Artillery Row

Inclusion is an illusion

LNER – the railway that is too LGBTQI+ inclusive for “ladies and gentlemen”

It didn’t take long for yet another big business to become embroiled in a Twitter storm. London North Eastern Railway (LNER) found itself in an uncomfortable position yesterday as one individual was slighted by a polite tannoy announcement which started with “Good morning ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…” The complainant then followed with: “So, as a non-binary person this announcement doesn’t actually apply to me so I won’t listen.”

So far, so relatively innocuous. However, it was the grovelling response of the train company which today raised the hackles of social media.

LNER swallowed the virtue-signalling bait hook, line and sinker

Rather than rising above the virtue-signalling bait, LNER swallowed it hook, line and sinker as they kowtowed to the offended individual. How disappointing. In response to the tweet, which has since been hidden on Twitter, LNER responded: “I’m really sorry to see this, Laurence, our Train Managers should not be using language like this, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention, Please could you let me know which service you are on and I will ensure they remain as inclusive as we strive to be at LNER.”

I know that in the service industry the customer is always right, but this level of pandering is just embarrassing.

Why do companies feel the need to embarrass themselves in this way? Is such a reaction now the go-to damage control PR strategy?

Surely LNER should be focusing on something more important — say, returning the proportion of their faulty Hitachi fleet to service and maintain a fully operational timetable now that life begins to return to some semblance of normality after the pandemic — rather than pandering to random Twitter trolls who enjoy making corporations squirm as a full-time hobby.

Instead of getting the applause they so desperately wanted, Twitter has instead become a hothouse of memes and disparaging jokes, with many mocking LNER’s grovelling response. Several campaigners, including actor James Dreyfus, have also taken to social media to demand that no action be taken against the innocent driver. Dreyfus told me:

We are all used to people complaining about the most trivial of matters. What concerns me is the immediate capitulation and agreement that the language was unacceptable by LNER, after ONE member of the train union complained. My concern is for possible repercussions against the totally innocent driver. This is not an isolated incident and it remains deeply concerning.

When I approached LNER for comment, a spokesperson for the train company said: “We are committed to diversity and inclusion in all that we do for our customers, colleagues and communities, and encourage our onboard teams to welcome all customers onboard. Our policies and procedures are reviewed regularly and we will review if any further changes need to be made.”

But, apparently, this inclusion only applies to those in the LGBTQI+ community.

Family lawyer Sarah Phillimore has spoken out about her frustration that the same energy spent on virtue-signalling and appeasing woke complainants is not devoted to the inclusion of another marginalised, but numerically huge, group: those with disabilities.

This is the heart of what I say is the problem. The number of us with a protected characteristic that impacts our day-to-day life in inescapable ways, that we did not chose and cannot change, is massively greater than the number who seek recognition of a gender identity.

Nor is ‘gender identity’ a protected characteristic. The amount of energy that goes into elevating this claimed identity and to attempting to silence those who wish to challenge it, must inevitably detract from the energy available to the actual protected characteristics.

This kind of performative nonsense will destroy the Equality Act.

LNER is the latest in a long line of companies falling over themselves to appease the ultra-woke. Who is next to fall remains to be seen.

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