Wednesday 5 March 2014

Businesses must treat everyone fairly.

UKIP Lewes District Councillor and prospective MEP Donna Edmunds said, on the Lewes Forum, today

"…all business owners, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, should be allowed to withhold their services from whomever they choose whenever they choose."
She, apparently, thinks that businesses should be free to choose, but also thinks that they should choose to do the right thing. I presume, also that she thinks they would do the right thing. But, she's ignoring history here. Rosa Parks, and countless others, have fought hard to get equal rights in all walks of life, not just the right to use buses and enrol at Universities. In the end, the rights had to be granted through legislation.

There are two reasons that legislation was used. First, progress without it was just too slow, and second: that's how we express our views in a democracy. Of course, as a Liberal, I'd rather avoid legislation where possible, but in this case it's clear that legislation was required. Businesses benefit from all sorts of legislation that protects their legal identity, intellectual "property", physical property, and accrued financial assets. In return, we expect certain standards of behaviour from them: including fair treatment of all citizens.

I'm pleased to say, the condemnation has been unanimous. The BBC used it to illustrate the "pitfalls of UKIP's 'major party status'". The Daily Mail pointed out that Nigel Farage thought UKIP had eliminated this sort of thing, and that current candidates were "of a calibre to be proud of".  The Metro called it "Today's UKIP meltdown news". And every other story I've seen covering this has condemned her. Of course, Norman Baker has, too.

I'm also pleased to say that Lewes District Council has issued this statement:
"Date: Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Lewes District Council statement
Councillor Donna Edmunds, Lewes District Councillor for Barcombe, has expressed her personal view about business owners withholding services from whomever they choose.
A Lewes District Council spokesperson said “Councillor Edmunds’ views are her personal opinion and are not shared by the District Council. 
Lewes District Council has a statutory duty under The Equality Act 2010 to protect people from discrimination. We believe that everyone who lives and works in the area, and those who come to visit us, should feel welcome, safe, valued, included and respected. 
All officers and councillors receive regular training opportunities and there is no excuse for them not to be aware of their duties as council employees and elected members”.


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