Today we learn that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has decided to drop it’s investigation into Tory Islamophobia because the Tories have told them they’re doing their own “independent” investigation.
In an attempt to understand the thought process behind such a decision, given that the EHRC didn’t consider dropping their investigation into alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, despite the fact that the Labour Party undertook their own extensive investigation, Spotlight have taken a look into the EHRC and the background of some of the people involved in the decision making process.
PROFILE: Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Isaac & Rebecca Hilsenrath:
- Although the EHRC is a non-departmental public body (NDPB), it is government funded.
- In April 2016, the Guardian reported that the then Tory Minister for Women & Equalities, Nicky Morgan, was under fire for appointing David Isaac, a wealthy city lawyer whose firm works for the government, as chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Harriet Harman, chair of parliament’s joint committee on human rights said at the time that this was a serious conflict of interest because “the EHRC often took cases against the government” and Isaac’s firm often represented the government, This even including work for the DWP. Concerns were ignored and Isaac was appointed chair.
- In December 2016, Harriet Harman wrote directly to David Isaac, the new chair of the EHRC and raised her concerns over the fact G4S had been awarded the contract for the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) and that they had taken over the management of the EASS Helpline. She noted that she was also aware that the EHRC had a representative on the helplines management board so she knew they were involved in the supervision of the service. She goes on to say that she’s had complaints about the quality of service by G4S employees and that there was evidence of a loss of trust in the service. Interestingly, she adds near the end of her letter that she had also been made aware that there may have been something untoward about the way the government procured the service in the first place.
- In May 2016, the Jewish Chronicle boasted that the Chairman of the EHRC, David Isaac and the Chief Executive of the EHRC, Rebecca Hilsenrath, represented “a strong Jewish presence at the top of Britain’s equality watchdog”. Perhaps this explains their eagerness to investigate allegations of anti-Semitism and their apparent disinterest in investigating Islamophobia or other forms of prejudice and inequality.
- David Isaac, an OxBridge graduate, supports a Tory think tank and pressure group called ‘Bright Blue’
- Isaac is a partner at, as well as the Global Sector Head for, Advanced Manufacturing & Technology at Pinsent Masons, an international law firm specializing in the energy, infrastructure, financial services, real estate and advanced manufacturing and technology sectors. Pinsent Masons are ranked in the top 100 law firms in the world by turnover (Revenue: 432.1 million GBP for 2016–2017) and they are government lawyers.
- In May 2016, award winning journalist David Hencke wrote… “the EHRC is becoming part of the new nasty Britain. It will issue fine words but do nothing practical about the plight of people because it won’t have the staff to do it. It is all part of turning the country into a place where the wealthy feel comfortable and the rest have to scavenge to survive. The only added twist is that the well paid people at the top of this pyramid at the ECHR are being paid out of ordinary people’s taxes.”. Hencke had learnt that David Isaac had made the decision to sack 30 of the lowest paid workers at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a “racist and cruel” act in Hencke’s eyes as most of the employees were black and/or disabled. Hencke similarly expressed concerns about Rebecca Hilsenrath, who he said was also a highly paid executive (on £105,000 a year). Incidentally, Hencke also noted another interesting fact in his article when he pointed out that, although Hilsenrath was on £105,000 a year, this was still £30,000 a year less than her male predecessor. It wont escape anyone’s attention that this is the ‘Equality and Human Rights Commission’ we’re talking about.
- Rebecca Hilsenrath, a Cambridge Law graduate, was Legal Adviser to the Treasury Solicitor’s Department from April 2001 and August 2008 (During the Blair/Brown years). The Treasury Solicitor’s Department was “the non-ministerial government department that provided legal services to the majority of central government departments and often represented government departments and other publicly funded bodies in England and Wales.” Does look as though conflict of interest doesn’t even factor into the governments decision making process when appointing senior exec.
- On a weird note, on the 19th April 2019, the Sun newspaper reported that the EHRC payroll figures showed that they paid white staff, on average, £1,000 more than ethnic minority employees and that women were also paid significantly less than men, giving the example that “Male BME employees typically earn £43,273 to female BME staff’s £40,510”. I realise this is the Sun newspaper I’m referencing here so I do have some reservations as to how credible the data is but, if its not true then they’ve gone to some extent to fabricate the story by giving such precise figures instead of just vague percentages?
- Finally, another interesting fact is that on the 16th May 2019 (shortly before the EHRC announced a probe into Labour’s alleged AntiSemitism problem), Sarah Sackman, the Vice-chair of the Jewish Labour Movement was appointed to the EHRC’s panel of lawyers.
Knowing everything we now know about the EHRC and their senior staff, I think it’s fair to say that their decision to drop the investigation into Tory party Islamophobia was predictable, to say the least.