Focus on ability not gender

What on earth do you make of a major political party which for years has campaigned passionately for equality and 'inclusiveness', but may now be in the business of abruptly standing all that on its head and doing precisely the opposite?

Harriet Harman, the hugely popular former deputy leader of Labour, is advocating the next party leadership campaign should be an all-woman affair, with men barred from entering the fray. This is simply hypocrisy writ large.

And there is every possibility, with women now on the rampage, that this nefarious idea might catch on and that the next Labour leader could be elected on the basis of a disgraceful example of social engineering. Harman ludicrously implies that Labour is on catch-up because the Tories have had two female leaders and Labour, so far, none.

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But politicians should be chosen for jobs on the basis of their ability to do them, irrespective of gender. Neither Margaret Thatcher nor Theresa May had any help (or wanted any) from feminist organisations to get to the top.

Harman’s plan is an insult to women and I hope no female Labour leadership aspirants would want to take part in such a rigged contest.

My view is that if Harman had contested the Labour leadership election, ultimately won by Jeremy Corbyn, she would have won hands down, without recourse to any of the kind of disgraceful manipulation she now advocates.

All-women by-election shortlists were bad enough – this is that much worse. It has been weakly described by its supporters as “positive discrimination”.

How feeble is that?

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- Never mind George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother is already with us. The internet, Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest of them, may be a source for good, but they are also prey to the activities of ruthless hackers who are stealing our identities and selling the information on to rogues. At last some kind of official action is being taken to end this scourge, which is threatening people with blackmail and worse. Unless it is quickly nipped in the bud, it will mean the end of privacy as we know it.