Still only one female Supreme Court judge in the UK


11:11 am - July 18th 2012

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contribution by Will Fitzgibbon

The legal industry went into Twitter palpitations of excitement last Thursday as the government named the new President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the nation’s highest-ranking judge.

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, 64, will replace Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, 74, who retires on September 30.

Yet while legal and political communities welcomed the appointment of the respected and experienced Lord Neuberger, the elevation of another male Oxbridge graduate has again brought the gender diversity of the UK’s judiciary into the spotlight.

One of the three candidates for the presidency was the Court’s only woman, Lady Brenda Hale. Some had hoped that Lady Hale, a former academic, would become the first female Supreme Court President, including the Guardian, which wrote enthusiastically that she would be an ‘ideal president‘.

Lady Hale was appointed to the Supreme Court eight years ago and still remains the only woman on the bench. There had been some hope that if she was promoted to the presidency it would provide an opportunity to appoint another woman.

It was Lord Neuberger, a former Oxford chemistry student and briefly a merchant banker who has worked in the law since 1974, who won the day and the £240,000 annual salary. In addition, insiders have predicted that Lord Neuberger’s current position, Master of the Rolls and the second highest judge in the UK, will be filled by Lord John Anthony Dyson, a former classics student at Oxford.

Bar Council statistics show that while men still dominate the profession almost two to one, ‘the average growth rate over the last five year period was 1.8% for women and for men it decreased by 0.2%.’ Between 2006 and 2010, 271 more women than men began practicing as barristers. The Law Society shows that women make up around 62% of law students and entry-level lawyers.

But there is a disconnect between the strong female representation in the early stages of the legal profession and the ‘pale, male and stale’ reality that perpetuates in the world of barristers, QCs and the senior judiciary.

In the opinion of Professor Malleson, coordinator of the Equal Justices Initiative at Queen Mary University in London, the appointment of another Oxbridge-educated male to the position of Supreme Court President is ‘not at all surprising given what we’ve had over the last 10 to 15 years.’

‘No one is positively against [judicial diversity],’ says Professor Malleson, ‘but I don’t think it is high on the political agenda.’

Yet studies have suggested that a contributing factor to low levels of confidence in the judicial system among some underrepresented groups and the perception of the judiciary’s unfairness is the lack of diversity on court and tribunal benches.

As at April 2011, The Equal Justices Initiative collected figures showing courts of England and Wales have fewer women in the judiciary than comparable countries, including Canada, the USA, Australia, Israel, South Africa and New Zealand.

And while the trend is headings upwards from the UK court’s current level of 22%, Professor Malleson does not see a fundamental shift.

‘I would like to see six women in the Supreme Court [out of 12],’ says Professor Malleson. ‘But I will we be dead by the time that happens.’

For while the government and senior judiciary has emphasized judicial diversity in reports and public statements, ‘There has been an awful lot of talk,’ says Professor Malleson, ‘but there hasn’t been the small-p political will.’

Suggestions of empty rhetoric were not helped when, in January 2011, Secretary of State for Justice and regular diversity enthusiast, Kenneth Clarke, admitted before a House of Lords Committee that ‘I can’t remember how many women are in the Supreme Court.’

Everyone seems to agree that gender imbalances in the UK’s judiciary are a problem. But so far the solutions have been harder to agree on.

—-
The Bureau is embarking on an investigation into our judiciary. We are particularly interested in issues around transparency. Please contact willfitzgibbon@tbij.com.
Cross-posted from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

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Reader comments


Purely to play devils advocate, as there is no differnce between men and womans ability in this role why does this cuase a problem for the UK’s judiciary?

Not surprising. Getting to the top of the judiciary takes a long time. Diversity will filter through, but don’t hold your breath.

He deserves the position no end. He is a hugely talented judge with decades of experience. He will make a fantasitc president.

The issue about female judges though is a non starter though. There are a number of female judges currently climbing the ranks. However to do this job you need lots of experience, and these judges come from a time when there were no females at the bar. So give it another 10-20 years and the situation will be different. I do hope that you are not suggesting the promoting of a less qualified person to the president chair simply because they are a woman.

Secondly, there are simply less numbers of women applying to be judges. Have no idea why, but the same numbers of women are simply not applying.

I take your point, though I feel slightly cautious about using people’s perceptions as a useful gauge for the performance of the judiciary. A few positive articles in the Mail or the Sun could change such feelings.

We need to know whether there’s a bit of an old boy network at play here, or whether appointments are based upon merit.

Consider how the ‘career progression’ works. If it takes say 20* years from appointment as Recorder to become a Supreme Court justice (by no means guaranteed, of course), and 20 years ago there were relatively few female Recorders (for whatever reason), then we’d expect few female Supreme Court justices today.

Baroness Hale’s career is atypical of the judiciary, btw.

Apparently 15% of High Court judges are women.
http://ukscblog.com/women-in-law-getting-through-the-glass-ceiling

Baroness Hale says, “The most obvious barrier to the progression of women in the judiciary is that high judicial office has been reserved to those with successful careers as barristers. The Bar is the least family friendly profession in the world, I should think, with the possible exception of investment banking and so for a variety of reasons, the proportion of senior women at the Bar is still relatively low – only something like 10% of silks are women. … the problem is one of barriers within the legal profession, coupled with judicial assumptions about what you need to have done to become a judge.”
http://ukscblog.com/an-exclusive-interview-with-lady-hale (Q8)

* Neuberger took a ‘meteoric’ 17 years – atypically quick.

6. Chaise Guevara

I agree with the other commenters here: it takes a while for demographic distribution to catch up with equality policy. If it takes 30 years (for example) to get to the top of a profession, then it’ll be 30 years after the implementation of a flawless policy that the demographics will be fairly represented.

Cherub’s right, too: we need some way of telling whether or not the disparity is for legitimate reasons.

7. the a&e charge nurse

There have also been mutterings about a lack of representation amongst those from minority groups when the top legal jobs are up for grabs
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/henryporter/2010/feb/25/minority-judges-diverse-uk

Attention is now drawn to gender – yet curiously very little is ever said about class.
I mean how many top judges are from social class IV or V?

In fact are ANY of Britain’s 3,500 judges from the lower classes?
Or is class inequality so deeply ingrained that it is more or less taken for granted that the working class are simply not sexy enough to worry about when compared to the disappointments experienced by privileged females, or those from Britain’s minority communities?

8. Chaise Guevara

@ 6

Class is a hell of a lot trickier to track. Arguably, once someone is a judge you’d stop calling them working-class anyway.

@A&E, well ISTM any group that was ‘under-represented 20 years ago’ will be under-represented today, whether they are female, a particular ethnicity or religion.

worth a read:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/jun/14/more-female-judges-appointed

But by definition “social class IV or V” (partly skilled or unskilled) won’t be represented at all – so I don’t understand your point there. How could it be otherwise?

I suppose you could (and probably should) track the social class in which people who subsequently become judges grow up.

Residual negative discrimination and/or missing out on the old-boy network (plus the various second-order effects Chris Dillow often discusses), would make it a reasonable hypothesis that a lower proportion of judges are from working-class backgrounds than you would expect from their representation in the wider population of qualified barristers and solicitors.

However, hypothesis 2 is that this effect is trivial compared to the proportion of people from working-class backgrounds who reach the ‘qualified barrister or solicitor’ stage in the first place.

11. the a&e charge nurse

[9] ‘so I don’t understand your point there’ -OK, I’ll explain a little further, although it is hardly an original idea.

Lets start by acknowledging that by definition judges do not belong to social class IV or V – but given that social mobility remains a theoretical possibility (although a remote one nowadays) there is no reason why any individual with the right talents should not make their way to a top legal job unless a number of social barriers are placed in their way (such as the implied obstacles which make it less likely that female judges will reach the very pinnacle of their profession).

Now given that IV + Vs are barely represented in this particular sphere we can assume that either none of them are good enough (which given the millions involved, seems unlikely) or we might argue that institutionalised classism is a very effective mechanism when it comes to keeping such aspirations in their right and proper place (at the bottom of the pile).

It may be a nuisance that privileged women do not do quite as well as privileged men each time a top judge is appointed but given that there is a much more compelling injustice, involving entire swathes of the population I am slight surprised that the issue of sexism (affecting very small numbers relatively speaking) is not contextualised against this wider, and long standing pattern of class exclusion.

A&E, IVs and Vs don’t have the skills prerequisite for the work – if they did, they wouldn’t be IVs and Vs by definition. Just talk about the working class and its mobility.

At a glance, none of the Supreme Court justices (including retired and former) have working class origins. Also, with the exception of the ones from Belfast and Edinburgh, they are all Cambridge and Oxford graduates.

If it takes say 30 years from being a barrister to become a Supreme Court justice, and 30 years ago very few working class people became barristers (what proportion of university students were working class, 30 years ago?), we wouldn’t expect there to be Supreme Court justices originally from the working class. There would have to be some atypical career progression to have a more representative judiciary today.

“the prohibitive cost of legal training (bar school, which wannabe barristers must undertake upon completion of their undergraduate law degrees, costs around £16,000). Because of the self-employed nature of the bar, prospective barristers usually have to cover these fees themselves.”

“… In fairness to the bar, there are scholarships available for prospective barristers that cover law school costs, with the four inns of court offering between them a total of £4.7m a year towards students’ education expenses.”

“the Legal Services Board (LSB) recently announcing a proposal to compel barristers’ chambers and law firms to compile and publish information not just about lawyers’ gender and ethnicity, but on where they went to school, and even what sort of education their parents received.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/jul/14/become-a-barrister-com-bar

Amongst all of the other groups mentioned above who are under represented in the judiciary (women, chavs, tran drivers etc) I have never seen one who is a dwarf.

I understand there may be issues about seeing over the top of the bench but there are such things as cushions and high chairs.

I believe this obvious discrimination goes back to the days when lollypopguildophobia was commonplace and the little people were routinely labelled, dopey, grumpy or sleepy.

We need a quota system.

15. the a&e charge nurse

[11] ‘we wouldn’t expect there to be Supreme Court justices originally from the working class’ – it wasn’t that long ago that exactly the same tautological sentiments would have been expressed about women assuming high office, in fact in islamic states women are still openly discriminated against (with the usual religious bullshit rationalising such discrimination).
http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/08/04/idINIndia-50614420100804

You say ‘IVs and Vs don’t have the skills prerequisite for the work’ – I find this statement absolutely astonishing – now had you said they do not have the same transgenerational cultural advantages you might have been on to something.

Such an attitude must be very depressing for lower class parents who recognise incredible talents in their own children but then come up against a mindset that labels them as unsuitable for high office because they lack the pre-requisite skills (a judgement usually made by those with power from higher social groups).

The acquisition of such skills are largely determined by social advantage rather than latent ability.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 a&e

“it wasn’t that long ago that exactly the same tautological sentiments would have been expressed about women assuming high office”

…And it would have been true. Bear in mind that (accurate or not), this is a factual statement – you can’t disprove it by saying it offends you. It makes perfect sense that it would take several decades for equality policy to permeate through to the highest positions.

“in fact in islamic states women are still openly discriminated against ”

Weird non-sequitur. What has that apple got to do with these oranges?

“You say ‘IVs and Vs don’t have the skills prerequisite for the work’ – I find this statement absolutely astonishing […] Such an attitude must be very depressing for lower class parents”

Again, UKL made a factual statement: that IVs and Vs lack these skills *by definition*. In other words (as I understood him), if they gained these skills they would be redefined and no longer be IVs and Vs.

If you have good reason to believe UKL is factually incorrect, by all means present it. Otherwise you’re getting outraged over a statement that basically adds up to “people without skills don’t have skills”. It’s like complaining that no poor people earn over £100,000 p.a.

I think on reflection I stupidly misunderstood a&e to be talking about IV and V as they are ‘now’, not as in ‘background’ or origin, so I apologise for that.

IOW, does a young person from an ‘partially skilled’ or ‘unskilled’ background stand a chance of becoming a SC justice some 30 years later? There are lawyers and others interested in this topic, e.g. the link I posted previously. It isn’t something they used to track, some people suggested they should track it like they track ethnicity and gender, I don’t know if they track it today.

18. the a&e charge nurse

[16] ‘Weird non-sequitur. What has that apple got to do with these oranges?’ – I thought we were discussing obstacles to success (correct me if I’m wrong).
Sometimes religion is used to prop up exclusion – sometimes its class.

I assume you are not overly troubled by those from the lower classes who are prevented from achieving high office not due to a lack of latent ability (as you and UKL bizarrely seem to implying) but due to the very sort of obstacles the OP implies exist for women (even relatively rich, privileged women).

My point is not that people in class IV or V don’t have skills – they simply don’t have the same opportunities to acquire them and develop them (compared to As + Bs). Surely you can see there is a difference?

19. Chaise Guevara

@ 18 a&e

“I thought we were discussing obstacles to success (correct me if I’m wrong).
Sometimes religion is used to prop up exclusion – sometimes its class.”

Sure. I just don’t see how it was relevant here.

“I assume you are not overly troubled by those from the lower classes who are prevented from achieving high office not due to a lack of latent ability (as you and UKL bizarrely seem to implying) but due to the very sort of obstacles the OP implies exist for women (even relatively rich, privileged women).”

You assume wrong. I assume you are not overly troubled by demonising other posters like a childish prat.

“My point is not that people in class IV or V don’t have skills – they simply don’t have the same opportunities to acquire them and develop them (compared to As + Bs). Surely you can see there is a difference?”

Sigh. Of course I can see a difference. But if, as UKL says, lacking these skills is a necessary part of the definition of classes IV and V, then saying that people in classes IV and V lack these skills is TRUE BY DEFINITION. If he’s wrong then that’s a factual error, not a wrongheaded attitude to class. Could you please THINK about this before replying with more nasty character slurs?

Are you offended by the following statement, or do you understand that it’s a trivial truth that does not carry value judgements? “No poor people earn over £100,000 p.a.”

20. Dissident

@Chaise and A&E charge nurse

I know someone with a MA in Ecenomics who has to put invoices into envelopes for peanuts. She would be pigeonholed into class V, in fact the corporation we work in chose to do just that!

Obviously a different field of education, but I do see parallels. There are lots of others lumped into class V who are just as qualified.

So the problem to me is lack of opportunity, combined with debt, whether that debt is to bankers or rentiers is irrelevant, as you have to make do with what you are deemed to be worth by them, and the last thing they want is someone pushed into class V ever having the opportunity to sit in judgement of them. You are much more likely to be maliciously criminalised if you do…

I for one will not hold my breath in thinking things would improve.

21. the a&e charge nurse

[19] ‘Are you offended by the following statement, or do you understand that it’s a trivial truth that does not carry value judgements? “No poor people earn over £100,000 p.a.” – the statement has absolutely no relevance to the argument in hand.

Lets try again – the OP is about obstacles to a certain sort of privileged success, right?

And being a woman is an implied obstacle in this instance?

Yet many talented children are excluded from ever having to worry about such dilemmas because they are not invited to the party in the first place (and never have been) – not because they are not good enough, but because they are victims of Britain’s class culture, one which has become renowned for it’s lack of social mobility.
‘In the UK, the OECD found that 50% of the economic advantage that high-earning fathers have over low-earning fathers is passed on to their sons. By contrast, in Australia, Canada and the Nordic countries, less than 20% of the wage advantage was passed on’.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/mar/10/oecd-uk-worst-social-mobility

If something becomes ingrained for long enough it becomes all the more impermeable to change because people stop seeing something for what it really is.

22. Chaise Guevara

@ 20 Dissident

“I know someone with a MA in Ecenomics who has to put invoices into envelopes for peanuts. She would be pigeonholed into class V, in fact the corporation we work in chose to do just that!

Obviously a different field of education, but I do see parallels. There are lots of others lumped into class V who are just as qualified.”

I guess it comes down to whether you rate people based on their actual skills, or their skills as extrapolated from their job. Your friend would be a class I under the former, more accurate system.

“So the problem to me is lack of opportunity, combined with debt, whether that debt is to bankers or rentiers is irrelevant, as you have to make do with what you are deemed to be worth by them, and the last thing they want is someone pushed into class V ever having the opportunity to sit in judgement of them. You are much more likely to be maliciously criminalised if you do…”

Agree RE opportunity and debt, although I don’t think that people are deliberately trapping people in class V jobs for fear that they might get power and take revenge. I imagine it’s more that, you know, poor treatment leads to poor outcomes. The system doesn’t have to be maliciously designed to hurt people.

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 21 a&e

“the statement has absolutely no relevance to the argument in hand.”

It’s an analogy, and yes it does. Here’s why: it reveals the exact logic (or rather lack thereof) that you’re applying in your attacks on UKL and myself.

[Rest of post]

I agree with all that, but you’ve ignored most of what I said and are now trying to “convince” me of something that I already agree with and have never denied.

I’m not arguing that class isn’t an unfair barrier to success. Of course it is. I’m objecting to your attacks on the character of UKL and me (directly in my case, by implication in his) based on a misreading of what we’re saying. I wouldn’t mind if it was a genuine misunderstanding, but we’ve explained it to you several times and yet you still persist with your “you don’t care about the disadvantaged” shtick. I’m honestly not certain at this point whether you’re just not reading the posts you reply to, or whether you’re deliberately straw-manning us for your own obscure purposes.

So, once more with feeling: if the definition of X requires that the subject is in group Y, then everyone in group X is by definition in group Y. This is a statement of basic logic, not an attack on group X. It applies to both your argument and the “poor people earning £100k” scenario. If you reject basic logic then there’s sweet FA I can do for you.

What you seem to be doing is assuming that we’re saying that because a person is in class IV/V *now*, they will always be in class IV/V, that it’s a waste of time giving them the opportunity to get out of class IV/V, and we shouldn’t worry if people in class IV/V never end up developing skills and getting jobs in the judiciary. This isn’t the case. The point is that, if class IV/V is defined as people without basic skills, then obviously nobody CURRENTLY in class IV/V is going to be working in a role that requires advanced skills. There’s only so many times I can say this.

24. Dissident

Chaise,

Sometimes it looks like the banker/rentier class do think we would waste our time on revenge! Their paranoid whitterings about commies etc.

I would rather live my life than be so petty. However I do sometimes indulge in a big brother/lord of the flies fantasy. Stick them on an island in the middle of nowhere, covered in cctv and just let them live their lives how they please! Let them make the kind of civilisation they want. Most of them will be turned by their peers into serfs and slaves in the process!

25. the a&e charge nurse

[23] ‘If you reject basic logic then there’s sweet FA I can do for you’ – I do not reject logic but I do reject the basis of your proposition because the proposition is context free, and adds nothing to the actual points being discussed.

You seem to be taking X or Y purely as an endpoint rather than a process.
I am approaching from the position of trying to explore what is is that makes something X or Y in the first place.

In some cultures we can see that religious lunacy reinforces certain undesirable social processes (such as job discrimination in the legal world) – in the UK it tends to be good class old class advantage that reinforces a good deal of our lack of social mobility, and judges, whether male or female, are exemplars, par excellence of this phenomena.

Anyway I HAVE already acknowledged that from a class perspective the position of judge and those in class IV or V are mutually exclusive (@11) – or that those earning 20k are in a different social class to those earning £100k to £240k (the income range of judges in the UK, see p37).
http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm80/8026/8026.pdf

26. Charlieman

Returning to @11. the a&e charge nurse: “Lets start by acknowledging that by definition judges do not belong to social class IV or V – but given that social mobility remains a theoretical possibility…”

And from what follows, it is generally accepted that some people from social classes IV or V have the capacity to get to the top of the legal career ladder. We could also include women or racial minorities alongside classes IV or V.

It is almost irrefutable (I think we might suggest a regular commenter who would disagree) to argue that class, sex or race has been a barrier to promotion/acceptance. Consequently the number of applicants who are not posh white males will be limited for a few years.

But we also have to recognise that some potential applicants — who might be very bright busy bees — may have determined that they are uninterested about climbing the ladder. It may be the ladder process — potentially implying discrimination — or perhaps those lawyers feel that they’d prefer to be lawyers rather then judges.

part of this thread is confused (or at least, I was) because a couple of the comments appeared long after they were posted.

Anyway, the composition of the Supreme Court today tells us nothing about social mobility today. These people are 60-70 years old. Fifty years ago, 1% of their fellow university students were from working class backgrounds – if that. We can talk about social mobility in those fifty intervening years but, so far as I can tell, everyone agrees it has been crap.

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 a&e

“You seem to be taking X or Y purely as an endpoint rather than a process.
I am approaching from the position of trying to explore what is is that makes something X or Y in the first place.”

That’s irrelevant to your straw-man attacks, though.

“Anyway I HAVE already acknowledged that from a class perspective the position of judge and those in class IV or V are mutually exclusive”

Jesus Christ. So you’ve acknowledged it, yet you’re going to give UKL and I shit because we also acknowledge it? I give up, it’s impossible to talk to someone who’s this far into the doublethink.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 Dissident

“Sometimes it looks like the banker/rentier class do think we would waste our time on revenge! Their paranoid whitterings about commies etc.”

Even if so, I think it’s unlikely that the system has been deliberately rigged to prevent this. I mean, that’s a pretty big conspiracy. It’s more like the system has developed naturally, and natural systems will inevitable benefit the powerful.

Also, I don’t think that most people waxing lyrical about the red menace actually believe it. Maybe they believe they believe it, but if the workers of the UK did throw off their chains and establish a communist system they’d be deeply surprised and shocked. Much like some of my fellow lefties who like to pretend that the Coalition’s callous attitude towards the disabled means that a home-soil holocaust is just around the corner.

30. the a&e charge nurse

[28] ‘yet you’re going to give UKL and I shit because we also acknowledge it?’ – no, but I am going to give you shit for making blanket statements about people in social class IV or V lacking skills – not least because there was no qualifying or contextualising statement about latent ability, or how economic obstacles prevent those from lower socio-economic groups from fulfilling their true potential.

Hell, some people from class IV or V (given how many people we are talking about) could quite easily do well in the legal profession – did you know Americas cleverest man was a bouncer?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Langan

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 30 a&e

I replied, but am fairly certain LC swallowed it.

1) It’s not making a blanket statement to say someone in a group defined by a lack of skills is lacking skills, any more than it is to say that someone in the group “poor” is not rich. Or if it is a blanket statement it’s a 100% justified one, and one that you have also made by admitting that the groups are mutually exclusive. It’s the same fucking statement.

2) I am fully aware that being in class IV/V does not mean that you have no latent, untapped ability. I am also aware that capable people are trapped in these classes for reasons of economics and prejudice, among others. I have in fact already made this clear, but you insist on conflating the two concepts, at least when I or UKL talk about them (you get a free pass from your own criticism, of course).

3) If you can’t see something overtly being taken into account in someone’s argument, just raise the issue rather than assuming that this person is unaware of it or refuses to accept it. Otherwise you end up making baseless and offensive assumptions, which has turned into your MO in this thread.

4) If you straw man me yet again in your reply, I really am going to give up. I have limited tolerance to unfounded insults. I’m only still here because you’re generally all right and I assume your apparent conversion into a childish pillock is down to either a misunderstanding or a bad day at the office.

I am going to give you shit for making blanket statements about people in social class IV or V lacking skills –

That’s weird, because that’s how IV and V are defined.

Which is why I prefer to talk about ‘working class’, as I said. Can we all stop talking about IV and V, please?

33. the a&e charge nurse

[31] ‘Otherwise you end up making baseless and offensive assumptions, which has turned into your MO in this thread’.

‘I assume your apparent conversion into a childish pillock is down to either a misunderstanding or a bad day at the office’.

‘I assume you are not overly troubled by demonising other posters like a childish prat’.

Yet you say, ‘I have limited tolerance to unfounded insults’ – now that’s the sort of selective blindness that allows the status quo amongst the upper echelons of the legal world to persist.

[32] ‘That’s weird, because that’s how IV and V are defined’ – well I hope you can at least appreciate that there are significant limitations to these labels once they are given even the most cursory scrutiny?
They may be useful as a quick sort of shorthand (because it would be very tedious adding endless qualifiers about somebody’s position on the social ladder) but I thought the point of some of these discussions was to challenge some of the assumptions behind such broad brush categories?

Anyway, the labels are relevant only in so far as they highlight an institutionalised form of exclusion and this to my mind was a much more interesting question compared to how different members of the upper class fared against each other in a small, highly specialised job market.

An acquaintance of mine was doing very well, had his own business and an expensive house in London – he has since gone under so had to downsize – does he now belong to social class V?

34. Chaise Guevara

@ 33 a7E

“Yet you say, ‘I have limited tolerance to unfounded insults’ – now that’s the sort of selective blindness that allows the status quo amongst the upper echelons of the legal world to persist.”

Oh dear. Look up “unfounded”. I am not saying that class IV/V are hopeless cases. Whereas you are definitely acting like a childish prat. If you’re going to throw unfounded insults around I feel quite comfortable with using a few fully justified insults of my own.

Oh, and once again you’ve dodged the meat of my post, even though I helpfully broke the four issues down into bullet form for you. So I guess you’re just trolling now. Well done you.

35. the a&e charge nurse

‘Look up “unfounded” – no need, Chaise – the evidence is in front of your eyes (vis-a-vis complaining about insults, when you have been the chief name caller on this thread).

As sure as day follows night you resort to accusations of, gasp, ‘trolling’ – how utterly unoriginal.

Anyway, as far as I can see our little contretemps arose @16?
But now we have both had our say maybe we can move on to the question of deeply ingrained elitism manifested by candidates from a very narrow social spectrum being over represented time and again in the top jobs.

Personally I don’t buy into an assumption that a significant change in demographics will arise in the future (with more people from lower social classes being fitted up for dusty white whigs).
As highlighted earlier Britain is hardly renowned for its social mobility not least because our centre left political representatives have become so enamored with a diluted form of what those on the right are so keen to sell us.

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 35 a&e

“no need, Chaise – the evidence is in front of your eyes (vis-a-vis complaining about insults, when you have been the chief name caller on this thread).”

Complaining about UNFOUNDED insults. You really are good at the whole “la la I’m not listening” thing aren’t you?

Oh, and insults =/= name-calling. I’d much rather be called a prick than accused of not giving a fuck about the disadvantaged.

“As sure as day follows night you resort to accusations of, gasp, ‘trolling’ – how utterly unoriginal.”

I wasn’t trying to be original. You’ve spent the entire thread straw manning me and UKL and are now avoiding addressing the points we make. What else would I call you?

Also, what do you mean “as sure as day follows night”? I’m hardly in the habit of shouting “troll” at anyone who annoys me. I avoided doing so to you until you got to the point where your posts consisted of nothing but trolling.

“Anyway, as far as I can see our little contretemps arose @16?”

Ah, so now me disagreeing with you is treated as an excuse for you baselessly accusing me of being callous. Interesting. And you’re surprised I call you childish.

“But now we have both had our say maybe we can move on to the question of deeply ingrained elitism manifested by candidates from a very narrow social spectrum being over represented time and again in the top jobs.”

I’ll give it a shot, but I imagine you’ll call me a Nazi or something the moment you run out of arguments. OK, pretending not to be pissed off from here down:

“Personally I don’t buy into an assumption that a significant change in demographics will arise in the future (with more people from lower social classes being fitted up for dusty white whigs).”

Part of the problem is that social mobility doesn’t actually eradicate class, it just pushes people into different classes. Unless social mobility is maintained, the problem comes back: perhaps Bob’s parents and grandparents weren’t very talented, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve a fair shot at left.

Another is that the negative pressures take many forms and don’t just come down to people not hiring Bob because he has a working-class accent and lives on an estate. By the time Bob is applying for a job, he may already have been failed by his parents, his school, his community, and the general effect of being surrounded by people who assume he won’t do all that well in life. Odds are he won’t apply for the better jobs to begin with.

“As highlighted earlier Britain is hardly renowned for its social mobility not least because our centre left political representatives have become so enamored with a diluted form of what those on the right are so keen to sell us.”

We did, in fairness, have fairly massive social mobility in the recent past. I would say that we don’t have any centre-left representatives, but that’s a word game. So what we need is a government that’s actually committed to creating equality of opportunity across the board, instead of just playing lip service to the idea.

37. the a&e charge nurse

[36] ‘You’ve spent the entire thread straw manning me and UKL and are now avoiding addressing the points we make’ – I genuinely have no idea what you are talking about but if you want to highlight each point I’ll be happy to try and address it

Do you mean the 4 bullet points?
1) It’s not making a blanket statement to say someone in a group defined by a lack of skills is lacking skills, any more than it is to say that someone in the group “poor” is not rich. Or if it is a blanket statement it’s a 100% justified one, and one that you have also made by admitting that the groups are mutually exclusive. It’s the same fucking statement – yes, but only with qualifications outlined @33, the issue is far more nuanced than you imply – it takes a special sort of idiot to suggest millions of people have NO skills.

2) I am fully aware that being in class IV/V does not mean that you have no latent, untapped ability. I am also aware that capable people are trapped in these classes for reasons of economics and prejudice, among others. I have in fact already made this clear, but you insist on conflating the two concepts, at least when I or UKL talk about them (you get a free pass from your own criticism, of course) – yes, you did belatedly make this point but only AFTER the blanket assertion had been challenged.

3) If you can’t see something overtly being taken into account in someone’s argument, just raise the issue rather than assuming that this person is unaware of it or refuses to accept it. Otherwise you end up making baseless and offensive assumptions, which has turned into your MO in this thread – for the chief name caller that is a rather ironic observation, but instead of referring to somebody as a prick, or whatever it was you said, you could check the rationale for such claims – there may indeed be a misunderstanding but the climate to address this misunderstanding is sullied by knee jerk insults.

4) If you straw man me yet again in your reply, I really am going to give up. I have limited tolerance to unfounded insults. I’m only still here because you’re generally all right and I assume your apparent conversion into a childish pillock is down to either a misunderstanding or a bad day at the office – I think Freud called this projection.
It is generally those who resort to calling somebody a ‘childless pillock’ who themselves are the ………. well, I’m sure you get my point.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 37 a&e

“I genuinely have no idea what you are talking about but if you want to highlight each point I’ll be happy to try and address it ”

I don’t believe you. I’ve said roughly 250 times what I’m pissed off about – your misrepresentation of me and UKL as people who are dismissive and callous about people in class IV/V – the only way you could have no idea is if you were suffering amnesia.

“yes, but only with qualifications outlined @33, the issue is far more nuanced than you imply – it takes a special sort of idiot to suggest millions of people have NO skills.”

UKL and I both agreed there were qualifications and nuances ages ago. This goes to my point (3).

2) “yes, you did belatedly make this point but only AFTER the blanket assertion had been challenged.”

So you admit you’re still accusing us of something we both clarified we weren’t saying? There are a million and one caveats that could be made in any blog post, that’s why you ASK before taking an omission as a confession. I frankly thought that it would be clear we were talking about the present and the definitions of the term, seeing as we were talking about the definitions of the term in the present tense. See (3) again.

3) “for the chief name caller that is a rather ironic observation”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Look up “baseless”. It’s not unlike “unfounded”, another word that apparently escapes you. I’m sick of you accusing me of hypocrisy purely because you seem to only read one word in two before replying.

I made a point about insults and name-calling above. True to form, you ignored it.

“but instead of referring to somebody as a prick, or whatever it was you said, you could check the rationale for such claims – there may indeed be a misunderstanding but the climate to address this misunderstanding is sullied by knee jerk insults”

Indeed it is! Thanks for sullying the climate! Remember, I only resorted to insults once you had already done so. Why are you so special that you can dictate rules to others while ignoring them yourself?

And I tried to discuss rationale, but it’s hard to do that when someone repeatedly ignores basic logic.

4) “I think Freud called this projection.

It is generally those who resort to calling somebody a ‘childless pillock’ who themselves are the ………. well, I’m sure you get my point.”

You accusing me of projection is obviously a case of you projecting your own habits of projection etc. etc. This is just a universalised excuse for avoiding criticism: if someone points out one of your flaws, OBVIOUSLY they’re just projecting their own, right? And then you don’t have to face up to those flaws! Hooray!

Shorter version: “I know you are, so what am I?”

Whatever, it’s your life. Just stop straw-manning me, it’s deeply unreasonable and look at all the shit it’s caused. Also, way to reinitiate sensible dialogue and then ignore ALL my responses to that part of your post. What was that about?

it takes a special sort of idiot to suggest millions of people have NO skills.

You’re the person who introduced IV and V to the thread.

When the nurse stops screaming unjustified insults at anyone who diverges from her party line it might be possible to explain that there actually is a class bias in one part of the legal profession – since most junior barristers do not earn enough to feed and clothe themselves (let alone pay rent) for a few years until they have established a reputation for moderate competence, there is an economic barrier to poor people entering the profession that provides a majority (no longer a monopoly thanks to Lord Hailsham) of judges. So that provides a bias against the children of parents in socio-economic classes IV and V attaining places on the Supreme Court.
On the other hand, this bias is trivial compared to the shortage of individuals whose parents from socio-economic classes IV and V with the talent and desire to become judges, let alone Supreme Court judges.

41. the a&e charge nurse

[39] ‘You’re the person who introduced IV and V to the thread’ – only as a means to highlight a much greater inequality.

[40] ‘On the other hand, this bias is trivial compared to the shortage of individuals whose parents from socio-economic classes IV and V with the talent and desire to become judges, let alone Supreme Court judges’ – what a complacent, and blinkered observation.

How many millions of parents are you talking about and how on earth did you assess their talent or desire?
Put another way, just imagine there was a scheme were those with intellectual ability (but lacking formal qualifications) were offered the necessary financial and academic support to train in the law – what makes you think a fair % wouldn’t make the grade?

Just imagine there was a scheme were those with intellectual ability (but lacking formal qualifications) were offered the necessary financial and academic support to train in the law – what makes you think a fair % wouldn’t make the grade?

There is. It’s called “university” followed by “training contracts”. Only dim rich kids pay money to actually train as solicitors: the rest get paid by law firms to do so. The crucial bit is getting into a half-decent university, scoring decent grades, and coming across decently (not perfectly, the recruiters aren’t stupid and understand that 20-year-olds won’t be Rumpole) at interview.

On the ‘social grades’ question, in actual field research it’s defined by self-identification not by external assessment, so the questions above are all entirely moot.

43. the a&e charge nurse

[42] ‘The crucial bit is getting into a half-decent university, scoring decent grades, and coming across decently (not perfectly, the recruiters aren’t stupid and understand that 20-year-olds won’t be Rumpole) at interview’ – getting into a good university is usually dependent on excellent A-level grades – and good universities are typified by over-representation from the upper class, and under representation from the lower classes (and always have been).

This state of affairs has little to do with intelligence but rather those advantages associated with avoiding a sink school, or having benefited from hours of extra-curricular tuition, or simply not having a parent on the verge of a nervous breakdown due to the pressure of always having to make do, etc – in short such children are screwed not because of lack of ability but because of their social circumstances – this is clearly discriminatory.

Instead of a single endpoint (A-level results) we should be weighting a child’s educational journey taking into account those factors which provide obvious advantages (such as private school, high family income, extra-curricular coaching, etc) – and those that mitigate against obtaining good results (low income, violent neighbourhoods, over crowded classrooms, or classrooms with diverse needs, such as multiple languages, etc) – as it stands A-level results reflect little more than a child’s cultural experiences and one of the reasons we can expect the same old faces to be donning the white whig (usually to sentence somebody from the lower class).

a&e,

I think there is some talking past each other here.

I don’t think anyone is saying that people with backgrounds of social classes IV and V will never make the grade regardless of any help they are given.

So far as I can tell, there isn’t a “deeply ingrained elitism”. There seems to be a slight preference for ‘Oxbridge’ candidates but by far the biggest barrier seems to be the funding needed to attend bar school (barristers being the usual route into the judiciary). The perception of having to accumulate a large debt to study law at university may also be a barrier.

ISTM that there isn’t some effort today to keep out the oiks, blacks or women (there may have been fifty years ago, I don’t know); under-representation of people from poor backgrounds is mainly a consequence of their financial circumstances. Again the composition of the Supreme Court today tells us nothing about social mobility today.

Chris Dillow and Shuggy are among those who suggest social mobility in general will not improve unless inequality is reduced.

45. the a&e charge nurse

[44] ‘Again the composition of the Supreme Court today tells us nothing about social mobility today’ – if we are still debating with each other in 50 years time, I’ll bet the composition remains largely unchanged except to the extent that if there are more women, they will be rich women.

Discrimination is unlikely to end if we have to rely on such a blunt tool to measure success or failure (A-level results +/- interview with a posh academic) – this seems self evident to me, and the reason it has not changed, in my view, is because those who benefit from such arrangements do not want the party being crashed by too many oiks.

Well, it may seem self-evident to you but have a look at the paper I posted @14 where they study some real evidence.

http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/18148/pupillage_analysis_zimdars_and_sauboorah.pdf

I don’t dispute that, if nothing changes in regard to the financial barrier I mentioned, the Supreme Court justices in 50 years time are unlikely to include people from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Not sure what more to say really – I agree in principle that poor people should be helped, I have no idea about the specifics.

47. the a&e charge nurse

[46] ‘I have no idea about the specifics’ – assessment commensurate with social advantage or disadvantage should be a minimum starting point (rather than a single endpoint) – at the moment it is like a race with one competitor running in spikes while the other has to make do with a pair of wellies that are 3 sizes too big – why has there been no fuss about it?

At the risk of throwing a ferret into the works, Dillow on social mobility is correct.

49. the a&e charge nurse

[48] well to precis the article it starts by quoting Oor Alan (Milburn) who says ‘the senior ranks of the professions are a closed shop’ – so far so good.

But in the blink of an eye the author goes on to say ‘it’s not obvious that social mobility is wholly desirable’ – and then equates social mobility with China and Russia – I must admit I was very tempted to throw in the towel at this point but hey, ho.

He then cites x3 political perspectives which are ‘anti’ social mobility – namely libertarians, marxists and liberal egalitarians adding ‘nor is it obvious that social mobility is desirable in utilitarian terms. Greater social mobility would create isolation amongst people from poor backgrounds who “made it” (trust me, I know), and self-recrimination among those who didn’t’.
You see he knows the poor would be left distraught if a member of their community did well rather than some Lord’s son taking his rightful place at Oxbridge.

There is then some bizarre stuff about posh doctors not killing patients and the sons of electricians ruining the banks (no, seriously).

He then quotes Michael Young who says ‘They (people who do well on merit) can be insufferably smug, much more so than the people who knew they had achieved advancement not on their own merit but because they were, as somebody’s son or daughter’ – the thrice married Baron Young of Dartington labelling over achievers smug, christ on a bike!

The authors muddled thinking emerges in the comments section – he says – ‘my preferene would be for greater economic and social equality, and let social mobility do what it will. I don’t need to take a view on the desirability of greater social mobility, given large inequality, coz it ain’t gonna happen.

Needless to say he receives a spanking in the ensuing thread not least because his arguments are on par with his bizarre reference to a murderous tyranny like china or russia equating with a true meritocracy.

50. Dissident

@ Chaise

Regarding an upper class conspiracy. True, it might not be deliberate, yet you touched on the subject of a system emerging. It is interesting to note, that any human being, whatever their ideals or ideology, would feel the pleasurable effects of an upsurge in their endorphin, serotonin and dopamine levels, if they perceive themselves to be powerful and privilidged relative to other people around them. That is an evolved mechanism from when we were still chimp like, before our cognitive abilities as a species skyrocketed. The effect of that neurotransmitter combo is identical to the feelings of pleasure from eating a huge slab of steak, or bar of chocolate. An analog of that is the high from drugs that either stimulate those neurotransmitters, or are analogs therof.

It goes without saying, the potential for addiction, with certain personality types is very real.

So maybe not a huge, deliberate conspiracy per se, more each individual pusuing a fix, through seemingly easy ways, which include colluding in the current socio-ecenomic system. So maybe the ‘conspiracy’ is in our nature as an evolved species, that still has hangovers from our chim-like ancestry.

Doesn’t alter the perceived injustice, because we have an equally evolved perception of fairness, as a social species.

51. Chaise Guevara

@ 50 Dissident

I think I agree with that entirely. Everyone is to a greater or lesser degree selfish, and this leads logically to injustice. Of course, people will convince themselves that their own selfishness is justified, too minor to be worth worrying about, or even noble if they’re Ayn Rand.

@ Chaise

is that the same Ayn Rand, who propagandised against any kind of state, who when she was terminally ill, had to turn to the state, because her plutocratic idols chose profit over keeping her alive a few months longer perchance?


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