As a member of the Regional Candidates Committee, I have a front row seat in the process of deciding how our candidates for the London Assembly will be chosen. Yes, I understand that there will be an election but, let's face it, the various political parties will effectively decide who sits in the Assembly as they choose the candidates, including the list ones, whose names never really reach the public consciousness, and the order in which they are placed.
As an aside, I'm a supporter of a list-based system whereby voters pick a party preference AND number the candidates on that list in order of preference, thus putting power back into the hands of voters and taking it away from parties. It would also give candidates further down the list greater motivation to campaign vigorously.
Back to the plot though... so I found myself in a rather warm Cowley Street with my fellow committee members, discussing various briefing papers from particular interest groups, plus a really good document from one of my fellow returning officers, Andy Harding, outlining the various possibilities and their pros and cons. Very astutely, he didn't actually come down in favour of a particular outcome...
For what it's worth, I tend towards a selection process which encourages the broadest spread of campaigning effort and might help to build up some of our weaker Local Parties. In 2000, Susan Kramer fought a Mayoral campaign which reached every high street in the city - literally - and was generally thought to have had a positive effect on the linked Assembly campaign. It also encouraged some of our weaker groups to believe that someone higher up the party 'food chain' actually cared about them and their patch.
At the end of a fascinating evening, we reached a broad consensus which will be passed on for consultation and further discussion before we submit a recommendation to the Regional Executive in mid-September. However, in the spirit of meaningful debate, I'll keep my lips sealed on our thoughts thus far, as any public comment might imply that it is a done deal and it is still far from that. Needless to say, given the various preferences espoused from different quarters, someone isn't going to like the outcome. But then, that's what a democracy is all about, isn't it?