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  • Is Shami Chakrabarti tipped to replace Trevor?

    by Sunny
    28th July, 2009 at 9:39 am    

    Going by the big picture of Shami and the main name being touted by Afua Hirsch here in the Guardian, I think that’s a pretty safe bet.

    There’s also a good profile piece by Hugh Muir in today’s Guardian. Two other people have talked up Shami to me in recent days. I wasn’t initially, but I am persuaded now.

    Iain Dale lists three reasons why lefties have got it in for Phillips: he’s not leftie enough, he’s not managed the transition from one interest group (race) to various properly, and that he’s a bad manager. I’d probably agree on all three counts. Although I see no problem with lefties wanting their values asserted, I do have some sympathy for the view that the race debate has moved on much further than many race-activists were prepared to admit. I’ve pointed out on various panel debates that opening up the debate on multiculturalism was probably a good thing. Sometimes I was booed. Oh well.

    I think the reason why Trevor doesn’t have many supporters now is because he preferred to make his points through media soundbites than take on those activists on their own turf and win those debates.

    But I’m persuaded that Shami could be the right person because, as one said, equalities needs a rights-based approach rather than a media soundbites-based approach. I think this is exactly right. Shami would do a better job of using the language of civil rights, as she has recently, to win over public debates. And that approach, if it included the social rights of working class whites, would do a much better job of selling equality than Trevor’s confused approach could ever do. The problem is, I doubt she’d take it.

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    Filed in: Civil liberties,Race politics

    48 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. Emrys Schoemaker

      RT @pickledpolitics: New blog post: Is Shami Chakrabarti tipped to replace Trevor?

    2. The Daley Dozen: Tuesday 

      [...] some changes in electoral law.8. Craig Murray relates a truly worrying encounter with a bailiff.9. Pickled Politics predicts Shami Chakrabarti will take over from Trevor Phillips.10. Biteback Publishing is [...]

    1. Rumbold — on 28th July, 2009 at 10:18 am  

      Is there much point to such a body though, as it pretty much crams in every group under the sun? Not to say that it will never do anything good, but what is the point of such a super-quango? Improving life for minorities? Always admirable, but which ones get priority?

    2. Halima — on 28th July, 2009 at 10:28 am  

      Shami would be the preferred candidate over and above many others. It’s no contest. It’s no slur on other people’s credibility, either.

      She is one of Britain’s brightest sparks …

    3. James Graham — on 28th July, 2009 at 10:29 am  

      I agree. The only way to square the EHRC circle is to go for a human rights centred approach. Phillips greatest failing has been to neglect the human rights part of his brief almost entirely, leaving it for NGOs to do his job for him.

      There’s a lot of talk about breaking up the EHRC at the moment. The problem with that is that you can’t simply go back to the old CRE, EC and DC. You’d need an “age commission”, a “sexuality commission” and a human rights commission as well. There is an argument that civic society could do a better job than most of those commissions behaving like rats in a sack and all dependent on the government for funding. But human rights is the one thing that binds them all together and is absolutely crucial if we are to have rights enshrined in law.

    4. Murgatroyd — on 28th July, 2009 at 10:39 am  

      Hopefully the Tories will wind up this ridiculous quango with all the others such as The National Potato Council when they get in next year.

    5. douglas clark — on 28th July, 2009 at 10:40 am  

      It would be a heck of a loss for ‘Liberty’.

    6. The Common Humanist — on 28th July, 2009 at 10:47 am  

      She is one of those people who remnind you of the better angels of our natures.

      “She is one of Britain’s brightest sparks…”

      For sure. Always well informed, always intelligent and almost always right.

      Can we clone her?????

      Agree the human rights angle is the way to go, especially with the likelihood of right wing government before the middle of next year.

    7. damon — on 28th July, 2009 at 12:30 pm  

      I’m wondering how a ”rights-based” EHRC might operate.

      I like Shami Chakrabarti, but she doesn’t take much care for the popular mood of the country. (Which I’m not saying is a bad thing). She’ll defend the rights of Abu Qatada (who most people couldn’t give a toss about), and I wonder if a more confrontational style is the way to go.

      How would a rights-based approach help resolve the difficulty that the Met Police and the Black Police Association have between them?

      But maybe I don’t understand the term ‘rights-based’ very well.

    8. Graham — on 28th July, 2009 at 12:45 pm  

      Is Equalities really a bigger job than liberty?

    9. MaidMarian — on 28th July, 2009 at 12:56 pm  

      Chakrabarti is the last thing that the EHRC needs. Equality and Rights are one thing - rights for terrorists is quite another. An unfair label? Yes, but that wont stop the tabloids attaching it.

      Rumbold (1) - ‘Always admirable, but which ones get priority?’


      This is the whole point. The EHRC is not a campaigning organisation, however much the self indulgent commissioners may want it to be. There is a cast iron case for a body that promotes and regulates rights and equality, but there is no case for it to be led by people drawn from special interest campaigning.

      If these commissioners want to have thier interest indulged they can set up their own body and fund it. There is a world of difference between a campaigner (for one interest) and a quango commissioner (for the public interest). That these self-indulgent commissioners can not grasp that is not Phillips’ or the government’s problem. Presumably those that resigned took the job knowing the deal?

      Indeed, it is sad that so many on the talkboards have been suckered by the way that the resigning commissioners have been able to tie themself to the anti-New Labour bandwagon and have been thus been acclaimed for being useless at their job.

    10. Adnan — on 28th July, 2009 at 12:58 pm  

      damon @ 8

      “but she doesn’t take much care for the popular mood of the country”.

      The problem with the “popular mood of the country” is that it can be a little blinkered at times, so an asymmetric extradition treaty with the US (primarily intended for terrorists) affects people like the Natwest Three or Gary McKinnon, and anti-terror powers are used to evict hecklers at party conferences, or snooping on people whose dogs foul the pavements.

    11. Sunny — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:16 pm  

      Chakrabarti is the last thing that the EHRC needs. Equality and Rights are one thing – rights for terrorists is quite another. An unfair label? Yes, but that wont stop the tabloids attaching it.

      Ah yes, but you’re falling for that traditional right-wing narrative aren’t you?

      Rights should be for everyone, not just Sun readers.

    12. Leon — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:27 pm  

      Shami probably would be the most popular replacement but I seriously doubt she’d take it. The EHRC is looking like a poisoned chalice at the moment…

    13. bananabrain — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:40 pm  

      personally, i can’t bear shami chakrabarti. just what community relations needs, more po-faced self-righteousness, single-issue ivory-tower doctrinaire liberalism and above all more human rights lawyers. that’ll get rid of the culture of contentiousness, posturing and meaningless declarations

      i’m not the biggest fan of trevor phillips but frankly i think we can do better than this.

      feck it, i’ll do the job meself.



    14. Shatterface — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:51 pm  

      If we HAVE to have an umbrella organisation for rights - and I’m not convinced we do - I can’t imagine a better chairperson than Shami.

      Respect for other peoples’ rights AND freedom of expression are a difficult balancing act but she has done a good job at Liberty.

      The debate has moved on from Phillips’s day.

    15. zaffer — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:54 pm  

      I disgree that the EHRC is a poisoned chalice- with the right leadership and structures in place it can have a huge impact on how we address inequalities. The EHRC was formed too quickley without enough planning. I think the different strands need thier own place in the EHRC to grow and develop but their is no reason as why they cannot work alongside eachother. People who work in this sector know that there is often cross-cutting between the strands and many there are commonalities.

      I don’t think the powers that be would have her in that position though- she doesn’t sing from the same hym sheet as them.

    16. hermes — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:56 pm  

      ‘…he’s not leftie enough, he’s not managed the transition from one interest group (race) to various properly, and that he’s a bad manager.’

      Sunny, that twit never made the transition from being a media star to understanding race, let alone this leap into an area he is totally unqualified for. Trevor has always been a self-serving, ambitious politician who used soundbites to promote himself. He learnt well from a certain Mr T Blair - and looked what happened to him.

      Shami is far and away the perfect candidate. Infact I think this job is probably too small for her.

    17. Imran Khan — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:57 pm  

      “feck it, i’ll do the job meself.



      You can have my vote :-)

    18. hantsboy — on 28th July, 2009 at 2:08 pm  

      Liberty were supported by chav sponsored lottery monies -oh the irony.

      However the good news is -we’re out of money.

      Time is running out for Charlatans R Us.

      Time to get a proper job Shami.

    19. Naadir Jeewa — on 28th July, 2009 at 2:31 pm  

      Iain Dale’s not wrong about his critique of multiculturalism going down like cold sick. Here’s this from some Birkbeck lecture notes:

      “The recipe Phillips develops here is basically classic, but slightly left-leaning, liberalism, with a dose of republicanism, finished off by a touch of postmodern exuberance.”

    20. Leon — on 28th July, 2009 at 3:08 pm  

      Zaffer, I didn’t say it was just that it’s looking like one at the moment. From the outside it looks like a mess and the fact the Trevor Phillips has gone to ground and not come out fighting makes it all the worse…

    21. Leon — on 28th July, 2009 at 3:08 pm  

      feck it, i’ll do the job meself

      You got my vote, brother. ;)

    22. justforfun — on 28th July, 2009 at 3:43 pm  

      banabrain - yes you’d get my vote too.


    23. chavscum — on 28th July, 2009 at 4:10 pm  

      How about a working-class white person? Or do we not have any rights?

    24. Sofia — on 28th July, 2009 at 4:20 pm  

      Equality is not just about minorities…Rumbold (post1), it is as other ppl have pointed out about human rights which affect everyone..not just a minority of people.

    25. Sofia — on 28th July, 2009 at 4:25 pm  

      chav, everyone has human rights..

    26. The Common Humanist — on 28th July, 2009 at 5:01 pm  


      You do realise that the various bits of equality human rights legislation over the years since the early 60s have vastly improved the rights and legal standing of white working class people as well as ethnic minorities.

      What you have lost is the ability to discriminate, but hey, gained defences against it - see above.

      Win win all round.

    27. MaidMarian — on 28th July, 2009 at 6:19 pm  

      Sunny (11) - ‘Rights should be for everyone, not just Sun readers.’

      Yes, agreed - but Shami Chakrabarri is not the person to sell that message. Not in a million years. The problem with the EHRC right now is not Philips - however much you may want it to be. The problem is a college of commissioners who have treated the EHRC (and its budget) as something to be used to indulge thier own prejudices. Whether it is true or not SC has been tagged with terrorist defender label and everything she would do at the EHRC would be seen through that lens.

      What is needed is someone able to act like a commissioner, not a campaigner.

      SC just likes the sound of her own voice too much.

    28. no-name — on 29th July, 2009 at 12:18 am  

      It would be true equality if the person leading EHRC could be of European origin - why do they all have to be non-white?

    29. Leon — on 29th July, 2009 at 12:44 am  

      Why would it be true equality only if led by a white person?

    30. douglas clark — on 29th July, 2009 at 1:34 am  


      That does not compute..Brain fries..That does not compute. Dalek blows up.

    31. damon — on 29th July, 2009 at 3:18 am  

      Adnan @ 10, I do agree. I was just wondering if the EHRC should be politically ”left” (or liberal or whatever).

      They get £70 million from the public purse, and I was wondering if someone as resolute (and political) as Chakrabarti would be a good choice of head.

      Trevor Phillips has been said to not have been able to take people with him, but at least he spoke up on things that were outside the box (so to speak) - and is where he probably left some people behind.

      I’ve been looking for things where she has spoken outside her Liberty remit, and can’t really find that much. But this is an indicator of her view on asylum.

      Very commendable. Is that a left wing point of view though? It’s certainly liberal. She makes no mention of the things the Daily Mail are always highlighting.

      Like in The Mail on Sunday at the weekend.

      I’d be interested to hear how she might address that situation from an EHRC point of view. (Or even a Liberty point of view for that matter).
      It might be Daily Mail unpleasantness, but what’s been happening on the French coast this past few years is not a made up fantasy, and I’ve never heard the left or liberals say what should be done about it.

    32. zaffer — on 29th July, 2009 at 9:23 am  

      I think Trevor’s only choice is to to ground. Remember Lee Jasper- backfired big time when he done an interview in the middle of a media frenzy. Best bet is to play it down- only say something if its truely worth saying.

    33. Rumbold — on 29th July, 2009 at 9:34 am  

      Can anyone justify the cost of a £70 million commission, when the money could be used for rape crisis centres, or social housing? What does the EHRC actually do that costs £70 million?

      Concrete examples only please.

    34. Kenneth Morton — on 29th July, 2009 at 9:36 am  

      Wouldn’t Andrew Mackinlay be able to do the job as well as anybody? He will be free this time next year and has the decency to do the job. Or is an Essex man completely persona non grata?

    35. Naadir Jeewa — on 29th July, 2009 at 10:36 am  

      @35 Would rather not have a member of the shady Syriana-esque “British Parliamentary Committee on Iran Freedom” head up the ECHR.

    36. fugstar — on 29th July, 2009 at 10:37 am  

      70 million is about as much as the nation spends on door knobs.

      Equality is more fundamental than door knobs.

      70 million will get the airforce a couple of jets.

      Equality is more fundamental that projecting colonial air superiority over brown people overseas.

      The money argument is going to come up a lot in the coming months, a lot has been spent and wasted since 1997 so its a bit of an open and easy goal. I dont know who here has ever tried establishing a new national institution, but initial economic and political costs are high. Whats new about that?

    37. Shamit — on 29th July, 2009 at 11:26 am  

      “Can anyone justify the cost of a £70 million commission, when the money could be used for rape crisis centres, or social housing? What does the EHRC actually do that costs £70 million?”

      Valid question.

      Also what is its actual remit? If you go through the EHRC website it seems the only tangible thing it delivers is funding for groups to foster better equality etc etc. It does make you wonder whether its the best way to spend taxpayers’ money.

      Is Shami Chakrabarti the right person to do the job? Well before I could comment on that I would really like to know what the job really entails and what it should be delivering for Britain. How would you measure the success or failure of such a commission?


      Seems to me there are many who argue that Shami should not be doing the job because she believes terrorists have rights too. I tend to agree with her.

      I despise terrorists and their ideology and I don’t think we should let them win. If we change the concept of Habeus Corpus as a result of terrorist incidents - aren’t we allowing them to win?

      If you capture them alive the terrorists have exact same rights as any other defendent - innocent until proven guilty and the protection of law must apply to those charged with the most heinous crimes. That demonstrate the strength of our democracy and our commitment to the rule of law. And by refusing to change the way we live based on diktats from terrorist show that terror does not pay.

      I think Shami has got this one spot on - and whether the job itself is required or not is another matter but her qualifications to serve in a role such as the Chair of EHRC is beyond doubt.

    38. damon — on 29th July, 2009 at 12:01 pm  

      I wouldn’t mind having ‘equality’ of salary with Trevor or Shami.

      Yes, £70 million is indeed small beer for an issue so important. And I don’t knock Shami Chakrabarti for having very sound moral views on issues of Liberty and

      But are the views of Liberty (here for example their views on asylum) transferable to a ”non-departmental public body” like the EHRC?

      Liberty’s position is further to the left (or ”more humane”) than the Labour government’s, and I wondered whether there might be legitimate objections from people not of such ”sound moral standing”?

      People like Rod Liddle for instance?
      To me he seems like an almost opposite equivalent to Shami Chakrabarti….. she to the left, and he to the right, but both within the bounds of respectable opinion.

      Here he was on Chakrabarti.

      And here he was talking about that EHRC report about ”immigrants” and social housing.
      (Who’s right? The national figure of ”less than 2%” was surely spin as it took in large swathes of the country where there are few immigrants too).

      Is she too much of a bruiser for the job at the EHRC?

    39. Leon — on 29th July, 2009 at 12:18 pm  

      Can anyone justify the cost of a £70 million commission, when the money could be used for rape crisis centres, or social housing? What does the EHRC actually do that costs £70 million?

      That’s the issue, it’s track record isn’t clear. In fact it’s come in for criticism for it’s lack of bite over the years. I don’t think it’s fair to say these things are mutually exclusive however. 70 million is a drop in the ocean compared to other things the government spends our money on. How about a bit more scrutiny of the under writing we do for the arms industry (for e.g.)? Perhaps the tax payer value for money agenda should be a bit more comprehensive…

      Zaffer, regarding Trevor vs Lee comparisons, I hear ya but Lee was an adviser that was used to undermine an elected figure. Trevor is the head of the EHRC and as such needs to be held more directly accountable. He should come out fighting, and soon because it’s looking more and more that he’s not going to survive this.

      When you’re back is against the wall the only option you have is to fight.

    40. Leon — on 29th July, 2009 at 12:22 pm  

      More on the EHRC and what it does here:

      And here’s how they asses the impact:

      What they lack is case studies or testimonials…

    41. zaffer — on 29th July, 2009 at 1:19 pm  

      I hear what your saying Leon but anything he say’s right now will be turned into a negative. His only option is sit this through and only go public when he has something proactive and positive.

      btw- phillips was apponited not elected. Also, parallels between Phillips can be drawn against any political figure- how many times did Blair disappear when there was a crisis? Or Mandelson?

    42. Rumbold — on 29th July, 2009 at 8:45 pm  


      Well, I agree that all taxpayer-funded programmes should come under scrutiny. It is nice to see that you are moving towards a libertarian position (heh).

      I don’t regard £70 million as a drop in the ocean. Hundreds of people have worked years in order for that amount of tax to be collected. If the EHRC can’t give us concrete examples of is usefullness, and show that no existing body could have handled it, then I would abolish it.

    43. Edna Welthorpe — on 30th July, 2009 at 7:26 pm  

      Isn’t Oona King the ideal candidate?

      One realises that the ideal candidate would be a black lesbian in a wheelchair, but Oona is a delight to behold.

      A pain to listen to, but one simply CANNOT demand everything!

    44. Chris Baldwin — on 31st July, 2009 at 9:56 pm  

      Who cares who runs a quango? I like Ms Chakrabarti, so I hope she keeps her independence.

    45. damon — on 1st August, 2009 at 10:01 am  

      I said somewhere above that I liked Shami Chakrabarti - and I do. She seems like a nice person.
      I also kind of like this guy Rod Liddle.

      He can’t stand her it seems, and says of the EHRC that it’s made up of self serving career whingers (or words to that effect). And that given the nature of some of these people - who as he says, all seem to have been given honors - like Ben Summerskill, OBE (he says), is it any wonder that Trevor Phillips had trouble with them?

      It’s a point of view, and perhaps it’s a lazy and uninformed one. (And maybe it doesn’t deserve to be mentioned on PP). Liddle certainly seems to go in for some of that shooting from the hip style of journalism.

      And having been a regular attender of Millwall Football Club matches, he’s obviously picked up on some of that ”North Stand” view of the world.

      And while I wouldn’t look to those guys at Millwall for a lead on philosophy and politics, at least hearing them from time to time (perhaps) can help keep one’s feet on the ground.
      What I mean is, being part of an ”industry” (as liddle would call it) like the EHRC, can lead to people disapearing up their own backsides.

      Post Traumatic Slave Syndrone (for example) is a theory that is actually being ‘pushed’ as an explaination for the alienation from society that some inner city black boys in England are feeling.

      And for what it’s worth, Spiked-online did a story on the EHRC on wednesday and they reckoned it’s the EHRC itself that is autocratic.

      A quote from the article:

      ”That the EHRC tends towards such a patronising view of the public should not be a surprise. It is an autocratic institution made up of the professionally autocratic, a job scheme for veterans of the quangocratic age. As the EHRC website explains: ‘Many of those who worked in the previous equalities commissions joined the new Commission, creating a body with an enormous wealth of experience and knowledge about race, sex and disability equality and discrimination.’ That is one way of spinning it.”

    46. angela pinter — on 1st August, 2009 at 2:12 pm  

      It would be more accurate to sum it all up as the Sham of LIberty.

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