Thursday, May 24, 2007

The GLA selection: a bit of a shambles, really…

Anyone who has been observing London Liberal Democrat activity recently will have been aware that the process by which we have been choosing our Mayoral and Assembly candidates has been on the end of some criticism. This, I admit, is a bit like saying that it rains occasionally, or that civil servants drink tea.

And so I must regretfully accept my share of the blame, as a member of the Regional Candidates Committee who should know better. So, what did we get wrong?

  • The timing of the selection – selections should aim to avoid clashing with elections, even if they aren’t where the selection is taking place. In this instance, we were obliged to have a Returning Officer from outside London Region, and then were surprised to find that she might actually have an election of her own to fight.
  • The Selection Rules failed to take into account advances in internal campaigning techniques, especially those related to e-mail, websites and blogs.

We allowed ourselves to be railroaded into a timetable through a failure to think through the implications and, eventually, we ended up with a schedule determined by the availability of Membership Services. They aren’t at fault, they’re only doing what is possible in the light of their other obligations.

The problem is that the various elements of the Regional Party tend to operate as independent silos, focussing on their own areas of responsibility (a situation highlighted by Nick Clegg on Tuesday evening in relation to the Parliamentary Party, curiously enough), and are not always able to take into account the conflicting priorities of the broader team.

Brian Orrell, last year’s Regional Candidates Chair, drove forward the review of the Selection Rules with much energy. I’m not convinced that he had the active support of all of the other members, and freely admit that my attention was diverted by the ongoing bloodbath that was my divorce. I’ll try not to make that mistake in future…

We need to do better, and I believe that we can and will, but only by taking a longer-term view, planning better and, most importantly, consulting more widely. I’m working on a set of documents which will act as a framework for doing this and, if all goes well, we might all benefit from the lessons learnt…


Ed said...

Good to see some of the, um, less successful parts of the process have come to the attention of the people who make the decisions.

Coinciding with local elections was clearly a mistake. So too was free reign on emails - I hope the national party hasnt lost too many people from the list it can send emails to as a result of the spam blizzard that was the GLA selection!

Fundamentally, though, was there not scope for shortlisting? I understand the desire to offer full choice to the membership but 22 candidates? Many of whom didnt seem to have a clue or even bother to run campaigns...

One other thing that I would like considered- my candidates booklet was printed in alphabetical order. Should it not be randomised with short runs and a variety of ordering? Yes, I know its expensive but if we are going to run democratic selections, paying to run them properly should not be an issue.

(finally, though, thanks to everyone who DOES play a part in making sure internal party elections happen - a lot of people give up a lot of time for not a lot of obvious reward except for people like me standing outside and moaning about how it should have been done better...)

Duncan Borrowman said...

Mark of course knows I agree with all that he says. I think we need a thorough review.

I also agree with Ed. I would go as far as saying that as we are likely to get about 5 people elected, the real issue isn't who his on the list, but who are the top half of the list.

There should have been a shortlisting process. I would suggest a shortlist of 11 - i.e. the shortlisting decides who the list are. The membership chooses the order. This is far more democratic than it first sounds, given that it is only really the top half that are in contention for a seat.