LEADING ARTICLE: PC: the right is guilty too

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The Independent Online
IT IS NOT a very elegant or concise sentence, and it could have been put more bluntly, but it uses the right kind of bureaucratic language and so deserves to be pinned above every desk in every office in every town hall in the country. "It is crucial that all the policies, procedures and arrangements for councils in relation to children are primarily child- centred rather than personnel-centred only." It comes from last week's report into Islington council which found that child abusers had been allowed to flourish in its children's homes, and had never been properly investigated.

The report, ordered by the Department of Health, pins much of the blame on the Labour council's "equal opportunities" policies. So anxious was the council to give gays and blacks a fair deal that managers were often reluctant to discipline employees from these minority groups. Newspapers have called this "political correctness" but the report never uses the term and it is a confusing one. Many examples of PC - not talking about a "black day" say - are laughable but trivial. What happened in Islington was neither. It was an example of how the slavish pursuit of "policies" - and woe betide any school, children's home or social work department that does not have a stack of these - can submerge the interests (and even wreck the lives) of the people they are supposed to serve. This fault is not confined to the left. Under the Tories, teachers and hospital staff are judged, not on how they deal with children and patients, but on how proficiently they keep written records. Private as well as public sector employers judge managers on their ability to master arcane gibberish, not on how they serve their customers. And, as we record each week in the Great Railway Disaster, the Government pursues its "politically correct" privatisation at enormous inconvenience to passengers.