Labour should accept the ruling on shortlists


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The Leeds Industrial Tribunal, led by its chairman, John Prophet, deserves credit for the courage of its decision on all-women shortlists in the Labour Party. It would have been relatively easy for the tribunal to have referred a difficult decision to the European Court of Justice - in effect, passing the buck on what was clearly a very controversial decision that had "important constitutional implications" - as counsel for the Labour Party argued.

What it chose to do, however, was to make a declaration that the Labour Party had sexually discriminated against both Roger Dyas-Elliott and myself in the constituencies of Regents Park and Kensington North, Brentford & Isleworth and Keighley. The Labour Party should now accept this decision of the industrial tribunal and get on with planning for the general election. To lodge an appeal in the courts would only establish a sore that would run until, and possibly beyond, the forthcoming election.

To many, it is seen as wrong that democratic decisions of a political party are challenged in the courts. Democracy, however, is not, and never can be, the tyranny of the majority over the minority, with no ground rules as to standards. Would it be acceptable for the board of ICI to meet and democratically vote that they will only employ men? Of course not; in a democracy they should, and must, respect the rule of law.

No doubt this can be criticised as the imposition of political correctness, in that the views of the state with regard to what is sexually and racially correct are imposed upon society. But what is the alternative? Surely it cannot be acceptable that we have no employment laws, as some Fleet Street editors have implied, with just the rule of the jungle applying.

The Treaty of Rome requires governments to legislate so as to provide equal pay for men and women, with subsequent directives requiring equal treatment among the sexes. Because of these binding international covenants, European governments areobliged to eradicate sexual discrimination, with some welcome attempts being made to extend this obligation to cover racial discrimination.

It is a fact of law that governments are subject to the jurisdiction of the European Community, just as companies are subject to European and domestic laws. Given the legal requirements for governments and companies to comply with laws on discrimination, it is a nonsense to argue that political parties should be exempt.

To this extent, the decision of the Leeds Industrial Tribunal should be welcomed.

As for me, I would welcome the opportunity to be considered for selection in any winnable Labour seat, but I shall continue in any case with my academic career in law.

The writer won his sexual discrimination claim against the Labour Party on Monday.

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