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RAF chief admits mistakes over ‘discrimination’ against white men | UK News

The head of the Royal Air Force admitted to mistakes and failings after it was claimed that the former head of recruitment had identified “around 160 cases” of discrimination against white men.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, appearing before a committee of MPs on Wednesday for the first time since the scandal broke last year, said it had been wrong for “stretching aspirational” targets – that he set to improve diversity in the RAF – to end up as “unattainable” recruitment targets for his recruitment teams.

“That put intolerable stress on them and that was a failing of the organisation – where an aspirational goal becomes an individual’s target,” he said.

Looking incredibly uncomfortable, the RAF chief, for the first time in public, also offered an apology to Group Captain Lizzy Nicholl for feeling as though she had no choice but to resign as head of recruitment.

However, he insisted that there had not been any “active discrimination” against white men.

The RAF chief came under heavy fire from the defence select committee over what happened to Group Captain Nicholl, who quit because she refused to implement what she deemed to be an “unlawful order” to favour women and ethnic minorities when selecting individuals for training courses.

Sky News first reported the resignation last August.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, said that he believed legal action was going to be taken against the RAF over the matter, which he called a “blot on the copy book” of the air force.

He said the order that the head of recruitment refused to implement had come down from her chain of command, noting that Air Chief Marshal Wigston sat at the top.

“My question today is: ‘Did the wrong person resign?'” Mr Ellwood asked.

Air Chief Marshal Wigston said that he was limited in what he could say about Group Captain Nicholl’s case because it is the topic of an ongoing inquiry. It revolved around an order that was given to the officer last August and was never implemented because she quit.

Before this happened, though, Mr Ellwood said she had allegedly already discovered a recruitment practice that appeared to favour women and ethnic minority candidates over white men in a bid to improve the RAF’s diversity targets.

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RAF admits ‘mistakes were made’ – report from last year

“She determined that, I understand, about 160 cases of positive discrimination had taken place and she ended up having to resign not wishing to go through with this policy,” Mr Ellwood said.

The RAF chief admitted that mistakes had been made “historically”.

He said it hinged around how certain recruits – based on gender and ethnicity – had been accelerated onto courses ahead of white men, something that was only identified as an “error” at the start of last year.

“Prior to that a limited number of women and ethnic minority candidates who had passed through the recruiting system were allocated additional slots onto basic training,” Air Chief Marshal Wigston said.

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From September 2022: ‘No discrimination’ in RAF recruitment

However, he stressed that no one had done anything intentionally wrong.

“Throughout all of this, I have seen nothing to indicate that people were giving directions that they believed to be unlawful.

“They were working under the assumption that what they were doing was lawful and it was all done under the best of intent to tackle this intractable challenge,” he said, referring to the goal to recruit more women and ethnic minorities.

As for his own track record, the head of the air force said: “I make no apologies for setting a challenging aspirational goal for the Royal Air Force for diversity.

“Those are challenging goals, those are stretching aspirational levels of ambition … One of the mistakes we have identified is that that aspirational goal … when it was translated into the strategy and then translated into our business plan and then trickled down into individual recruiting officers’, recruiting sergeants’ in-year personal objectives and was an unattainable target that put intolerable stress on them, and that was a failing of the organisation where an aspirational goal becomes an individual’s target.”

UK weather: Technically speaking, it was a white Christmas this year | UK News

Technically, the UK did have a white Christmas in 2022 – although for most areas temperatures were too mild to see any snow.

The Met Office recorded either sleet or snow falling at five of its weather stations across the UK, with Edinburgh one of three in Scotland and another two in Northern Ireland.

Met Office meteorologist Tom Morgan said: “Officially it was a white Christmas but, of course, a lot of people think of those perfect deep-snow Christmas card scenes and actually we didn’t really see any snow settle at lower levels.

“What we define a white Christmas as is just a few snowflakes falling, even if it’s mixed with rain, so it’s a technical white Christmas but, for most places, particularly in England and Wales, it was too mild.”

Traffic travels through snow along the A702 near Silverburn, Midlothian
Traffic travels through snow along the A702 near Silverburn, Midlothian, on Boxing Day

In Scotland, the forecaster recorded snow at Edinburgh’s Gogarbank weather station, Loch Glascarnoch in Ross and Cromarty, and Altnaharra in Sutherland.

Across the Irish Sea, snow fell in Glennane, County Armagh, and at Lough Fea in Londonderry.

Showers of sleet turned to snow

“Most of the day was too mild for snow and the showers were falling for rain, but in the evening it got colder and we started to see those showers turn to sleet and then to snow,” said the meteorologist.

But for most places, the snow came too late to declare a white Christmas.

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A snow plough makes its way through Carlops
A snow plough makes its way through Carlops on Boxing Day, in the Scottish Borders area

“We’ve got snow on the ground across Cumbria, quite widely across Scotland this morning [Boxing Day], even at lower levels,” Mr Morgan added.

“If the colder air had been a little bit earlier to arrive then it would have been a white Christmas, but it’s certainly a white Boxing Day for some of us.”

When did the UK last have ‘proper’ snow at Christmas?

Last Christmas, some 6% of Met Office stations recorded snowfall, but just 1% had snow lying on the ground. In 2017, some 11% of sites recorded snow falling.

However, forecasters have to go back to 2010 to find a December 25 when people would remember waking up to snow on the ground.

Christmas 2010 was the last time there was a reasonable amount of snow on the ground
Christmas 2010 was the last time there was a reasonable amount of snow on the ground

On Christmas Day this year, the Met Office recorded a high of 12.7C in Chertsey, Surrey, while Loch Glascarnoch recorded the lowest temperature of 2.7C.

West Brom women’s team switch from white shorts to navy to ‘focus on performance without added anxiety’ of periods | UK News

West Bromwich Albion’s women’s team will switch to navy shorts to get rid of the anxiety of having to wear white while on their period.

They will wear the new home kit for the rest of the season and beyond after consultation with the whole squad.

Captain Hannah George praised the club for supporting the change to darker coloured shorts.

“Representing the club professionally and looking smart in the kit is really important to us,” she said.

“This change will help us to focus on our performance without added concerns or anxiety.”

Albion play in the Northern Premier division of the FA Women’s National League, the third tier of the game.

Head coach Jenny Sugarman said it was important to make any change, no matter how small, to help her players perform at their best.

“I’m proud the club have supported the decision to switch to navy shorts for our female players,” she said.

“It’s another sign of the continued integration of the women’s team across the club and recognition of a progressive and inclusive culture.”

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The change comes after England’s Euro-winning team raised similar concerns over the colour of their own shorts.

Beth Mead said in July: “It is very nice to have an all-white kit but sometimes it’s not practical when it’s the time of the month. We have discussed it as a team and we have fed that back to Nike.”

There’s also been talk about the issue with regards to Wimbledon’s strict all-white kit policy, with a small group protesting outside the club ahead of the women’s final this year.

Former Olympic tennis champion Monica Puig has also tweeted about the “mental stress” of wearing white at the tournament and “praying not to have your period during those two weeks”.