Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch takes aim at equality initiatives – yes, really

This is an image of UK government minister Kemi Badenoch. She is speaking at an event. She is wearing a black blazer and white top and has a look of confusion in her face.

Conservative minister Kemi Badenoch has hit out at ‘divisive’ equality initiatives and encouraged businesses to stay out of politics and activism.

UK business secretary Badenoch, who also serves as the minister for equalities and women, said there is a “creeping – and counter-productive – politicisation” of business, and that diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) initiatives “divide, rather than unify.”

The politician’s comments come in the wake of a report from the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, which suggested that the British public think businesses are too concerned about political activism.

A Deltapoll survey for the think tank revealed that 50 per cent of people agree that businesses have become “too concerned with taking political positions on contested issues,” with only 14 per cent disagreeing.

The polling also found that 75 per cent of people surveyed believe companies should prioritise hiring on merit, regardless of race or gender, rather than to create a diverse team.

Policy Exchange’s Politicising Business project aimed to “document and explore the role and influence of social and ideological considerations on contemporary business, particularly the extent to which business has been captured by special-interest groups”.

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The report highlighted NatWest’s “debanking” of former UKIP leader and Donald Trump supporter Nigel Farage, ice cream firm Ben & Jerry’s criticism of the UK government’s asylum policies, and even an illustration of a post-top surgery transgender person on a Costa Coffee van.

Costa Coffee trans man cartoon
A cartoon of a trans man was seen on a Costa Coffee van. (Costa Coffee)

“Policy Exchange’s findings confirm what I know to be true from talking to people who run businesses, work in them and buy from them,” Badenoch continued.

“The public want the focus of business to be on delivering great products and services, not activism or political causes, which repel as many people as they attract.”

The MP for Saffron Walden, in Essex, went on to say: “Overwhelmingly, people want companies to recruit on merit, selecting the best person for the job without regard to race or gender, rather than social engineering to create ‘diverse teams’.”

Earlier this year, Badenoch – seen as a possible successor to Conservative leader Rishi Sunak – commissioned an independent panel which hypothesised that businesses that implement DE&I policies are doing so without an “evidence” base.

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