Monday, March 06, 2006

Looking back in confusion and regret

In hindsight, and with the benefit of reflection, I feel somewhat cheated. It appears that my faith in the honour and decency of some of our party's most senior figures might have been ill-judged and, by exhibiting an unhelpful degree of naivety, I may well have prejudiced the very cause I had hoped to promote.

You will recall that I had been surprised by the two amendments that were chosen for debate. One, on monitoring, came as a surprise only because I was not informed that it had been taken for debate. As James Graham rightly reminds me, I had been warned about it in advance and, putting aside my personal misgivings about monitoring for sexuality and religion, I certainly accepted the basic principle of collecting data so that progress might be quantified.

The second, proposed by Simon Hughes, our illustrious Party President, was obviously tabled with the knowledge and support of our Chief Executive, who demonstrated once again, if proof were needed, his mastery of internal politics. I was warned, albeit probably too late to do anything about it. And even, had I been able to credibly attack it, I didn't have enough 'backstory' to successfully do so, especially after arriving in the hall to find that Navnit Dholakia's speech already included a statement of acceptance. For the record, I only discovered this by reading his speech over his shoulder (and he didn't know that I was there at the time). The response to his intervention from my readership and the wider blogosphere is, thus far, a long way short of impressed.

And so they were both passed. Unfortunately, I am now left in the uncomfortable position of hoping for the best, and fearing the sort of invidious sabotage that the Federal Executive tends towards when Conference wants something that it doesn't.

It pains me to have to make a statement like this publicly, and I will happily recant if the review produces something effective and timely (bear in mind that winnable seats are selecting already, and wasn't the whole purpose of the exercise to get black and ethnic minority MP's elected?). But either the auguries aren't promising or my more pragmatic friends are overly cynical. Experience tends towards the former.

Gentlemen, prove me wrong...


James said...

I don't really see the problem you have with monitoring given that it will be a) voluntary and b) anonymous.

Your problem also is not the FE per se. As a general rule, the FE supports such initiatives - your motion is based on a report that the FE agreed two years ago. What the FE is however is notoriously inconsistent and appallingly deferential when it comes to senior party officers.

There have been exceptions to that - the last time is was proposed to suck control of the EMETF and GBTF into the main Cowley Street operation for instance. But decisions are rarely tracked for implementation and when the "wrong" decision is made, after a while another review simply gets set up.

My pessimism lies in the knowledge that even if this new review goes the right way, it will simply not be implemented and, 12 months from now, another review will be started. That does, after all, fairly simplisticly sum up what has been happening on this issue for the past 3 years.

Ming Campbell can either happily go along with this as his predeccessor did, or put a block on it right now. His choice.

Mark Valladares said...


My personal misgivings about monitoring on sexuality and religion come down to two points.

Firstly, these are the most deeply personal aspects of people's lives and, whilst I am socially liberal in respect to the society I inhabit, my own personal morals are deeply conservative in terms of the way I live my own life. Call it intellectual cowardice if you like but I'm happy in my well-guarded emotional space.

Secondly, I fear that asking questions on sexuality and religion will inhibit those surveyed from giving truthful answers, even if done anonymously. This in turn will limit the statistical credibility of our results and produce under-counting, which in turn potentially gives our opponents sticks to beat us with of our own design.

The amendment did not clarify whether the monitoring would be voluntary or mandatory and whilst I was happy to accept your word and that of Francesca that the intent was that it would indeed be voluntary and anonymous, you won't be the ones implementing it. For that reason, I felt it necessary to articulate my concerns, if only to lay down a marker.

I now accept that I allowed my more romantic persona to slip through on Saturday, presuming those at the top of the party to be honourable in their intent. I'll need to be more careful in future...