencies the EHRC is supposed to be looking after? If the first response to come into your mind is “frig all”, you are not just a pretty face. Nor are you Trevor Phillips.


  1. Cian O'Connor said,

    August 3, 2009 at 11:03 am

    From memory, one of the first things Phillips did upon taking over was to reduce the importance of the disability rights commission. Which rather says it all about his appointment. Almost from the outset the few people I know in the disability rights world were very very angry about his appointment, and in particular his management style. If what I was told was even half accurate I’m surprised its taken this long.

  2. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 3, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    It takes a rare diplomatic talent to have alienated just about every constituency he’s supposed to be doing advocacy for. I don’t know anyone who could have succeeded so brilliantly at uniting the rainbow coalition against him. Then again, at least they didn’t go for Bea Campbell.

  3. Gaina said,

    August 10, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    As a disabled person myself I was none too please at the idea of losing the DRC, but if it had to be sucked into this ‘super quango’ as you so rightly call it, then should have left Bernard Massey in charge of the disability matters within the EHRC.

    But no, they do what they always do (and I’m talking about previous governments too here) they install someone who has all the PC credentials and may have completed hours of ‘awareness traning’ but doesn’t actually know squat about the day to day reality of *living* as a disabled/gay/black person to tell us what we need and how we should run our lives.

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