UK Minister Bans Rainbow Lanyards and Diversity Contracts

UK Cabinet Office Minister Esther McVey bans civil servants from wearing rainbow lanyards, citing politicization. She also announces a ban on consultancy contracts for equality, diversity, and inclusion services in Whitehall.

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Bijay Laxmi
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UK Minister Bans Rainbow Lanyards and Diversity Contracts

UK Minister Bans Rainbow Lanyards and Diversity Contracts

On May 13, 2024, UK Cabinet Office Minister Esther McVey, known as the Government's warns, civil, wearing, common, sense, minister, of "common sense minister," announced a ban on civil servants wearing rainbow lanyards in London, citing politicization. McVey criticized the "random pick and mix" of lanyards worn in Whitehall, stating that they should instead feature a standard design reflecting that "we are all members of the government delivering for the citizens of the UK."

Why this matters: This ban has implications for the rights and visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals in the UK, and may signal a broader shift in the government's approach to diversity and inclusion initiatives. It also raises questions about the role of politics in the civil service and the balance between neutrality and promoting equality.

In a speech at the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies think tank, McVey also declared a ban on bans, civil consultancy contracts for equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) services in Whitehall. She stated that there would be no more spending on external EDI contracts without explicit sign-off from a minister and no more EDI-focused jobs outside human resources. McVey believes such roles present a "distraction from the core purpose of the Civil Service" and an "inappropriate backdoor politicization of Whitehall."

The minister warned that senior officials could take action against staff who continue to wear non-standardized lanyards. "Trying to introduce [political views] by the back door via lanyards should not happen," McVey asserted. "What we don't need and what I'm saying is you don't need political activism in a visible way."

McVey's announcement drew criticism from some quarters. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw called it a "pathetic retrograde," emphasizing that "being LGBT is not a view." Lucille Thirlby, assistant general secretary of the FDA civil servants' union, countered McVey's claims, stating, "Nobody joins the civil service in order to impose their own political ideology... Civil servants understand they serve the government of the day."

The ban on rainbow lanyards and EDI consultancy contracts is seen as part of a broader government crackdown on perceived politicization in the civil service. There are approximately 400 full-time employees working on EDI across the Civil Service. In October, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt launched a review into spending on EDI schemes throughout the public sector.

McVey's announcement comes as the government faces mounting challenges, including the cost-of-living crisis and ongoing Brexit negotiations. Some view the minister's focus on civil service lanyards and diversity initiatives as a distraction from more pressing issues. The ban is also seen by critics as a bid to save public money by slashing EDI policies ahead of the next general election.

Key Takeaways

  • UK Cabinet Office Minister Esther McVey bans civil servants from wearing rainbow lanyards in London.
  • McVey cites "politicization" and wants standardized lanyards reflecting government unity.
  • She also bans consultancy contracts for equality, diversity, and inclusion services in Whitehall.
  • Critics argue the ban is a distraction from pressing issues and a bid to cut public spending.
  • The move raises concerns about the government's approach to diversity and inclusion initiatives.