LETTER:Equality is not discriminatory

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The Independent Online
From Ms Sarah Ludford

Sir: If the only down side to women-only shortlists were that some mediocre men would lose their jobs ("Women's place is in the House", 30 May), I would be with Barbara Follett like a shot. Some male nonentities, who would never have got to elected office in a fair competition, richly deserve to get beaten in such competition, as they surely would.

But how can Ms Follett fail to mention the main reason why many women, as well as men genuinely supportive of equal opportunities, oppose positive discrimination? It is against women's own long-term self-interest to have any whiff of substance to the charge "you only got there because you're a woman". It devalues achievement on merit, to the detriment of future beneficiaries of patronage, even if not present ones.

I cannot understand why people such as Barbara Follett and Margaret Hodge still stubbornly fail to appreciate this crucial difference between equal opportunities and positive discrimination. The former is a tool of liberation, creating by law enforcement, training and other techniques to increase the pool of candidates, a level playing field on which race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or disability take second place to merit. Positive discrimination, however enticing and however it is justified as a one- off event, is the antithesis of this.

Yours sincerely,

SARAH LUDFORD

London, N1

30 May

The writer is a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Islington.

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