Daniel Trilling’s recently published book on the British far right, Bloody Nasty People, offers an interesting window into the mentality of some conservatives (p 61). The Monday Club, a grouping on the left of the Conservative Party, was in 1986 committed to ending “New Commonwealth and Pakistan immigration, a properly financed system of voluntary repatriation, the repeal of the Race Relations Act and the abolition of the Commission for Racial Equality.”
Fast forward to 2012 and it is without doubt that the Conservatives have shed the worst excesses of the racist wing: the New Conservative reign of David Cameron installed a new, kinder and egalitarian edge to conservative politics. But for all the desire to emerge from its image problem as the ‘nasty party’ both for political reasons but also, in my view, because of a genuine change in the party, it remains the case that the Conservatives have an continuing issue with equality. A cursory look at the major pieces of UK legislation, listed below, show that the overwhelming majority are initiated by Labour governments:
- Equal Pay Act 1970 -Conservative
- Sex Discrimination Act 1975 -Labour
- Race Relations Act 1976 – Labour
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995 -Conservative
- Human Rights Act 1998 -Labour
- Civil Partnerships Act 2004 -Labour
- Gender Recognition Act 2004 – Labour
- Employment Equality (Age) Regulation 2006 -Labour
- Employment Equality (religion or belief) Regulation 2006 -Labour
- Equality Act 2006 – Labour
- Public Sector Duty for Gender Equality 2006 – Labour
- Equality Act 2010 – Labour
Like the Monday club before it, the current Conservative-led government, as the Liberal Democrat Councillor Lester Holloway shows, is now embarked on a campaign of dismantling the Equality Commission (the successor to the Commission for Racial Equality) and the very guarantees of legal protection for all citizens the previous government legislated (one of the very few positive achievements to come out of the New Labour administration).
While they not be so nasty in person it is clear that the nasty party never really went away; they just got more PR savvy.