Shirley Tart: We must offer fair deal for everyone

We are getting much better in this country at offering diversity but do have the knack of sometimes going too far the other way.

Shirley Tart
Shirley Tart

Take Matthew Furlong, a young graduate who was apparently turned down for a career in the police force because he was ‘white, male and heterosexual’. The talented and personable young man was bitterly disappointed but pursued what he saw as an injustice and won an employment tribunal case which ruled that he had indeed been discriminated against.

Now, to cut a long story short and after months of persistent challenges, it has been agreed that Matthew, whose father is a serving detective inspector, can follow his dream.

And that is exceptionally good. Because while it is so important that opportunities are open to everyone, once you begin making it easier or more difficult to be accepted, you’ve lost the plot again.

It was the same with opportunities for women. How long did it take, and we can count in centuries, for enough of us to be accepted as capable and bright enough to at least be given a fair chance of being worth the training. And very much more if you are counting!

I am one of the keenest supporters of positive action in the name of diversity but has to work both ways. As a deputy lieutenant of the county, one of the good and hopefully helpful privileges in which to be involved over a number of years now, is to help represent the Lord Lieutenant at citizenship ceremonies, to welcome so many to our country and of course, to our county and beyond.

Uplifting. And most important of all, it is fair.

Hopefully police forces and other sensible groups with diversity very much in mind, think so, too. So that everybody gets a fair deal.

Now, we hear a lot – and some of us promote it actually – about increasing numbers of women amongst us who grow older fantastically well. Straight off, we must remember that looks, certainly aren’t everything. Nor what we wear or how handy our hairdresser might be and so on.

So much of how we age depends on good health.

And remember so much of that is in our gift to ourselves. If we have looked after body and mind over the years, kept even the most resistant body reasonably active at least and have an obvious look of optimism about us, we are halfway there.

Of course, illness makes a massive difference and it might be nigh on impossible to keep smiling through when you feel lousy, it is amazing how some folk seem able to see a bright dawn even through the darkest times.

Having been at a Buckingham Palace garden party this week, it reminded me yet again that most of the 8,000 guests gathered to meet the Queen have been around for a good few years, many needed a bit of mobility help, most were being honoured for what they had contributed to our communities over the years so of course were mostly in that upper age range.

Yet they defied the cold and the rain, they loved their day and looked as young and happy as ever. Know what that was? Spirit! Their priceless spirit, of course!

Finally, a very special word for D-Day veteran Roy Cooper who still landscapes his own garden. Roy is aged 101!

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