Judicial Diversity: Where there’s no will, there’s no way

The Government’s response to David Lammy’s recommendation for the recruitment of Judges from ethnic minorities is as disappointing as it is predictable. David Liddington, the latest Justice Secretary, claimed today that setting targets “was the wrong way” saying instead “you need to look at the critical path of how people get into the legal profession in the first place". This solution would seem to require the elimination of all discrimination and disadvantage in schools and universities, thus kicking the can down the road for another 30 years. Liddington could form a double act with Lord “50 years before judicial equality between the sexes” Sumption. Decades of listening to this particular debate have left me with the belief that nothing will happen until we really, really want it to. It’s not like there aren’t solutions out there, how about:

  • Targets: tell your recruitment panels they should aim for 10% BME appointments and 50% women. At the end of each year, see how they got on. Telling people they’re being watched makes them try harder.
  • Learning from around the world: In American Football the Rooney Rule obliged all teams to interview at least one black candidate when choosing a new coach, and lead to a dramatic increase in the appointment of black coaches.
  • All women shortlists: Condemned by its critics as leading to the women selected being regarded as second rate. Really? Try this simple test. Name one female Labour MP who was chosen from an all women shortlist. Without looking it up. Unless you are such an MP [or were part of the selection process], I’ll bet you can’t 

Would such action cause unbearable resentment amongst those who would feel they might otherwise have been appointed? I will accept the need for caution and elaborate care to avoid stirring up divisions and prejudice amongst white working class men, but I’m damned if a bit of grousing at the bar in the Garrick should derail attempts to arrive at equality and justice. Anyway, speaking as a white man myself, at least this way I’d know any appointment I managed to achieve was based on merit.

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