Saturday 2 October 2010

It's the end of the world as Dacre knows it

Its a toys out of the pram Saturday as the Daily Mail mourns the DEATH OF THE OFFICE JOKE in an excitable front-page splash about the impending apocalypse, as the new Equality Act came into law yesterday.

From the opening sentence - "Draconian new equality laws could spell the end of the office joke" - the report seems to lack much firm footing, though all of the standard elements of fear, foreboding and not massively well informed quotes from Phillip Davies MP are put through their paces anyway.

Tory MP Philip Davies said the decision to press ahead with Labour’s Equality Act showed the ‘politically correct consensus is still alive and well in Government’.

Mr Davies said: ‘This is Harriet Harman’s politically correct legacy, full of stuff that is completely barmy to most people. It will be the end of the office joke' ... [blah, blah] ... albatross round their necks.’

The evil Harriet is to blame - though what really gets Mr Dacre's goat is that the Coalition are willing to be "heirs to Harman" in implementing (most of) the law which they supported:

Ministers yesterday announced that the vast bulk of Labour’s controversial Equality Act would be implemented immediately, despite concerns about its impact on business and office life.

The legislation, championed by Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman, introduces a bewildering range of rights which allow staff to sue for almost any perceived offence they receive in the workplace.


While the Daily Mail overstates the legal effects. Over time, the Act may help to promote and entrench a positive culture shift towards equality.

For example, I very much doubt the Act provides any effective legal remedy to challenge the Mail's Taliban-lite "Dacre Rules" over what women may and may not wear if they are to appear in his newspapers, as Rachel Johnson has described.

"No black," she pronounced. "Dacre Rules. Sorry. Can you put on something else?" I scurried upstairs obediently to change. Emptying my wardrobe on to the bed, I settled on some jeans and a Cacharel shirt with a strawberry print. The photographer frowned as I came back down into the kitchen.

"No jeans," she said. "No black. No trousers. Paul Dacre only wants women to appear wearing dresses. If skirts, only to the knee."

That may just sound like an "office joke" - except he is deadly serious. Dacre's problem isn't the new law; it is that it may be becoming harder for the Mail papers to openly express his real views about the role of women without becoming a laughing stock in the 21st century.

Mr Dacre knows that you can shift the public culture without passing a law. He tries to prove it everyday. But change can go in more than one direction.

Perhaps that is what he is really frightened of.

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