My hovercraft is full of “PC gone mad” scares

Sunday has always been a slow day for newspapers, hence the venerable old tradition of the Sunday document leak. The newspapers find a few fairly uninteresting reports, blow them out of all proportion, and voilà! Instant front page (picture via @JonathanHaynes).

Today’s Mail on Sunday exclusive, which took the joint efforts of both Jonathan Petre and Chris Hastings to write, can be summed up by its over-long headline:

EQUALITY MADNESS: Government spends £30m to discover whether preserving fish stocks harms ethnic Chinese, or hovercraft discriminate against gays

Gays on hovercraft? Chinese fishermen? How mad!

The gist of the article is simple enough: the Mail claims that because of the Equality Act 2010, the government has wasted taxpayers money on “bizarre reports” – supposedly to the tune of £30 million. But how “mad” are these reports, anyway? Let’s go through each of the documents the Mail calls “bizarre” and see.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) paid £100,000 to consultants who produced a report investigating how efforts to boost Britain’s coastal fish stocks would affect minority communities including the Chinese, homosexuals and Welsh speakers.

That refers to this document: Draft UK Marine Policy Statement: Equalities Impact Assessment Screening report. The only time Chinese people, gay people and Welsh speakers are mentioned is once in a piece of boilerplate listing various groups that live in Britain (and yes, that includes white people and men) and asking whether any of them might be affected, with the answer of course being “No”. According to the Mail, “the assessment was a ‘small part’ of the total work by Hyder Consulting, for which it was paid £111,477,” though that doesn’t stop them insinuating that every single penny of that hundred grand was spend ticking one checklist.


The Department for Transport issued a study this month looking at harassment and discrimination on ships and hovercraft. The report covered a range of groups, including transsexuals.

So it’s ships and hovercraft? Why are you just focusing on hovercraft then, Mail on Sunday? Oh wait, it’s because hovercraft are inherently silly, which means homophobic or transphobic abuse on board them is also silly!

The study itself mostly seems to be dealing with clarifying whether the Equality Act should apply to all British flagged vessels, whether it should apply to all vessels in British waters, that sort of thing. A bit of space is also dedicated to making sure disabled people have access to ships – as you can imagine, ships are often not very wheelchair friendly. Transgender people are only mentioned once, in some standard boilerplate, which, again, is just saying “We foresee no special problems for transgender people using ships, no further action is necessary.

Officials at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport [carried] out a so-called ‘equality impact assessment’ to ensure minority groups are able to take a full part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations next summer.

This seems to be based on a piece that the Mail got caught plagiarising from a blog last month (the report itself is not out yet). Not sure why that’s meant to be bizarre. After all, The Mail‘s always going on about how immigrants should integrate with British society more. You’d think they’d love the idea!

The Department of Energy and Climate Change [issued] a report last month assessing whether a range of groups, including people in civil partnerships, had been unfairly treated when it suspended its £300 million scheme to help people insulate their homes.

And it turned out that some people – in particular, pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled – were being unfairly treated (civil partnership, incidentally, was only mentioned in the context of “Marriage and civil partnership”). So this report helped mitigate negative effects on vulnerable groups! What the hell is wrong with that, Mail?

Government officials [undertook] a study into India’s traditional caste system and its implications for discrimination in the UK.

Again, the Mail always talks about making sure immigrants integrate. Given that the report found that there was caste-based discrimination going on in the UK, and suggested ways to stop it, surely they’d agree that this report was not “bizarre” at all, right?

The promotion of the first leadership course specifically for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual National Health Service managers.

This seems to be referring to the Stonewall NHS Leadership Programme. Lots of other groups run their own NHS Leadership Programmes, so I’m not sure why Stonewall should be left out. At any rate, it has nothing to do with the Equality Act.

The Department for Work and Pensions publish[ed] a report into whether proposed changes to its scheme to help disabled people find jobs would have implications on a range of issues from religion to gender reassignment.

Once again, religion and gender assignment were both just mentioned in boilerplate, in passing. The report did find that there may be a low uptake to the Access to Work scheme from people from ethnic minorities, which is why they’re working on making sure people from ethnic minorities weren’t being denied employment opportunities. Where the report was really important was making sure that changing the way the scheme worked wouldn’t negatively affect disabled people.

Kent Police [issued] fresh equality guidance earlier this month, to comply with the Act, saying that transsexual staff are protected as soon as they start to dress, behave or live ‘in the gender they identify with’.

I can’t find the document in question, but a note clarifying a point of law doesn’t seem especially bad.

And last but not least, their final example of “equality madness”?

Another Home Office initiative, Blow The Whistle On Gay Hate, encourages victims of homophobia to go to the police.

Yeah, how utterly dreadful! People who are victims of crimes going to the police? Whatever next!

In short, every single claim of “Equality madness” has been twisted out of proportion by the Mail, trying to spin a scandal out of a few mundane government documents, hoping readers won’t look too closely at the small print.

Edit: Press Not Sorry has a great follow up piece: Daily Mail wants to get off the equality hovercraft: Homosexuality. Go and read it!


  1. #1 by Rankersbo on Sunday, 23rd January 2011 - 8:15 GMT+0100

    On the last bit, there seems to be an unwillingness to see the whole of humanity as a varying shades of gray, with very few being utter scumbag black, and totally angelic white. In terms of criminal morality they seem to see people divided into law abiding citizens like themselves, and scumbag criminals like serial killers and rapists. They don’t see the gradual slope between them and people in prison, and prefer to imagine a wide gulf.

    It seems to fit round this mentality they define the sort of crime “everyone” does like speeding, etc as not really crime at all. I think the statement there is appealing to that viewpoint.

  2. #2 by Alison O'Connor on Monday, 24th January 2011 - 7:39 GMT+0100

    I loved this piece. It just confirmed (again) that the Mail and other newspapers are so biased for whatever reason I don’t know. Who are they to twist things to reflect their own very weird agenda? When ever I see the words *political correctness* I think to myself “Oh you mean good manners and fairness” but then I’m old fashioned like that and think that those things matter

  1. Tweets that mention My hovercraft is full of “PC gone mad” scares « Atomic Spin --
  2. Daily Mail wants to get off the equality hovercraft: Homosexuality « Press Not Sorry

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