The Royal Air Force discriminated against around 160 white male applicants in the name of diversity. So exasperated was the force’s former head of recruitment by the drive that she resigned in protest.
The diversity scheme, which ran from November 2020 to March 2021, saw group captain Elizabeth Nicholl tasked with recruiting more women and non-whites. Defence select committee chairman Tobias Ellwood late last month told MPs that the recruiter had identified “around 160 cases of positive discrimination had taken place.” He added that prioritising the sex or race of candidates could “materially impact on the RAF’s operational performance.”
Mr. Ellwood’s own (Conservative) party set the ball rolling on diversity quotas within the Army in recent years, setting a target for women to account for 30% of personnel recruited by 2030—a figure which the RAF bettered by 10 points. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has also argued that defence heads must “double our efforts” to improve “woeful” figures regarding black and minority ethnic personnel. News of the latest ‘positive discriminatory’ efforts to tick diversity boxes came after Mr. Wallace himself conceded that the British Army has “fallen behind its peer group.”
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the head of the RAF, told MPs he made “no apologies for setting a challenging, aspirational goal for the Royal Air Force for diversity,” though admitted that once the “stretching target” had “trickled down into individual recruiting officers,” it became an “unattainable target, that put intolerable stress on them.” He insisted, as quoted in The Daily Telegraph:
I can absolutely assure this committee there was no compromise of entry standards, no impact of the standard of recruits from any background, from the front line or from operational effectiveness.
In a recent interview for Eastern Eye, Sir Mike made it quite clear that among his top priorities is increasing the RAF’s diversity. The paper reported:
What really comes across is Sir Mike’s commitment to modernisation, whether that is to do with equipment, personnel or diversity … Sir Mike is most passionate about diversity and his commitment to it has been quite relentless. [Emphasis added]
Sir Mike argued that “as we look to the evolving threats of the future, threats that we can’t even predict now, the diversity of the Royal Air Force becomes mission critical.”
Jack Zanelli, 24, this month told The Daily Telegraph that he believes he was one of the individuals discriminated against by RAF recruiters because he is a white male. The young man scored highly in aptitude tests and was told he had done “very well” through the process, but that his application could not continue due to a “lack of leadership” experience. Mr. Zanelli responded:
Considering the initial phase of RAF training, the “initial officer training,” is pretty much dedicated to building these skills. I thought this was a pretty weak argument for them to defer me.
Having wanted to be a pilot his “whole life,” the 24-year-old was forced instead to focus his talents on mortgage brokering.
Responding to this case, and the wider drive for increased diversity, an RAF spokesperson told The European Conservative:
At no point did the RAF recruitment process select ethnic minority and female pilots over better qualified white male pilots. Over 80% of our recruits during the period in question were white men.
The error, which we have corrected and apologised for, was fast-tracking approximately 150 women and ethnic minority recruits, who had already passed all selection standards, on to earlier initial training courses.
Efforts to increase diversity have also seen the Metropolitan Police hire individuals who are “functionally illiterate in English,” as reported here.