By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
AS FURTHER PROOF that our leaders don’t know their cubitus from their fundament the NHS has just announced that it will introduce 50/50 male-female quotas across its boards. The reason is that women somehow, miraculously, and without any evidence, provide “a more collaborative style of leadership”, according to Helen Buckingham, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs, NHS Improvement (the job title says it all, doesn’t it?).
Equally miraculously and without any evidence is the belief that this style of leadership produces better results than the current one. “This isn’t about being politically correct, there is evidence that diverse boards make better decisions,” The Telegraph quotes Buckingham as saying. The first part of her statement is untrue, because this is entirely about enforcing the PC doctrine of equality, while the second part is unsubstantiated (and to my jaundiced eye looks like complete flannel).
I suppose because Buckingham is in a lofty managerial position she knows better than the rest of us and we have to take this on trust. Just as we have to take on trust her vague assertions that women have some special “skills” (again undefined) men don’t have and which are not being made use of, presumably because men are keeping women out of senior positions.
She is, she admits “generalising hugely” on the matter, something which is not usually permitted the male of the species since commenting on the differences between men and women is sexist, and, as Kevin Roberts, chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi has just discovered, a career-terminating action. Roberts suggested that sexism was no longer really an issue in the advertising world and that many women (and men, too) reach a certain point in their career beyond which they have no desire to rise. That was too much for the hystericrats of our brave new world. Roberts was a vile sexist heretic and had to go.
BUT THERE YOU have it: Roberts makes some comments based on his own experience of the industry and gets hammered; Buckingham makes waffly statements that would get a man sacked if he uttered them and she is given a free pass. Not just double standards, but sexist and not at all egalitarian.
And this is happening when the NHS is suffering its biggest deficit ever (£2.45 billion), its services generally creaking under numerous pressures. Many areas are finding it difficult or impossible to recruit GPs, others are unable to ensure their A&E departments will see patients within the four-hour zone because they do not have enough doctors, and others are struggling to cope with regular demands. The A&E department in Grantham, for instance, will have to close in the evening for three months because it cannot manage, leaving patients a journey of up to 20 miles to the nearest hospital.
Yet the bigwigs are faffing about with this PC nonsense. How will we know if their efforts succeed? We won’t. There is no way of measuring the success or failure of such nonsense. One thing we can be sure of, though, is that however much equality they introduce, it will never be enough. As Robert A Nesbit correctly divined years ago (“The New Despotism”): “Vast systems labelled affirmative action or open admissions must be instituted. And then, predictably, it is discovered that even these are not enough.” They will not be enough because “Equality feeds on itself as no other single social value.” It also means jobs for the girls as well as the boys.
In fact we already know the next step: The senior official said the quota – which will be set across the whole of the NHS, rather than on individual boards – would be followed by efforts to employ more senior leaders from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.
We can only hope the geniuses working through this febrile correctitude can find the perfect algorithm to calculate the ratios for all these categories. Perhaps they could borrow it from the BBC who embarked on this crusade a couple of years ago.
While you’re waiting for them to achieve this nirvana of equality and diversity just make sure you don’t fall ill. Either that or have the decency to die before you get to hospital.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.