There was good news at the start of this week, with a judge electing to ban Ryanair’s ‘sexy’ calendar. Following a complaint from consumer group Adecua, Spanish judge Amanda Cohen ruled that the women flight attendants who feature were being treated as “mere objects”. She said there was a “disconnection between the images used and the product being promoted”.
The ruling comes at the end of a difficult 6 months for the airline, with Chief Executive Michael O’Leary admitting in September that their “abrupt culture” needed to change. There was subsequent criticism of O’Leary for his comments about a female tweeter during an online Q&A, and in November he announced he would be performing a less public role. After falling behind Easyjet, Ryanair have also been forced to relent on many of their most unpopular policies.
It appears Cohen’s block on the calendar refers only to previous editions, meaning Ryanair are not prohibited from selling sexist merchandise in future. Nevertheless, as someone who has campaigned against the calendar in the past I am delighted to see someone standing up to O’Leary on this issue.
Although Ryanair say they will be appealing the decision I believe we are seeing the beginning of the end for many of their most arcane practices. As the world gets more socially liberal and consumers come to have higher expectations of services, things that might have been “cheeky” a few years ago now just seem cheap. There will be a delicious irony in watching O’Leary, who has in the past called environmentalists and others on the left “luddites marching us back to the 18th century”, having to make his company more politically correct in order to keep up.
The end of this week, meanwhile, saw plans by the government to impose a 75,000 yearly limit on EU workers. According to a leaked Home Office report a cap would bring down the number of migrants by 30,000. The proposals also include plans for a “national preference” approach, which would effectively prioritise British applicants for jobs.
With Romanian and Bulgarian citizens shortly to be granted freedom of movement, this is the latest in a string of government attempts to woo UKIP-leaning voters by playing on anxieties about “an influx of non-skilled workers”. Attempts last month to stop new migrants claiming benefits – as well as ongoing fear mongering about ‘health tourism’ – are part of the same strategy.
Being Europe is reciprocal – all member states have to take the rough with the smooth. As the Tories’ Coalition own partners pointed out, a 75,000 cap “can only happen by leaving the EU”. Picking and choosing which parts of the European project we want to be part of just isn’t possible.
Moreover, the facts about eastern European migrants show they are, on average, younger and more likely to be in work than Britons – and half as likely to claim benefits. Everything I’ve seen in my constituency in London suggests that European migrants are young, fit individuals with a strong work ethic. Far from being a drain on resources they are a huge benefit to our economy.
Proposals like those discussed this week are therefore both unworkable and unwarranted. They prevent us from having a serious conversation about migration and Europe, and instead represent dog whistle politics of the worst kind.