Reported in the press today that a teenage science student has been banned from applying for a training programme with the Environment Agency because she is white and English. The recruitment agency told Abigail Howarth, 18, that there was no point in her submitting an application because of her ethnic background. If she'd been white and Welsh, or white and Scottish, or white and Polish - that would have been OK. This discrimination is only being applied to the English.
Abigail Howarth wanted to join the Environment Agency's flood management programme - presumably this bright girl saw the advantages of being the only person with any intelligence in a conspicuously failing organisation - and she was attracted by an advert in a local newspaper offering positions in the Anglia region where she lives, complete with a £13,000-a-year tax-free grant. It made no mention of the ban on white English applicants, merely noting that candidates from ethnic minorities, such as "Asian, Indian" and "White, Other" were encouraged to put themselves forward.
Abigail, who is awaiting the results of A-levels in environmental science, geography and geology, emailed PATH National Ltd, the company handling applications. She asked: "Am I correct in assuming that as I am English (White) I need not apply as the preference is for the minorities you have listed, or can I apply anyway?'
Three days later, PATH recruitment officer, Bola Odusi, replied: "Thank you for your enquiry, unfortunately the traineeship opportunity is targeted towards the ethnic minority group to address their under-representation in the professions under the Race Relations Act amended 2000."
Such a policy may breach Race Relations legislation as employers must prove ethnic groups are under-represented before using positive discrimination strategies. The Environment Agency admitted it had 'no evidence that white Welsh, Scottish or Irish workers were under-represented' in the Anglia region. South West Bedfordshire Tory MP Andrew Selous said: "I think this is complete nonsense and the Environment Agency should be taking the best people, irrespective of their background. This is obviously borne out of some idiotic quota system. Abigail should have been able to apply and been judged on her own merits. I will raise this when I have a meeting with the Environment Agency next month."
PATH National's organisational development manager, Mary McDowell, said: "The "White Welsh", "White Irish" and "White Scottish" is a technicality in law - if they are a minority, they are entitled to places on these schemes - they are not part of the majority group, which is "White English". The "White English" in this area are the majority group and hence could not apply. That is the way the law is laid. Public-sector organisations have a duty to ensure they reflect the make-up of the society they serve."
The GOS finds this surprising. He would have thought that public-sector organisations had a duty to do their job - in the case of this particular department, flood prevention. But evidently he's got it wrong. Never mind thousands of English people with no drinking water, their houses and furniture ruined. The real task of the flood prevention department is to ensure that a few members of ethnic minorities get jobs, and that intelligent and personable English girls don't.
Interesting, though, this thing about white Scots or white Welshmen. Apparently they're ethnic minorities now, with all that entails. They can now get preferential treatment in the English jobs market, and no doubt a free council house, double benefits and the right to be offended if anyone humorously mentions the words "haggis" or "sheep".
But what would be the position if The GOS moved to Stirling or Aberystwyth? He'd be an ethnic minority then, wouldn't he? So would the Scots or the Welsh give him preferential treatment in the job market?
Would they b*gg*ry. The last Englishman we knew who got a teaching job in Wales was hounded out of the school within a year - and not by yobbish kids or ignorant parents, but by the other teachers.
The GOS says: Just run this past me again … the flood management agency which was powerless to do anything to prevent the recent flooding in the west is offering somebody £13,000 a year to go to university, and then presumably a nice little job afterwards? Most university courses last three years, so £39,000 of public money is being spent to ensure that the agency has at least one ethnic person, preferably English-speaking but definitely not actually English, whose job will be explaining why it is not their fault.
As for Abigail, she can come and look after the Grumpy Flood Defences any time she likes. I suppose that's the one good thing in this sad story - I'm willing to bet she won't be out of a job for long …
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