Labour did it for female parliamentary candidates, senior police offers have asked to change the law to do it, the judiciary recently stated it was the type of radical way foreward that was necessary and now it is suggested that the Civil Service should adopt it. We are talking about positive discrimination. In the case of the Civil Service it is to address the under representation by people of colour in senior posts. They do it in the US and as we know many senior public posts in major cites are occupied by people of colour the obvious example being the president. So positive discrimination does appear to work in ensuring senior public posts are more representative of the people they serve. And yet no one would claim the US is a more equal society, people of colour are disproportionately represented in the poorest groups within society, disproportionately represented amongst the unemployed or on low income and disproportionate represented amongst those with a significantly lower life expectancy. It would appear that on its own positive discrimination whether for university places, job opportunities or senior public sector posts does not address inequality in the wider society nor does has it proved effective in tackling racist attitudes and racial profiling.
Then again positive discrimination does not set out to change society the aim is to ensure that senior posts in the public sector represent the diverse society we live in more accurately. Positive discrimination says they should be more black judges, more black senior police officers,more black mayors more black MPs and more black people in the top NHS posts. Until there is some sections of the community will not have confidence in these institutions. It is also clear that if radical action is not taken then the racial profile of these public sector organisations will change very slowly indeed and that before it does public confidence and trust will have long since been irreparably damaged.
So yes to positive discrimination and quotas, yes to all women short list for MPs and yes to all black short lists for judges, senior police officers, senior civil servants and top NHS posts until their numbers represent the national population profile.
Blair McPherson author of An elephant in the room- about equality and diversity in the public sector published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk