Shock reappointment of Equality Chief as

Commissioners resign

The government has reappointed Trevor Phillips for a second three year term as Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). It was widely thought that the controversial chairman would not be reappointed due to a growing number of toxic issues during his tenure. Having exposed a number of clangers the media seemed convinced that his reign had come to end. The Evening standard and Daily telegraph went as far as claiming that an exit strategy had already been agreed. It had seemed inconceivable that the chairman would survive recent controversies coupled with the prospect of a damning Audit Commission report citing financial irregularities on the horizon.

The appointment has already caused a stir as two commissioners have already decided to resign. Lady Campbell, the first to resign is the fourth high profile figure to leave the organisation this year. She was a former commissioner of the Disability Rights Commission before it was merged with the EHRC.  Back in March her former colleague Sir Bernard Massie, had criticised Trevor Phillips leadership of the organisation – It’s probable his resignation could follow soon. The fifth resignation is Francesca Klug, a leading academic and human rights expert, she resigned on Friday.

Harriet Harman minister for Equalities upon announcing the reappointment also mentioned that the 16 member board may be trimmed down to 11 members to focus on delivering “in these tough economic times”. Cleary there will be no immediate need to replace resigning commissioners who had privately claimed they would resign if the controversial chairman was reappointed. Paradoxically the move seems to have inadvertently cut costs earlier than expected in areas the equalities minister was keen to address.

Speaking about his appointment Sir TrevorPhillips said: "I am delighted to be offered the opportunity to continue the work that the commission has begun. As we look to a post-recession world, tackling discrimination and creating a fairer society where everyone is able to fulfill their potential will be key to building a stronger economy, stronger communities and a stronger country.

It appears Trevor Phillips has been given another opportunity to continue his widely acclaimed work. The knives are already out should he steer too close to controversy again having become a popular target for the media. Hopefully he’s had his taste of the limelight.

But how did he pull it off?  Insiders informed the Guardian newspaper that Sir Trevor had been forging closer links with senior Conservatives over the past few months, and could have been offered a post advising the conservatives had he not been re-appointed. This was a potentially embarrassing situation for Gordon Brown’s government. The word “checkmate!” spring to mind.

Further update 24th July 2009

Since this article was published commissioners Sir Sir Bernard Massie & Ben Summerskill have also resigned.

posted by, Asif Yusuf



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