Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Which part of "resignation" is so hard to get?

I'm a mite puzzled (and yes, I know, there are those of you out there who are convinced that this is my semi-permanent state). I tendered my resignation as Regional Secretary on Thursday. Today I get an e-mail regarding a future meeting and a request to gather certain information from the very person I tendered my resignation to. Hang on a moment, I think, haven't I resigned? Doesn't that mean that I'm not Regional Secretary? Or am I in some sort of weird parallel universe where the word resignation means "a courteous way of saying that everything is fine"?

On the plus side, talking to a couple of more sensible colleagues, I finally found someone who understands the concept of resignation as a point of honour. Stand up Maureen de Beer, former Chair of London Region. Has our politics decayed to the point where a long memory is required to countenance the idea that someone might resign because it is the morally right thing to do? Does this explain the disenchantment of the public with politics?

This does leave me with the question of my future role on the Regional Executive. Clearly, a firm grip of corporate governance issues might be helpful, and I need to spend more time on candidate issues, so that seems like the obvious route to go down. It might even be fun to do without a little thankless responsibility from time to time...

Monday, November 28, 2005

When candidates are a necessary evil

An evening spent at headquarters, looking at candidate review forms from the General Election (and you thought that they just got filed...). The London Candidates Committee held its eighth meeting to examine the respective review forms from the Local Party and their candidate(s).

Some of them have obviously been completed with care, others less so. Most candidates appear to have reached the same conclusions as the Local Party in terms of the success (or otherwise) of the campaign, although occasionally you see a difference of views that is surprising. I have to admit that the one I completed for Dulwich & West Norwood (I'm the Chair... still...) took longer than it ought to have done (the dog ate it, honest, Mr Orrell...). 

It was quite easy though, as we did much better than I had expected - 24%, a 9% plus swing from Labour, and pushing the Tories into third for the first time ever. Jonathan Mitchell, my predecessor as Local Party Chair, did very well, despite the limitations of an under-resourced campaign. And you can hardly fault the candidate given such an outcome...

Even the MPs fill these forms in, and interesting reading they make too. Having never fought a campaign where my candidate has won at any level below a London-wide list (and if we didn't win those, we really ought to give up), it's fascinating to see what their expectations are in terms of local organisation and integrated campaigning...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happiness is a warm pair of socks

Having successfully assassinated another household gadget, this time the washing machine (made whirring noises, no sign of the drum moving), I spent a peaceful Sunday morning tidying the house, filing and generally pottering about whilst awaiting the delivery of a replacement from Comet (if you're reading, gentlemen, your website is actually pretty good - and a home cinema system would be a nice gesture in return for this shameless plug).

Amazingly, they came within the time window, disconnected the old machine, brought in the new one, connected it up, tested it and were gone. Time to do some laundry, I thought, as I really needed some clean socks. It'll make a good test... and now that I have a gadget that comes with a dryer too, I won't have to spend time moving drying laundry around. It's amazing how such little things enhance your life... Anyway, the machine did its thing, producing me twenty pairs of clean, dry and warm socks. Let joy be unconfined!

Another thing that I've discovered is that I actually quite like a nice cup of tea. Yes, I know, "he's English, with an Indian father, of course he likes tea". Funnily, having been married to an American for fourteen years, I'd switched to coffee and hadn't really given tea a backward glance. I suppose that spending more time with my mother (who really does like her tea) has had an impact.

In contrast to the warmth inside, outside is "a mite parky", with a cold wind blowing. We've been lucky in London, no snow (unlike Brussels) so far. I noticed that John Hemming is talking about gas prices and I have to admit that the link between high oil prices and cold winters doesn't augur well for the months to come. Luckily for me, I've always taken the view that putting on an extra layer is just as easy as turning up the thermostat. And of course, with the new washer dryer, I can clean the extra clothing quickly!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Shoot first, ask questions later?

I may have done something very stupid, gentle reader, and all in the cause of honour and integrity... so here is a cautionary tale for anyone who feels that politics should be the preserve of those who believe in such things.

In a burst of enthusiasm after the election of the new Executive Committee, I issued an agenda for our next meeting which included elections of the remaining Officers and of the standing committees, based as much on my (occasionally flawed) memory as any reading of the Constitution, and called for nominations.

One of my fellow Officers responded overnight, indicating his disquiet at my breach of the Regional Constitution and noting that these positions should not be elected until the first meeting in 2006 (I paraphrase slightly...). I opened my e-mail at 9 the next morning and read his comments with alarm.

Pausing only to pour a metaphorical glass of single malt and light a metaphorical cigar, I drafted an e-mail to the Chair, tendering my resignation...

Having read Brian's e-mail, and researched the events of November 2004, I must accept that he is quite right.
Under the circumstances, it seems clear that my position is unexpectedly untenable and, given the way I do politics, it is appropriate that I accordingly tender my resignation as Secretary, effective forthwith.

I then retired to polish my metaphorical pearl-handled revolver and load it before returning to send the e-mail (the metaphorical equivalent of putting the gun to my temple and pulling the trigger - I like this metaphor, it has a real sense of theatre about it). And all this by 9.30...

The remainder of Thursday was spent, quite frankly, in a bit of a daze but I had begun to reconcile myself to the whole experience by the evening, only to get a telephone call from a member of the Regional Executive whose opinion I value highly, advising that someone else had resigned from another part of the Party for reasons rather more heroic (i.e. unnecessary) than mine. I explained to her why I might not be the best person to talk him round but agreed to call him and try to persuade him to change his mind. The two of us have a number of similar issues and I hope that I was in some way persuasive.

To cut a long story short, I came home from English Council this evening with the thought of confirming my error so that, at next weekend's Executive Committee, I could explain my reasoning if required to do so. And that's where this story takes a rather quirky turn... I read the Regional Constitution, which states that both the remaining Officers and the standing committees should be elected at the first meeting of the Regional Executive after the Annual General Meeting.

So, I have now resigned on the grounds that I have committed a breach of the Regional Constitution, even though I actually haven't. Unfortunately, it is my view that a gentleman, having tendered his resignation, cannot then withdraw it, as this would make a mockery of the principle of honourable conduct in public life. As a faceless bureaucrat, if you don't live up to your principles, you bring little else to the party and so I am impaled on the horns of my own ethical code. Has anyone got one of those Swiss Army knives with the gadget for extracting sharp, pointy things from self-inflicted wounds?...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Darlings, I love you all!

I appear to able to do no wrong at the moment. Best of all, I've achieved my first resolution for 2005, i.e. to get re-elected to all of the positions I won in 2004!

Given the opposition, I'm rather proud of the achievement, and perhaps I've made some impression, although being an arch-enemy of Nasser can't hurt. So, I'm back on English Council and the London Candidates Committee and all that is left is whether or not the Executive are willing to endure my eccentricities as Secretary for another year. That can wait until next week though...

Meanwhile, on planet Earth, I had to buy a new washer dryer, as my old washing machine bit the dust. I can hear the machine trying to spin the drum but nothing happens. I guess that the cost of trying to repair it would make buying a new one a better option so I went online and ordered one from Comet. They'll deliver it, install it, test it and take the old machine away on Sunday morning. It'll be interesting to have a dryer, as Rachelle didn't seem to approve of the notion. My life will be easier, that's for certain!

Monday, November 21, 2005

And the winner is...

Me! Yes, in a thrilling election result (well, thrilling for me at least), I have been gloriously re-elected to the London Region Executive Committee. And quite comfortably too, having been elected on first preferences and in third place. It would seem that I did something right this year, although I'm a little puzzled as to what it might be.

Once the results are published (it would seem that Secretaries get an advance copy...), I'll report further.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Didn't we have a luverly time, the day we went to Southwark!

Regional Conference day broke bright and sunny, if rather colder than I would have asked for. Given that I couldn't even work out what I was going to wear, it didn't augur well for a successful day but I managed to get there pretty much on time, only to discover that some idiot had "leaked" the agenda to the Evening Standard and spun my motion to represent an attack on the Party leadership.

This rather spoiled my day, I must admit, as attacking the leadership is never particularly clever, unless you're going to openly explain why you're doing it. And even then, it should only be done when the leadership has actually done something wrong.

So I fretted my way through the day, completely failing to address the question of what I was going to say in my speech (full marks for emotion, nul points for common sense). I managed to draft a vague, if unfinished, outline, delivered it in a rather wooden manner and awaited the backlash - which didn't come... Yes, there were those who felt that the motion wasn't radical enough, a point I had already acknowledged, but the thrust of the motion was overwhelmingly accepted. The attempt by my presumed nemesis to refer the motion back was derailed by my rather unsubtle intervention preventing him from reading out the reason for his request (gentle reader, the art of winning debates is sometimes about reading the rules for debate).

You are asking what the result was, aren't you? Well... the motion, with two accepted deletions (I may be a cautious bureaucrat but I'm not stupid...), was passed with possibly one vote against. The next step is to take it to Federal Conference, where the fun will truly start. There are those who will wonder why I'm doing this, and I have occasionally wondered myself, but it is fundamentally the right thing to do and so I will proceed with it. I'll return to this point in the future, no doubt...

Otherwise, it was a really good conference, with some excellent debate and some great speakers. Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty, was actually quite funny, in spite of making a series of very cogent points about the loss of civil liberties inherent in the Government's proposals on terrorism and security. Having never seen her before, I was pleasantly impressed as some people in positions such as hers can be a bit pompous and lecturing.

And now back to work, there's so much to do!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Make merry, for tomorrow we may die...

It's early in the morning and I'm fighting Cincinnati (he's red, he's a cat, and American sports fans will get this...) for control of my computer keyboard (and he's bigger than I am - or at least his personality is).

Today is the Regional Conference of the London Liberal Democrats, an opportunity to catch up with old friends, make new ones and exchange "war stories". I get to speak, on a motion of my own devising, and, although I thought that the concept of enhancing opportunities to play a full part in our campaigning for all was "a good thing", I'm beginning to wonder if I didn't make a mistake.

I seem to have made a mortal enemy in the "Mole Valley Mauler", Nasser Butt. He's attacked me in print, called for me to be voted off of the Regional Executive, questioned my motives and been generally rude and churlish. What I don't understand is, why? Oh well, on the basis that any publicity is good publicity, I can only be flattered by the notion that I am important enough for someone to think that they can enhance their credibility by attacking me. Besides, I enjoy the cut and thrust of the debate, if truth be told...

Oh, and of course, polls close tomorrow in the Regional elections. I wonder what will happen? More news as it happens!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

English Council is coming, the turkey's getting fat...

Curious really, that English Council takes place over the Thanksgiving weekend. In years gone by, I would have spent the day slaving over a huge turkey (and, for the record, I'm remarkably good at roasting turkeys - a political skill, I presume). This year, I will worrying about achieving my goal of ensuring that London Region has its full complement of representatives at English Council.

The advantage of being both the Regional Whip and trusted is that I get to nominate the substitutes and I've taken the chance to attempt to rebalance our delegation, initially 16 men and four women. Unfortunately, two of the four women already on the delegation have needed substitutes so I've had little impact thus far.

On the plus side, ten women have run for places this year, so hopefully things will be a little better in 2006. Whether or not I will still be Regional Whip is of course dependent on getting re-elected to the Executive Committee and that could be a bloodbath, as the opposition is pretty strong. Given that most of the people that I've been able to impress this year (why are they impressed?) need to vote themselves back in too, I may struggle but, fingers crossed, I've done enough.

Then, of course, I have to be re-elected as Secretary and Regional Whip at the Executive Committee meeting that follows on 3 December. Which reminds me, I need to construct an agenda...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Happy Birthday to me!

Yes, another birthday rolls around, 41 this year (oh God, I'm dying, aren't I...).

Yesterday in North London with my family, giving and receiving presents. I'm not hugely enthusiastic about birthdays, having always seen them as just another marker towards impending death (cheery soul, aren't I?). On the other hand, it is nice to spend time with my parents, younger brother, his lovely wife and their three amazing children plus, as a special short-term bonus only, my cousin Kim, recently arrived from Wellington, New Zealand.

I spent quality time with the family creative brains trust, looking at ideas for an advertising campaign. With my father in media, younger brother a graphic designer and Kim having worked for an advertising agency, I sometimes wonder what I add but am told that I evaluate ideas pretty well. So, do what you do well and enjoy the rest, I say. Doing things as a family is something I never realised I had missed but, throw a bunch of Valladares's together, and some sort of weird chemistry takes place... and fun ensues.

Family is great!...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Vote for me... oh, you already have...

Amazing! I get home, jetlagged out of my mind, spend the day at the office before going to the Annual General Meeting of my beloved local Liberal Democrats to be re-elected as Chair without opposition. I then come home and find that I've been elected to the English Candidates Committee! I'm stunned but it proves that the llama worked (see my earlier posting on this subject).

Now, if I survive the elections for the Regional Party less than two weeks from now, I've defended all of the positions that I won last year and gained a new one.

The meeting this evening went really well, with Susan Kramer, MP for Richmond Park speaking eloquently on what it is like to be a Member of Parliament before answering a range of questions on key issues. She was every bit as good as I had hoped she would be. Caroline Pidgeon, our council Executive Member for Education was very enlightening in terms of what we're doing in the borough, and there were interventions from Belinda Knowles, our ward organiser, Jonathan Mitchell, our Parliamentary candidate this time, and Richard Thomas, our council Executive Member for the Environment.

It was great fun and I managed to stay awake throughout... despite the jet lag. Things are looking good!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bush must die?

Welcome back to Buenos Aires, where revolt is in the air...

The Summit of the Americas takes place in Mar del Plata, about an hour's flying time from here and, naturally, the leader of the free world will be here. Unfortunately, given the evidence of posters, t-shirts and cartoonists, George W is none too popular. Whilst wishing death upon him and caricaturing him as a Nazi are somewhat excessive, he hasn't evidently made a lot of friends down here in what is an increasingly radicalised continent.

Meanwhile, the sun shines down on a city I would happily stay in. And yet, behind the glamour of Recoleta and Puerto Madero is a country where half the population are supposedly below the poverty line, where people sleep in shop doorways and where hawkers roam the metro system. If you are well-off here, life is good, very good. Otherwise...

Tonight I fly to New York, for more quality time with family. Having family members seemingly everywhere is great, as it gives me an excuse to travel and someone to look forward to seeing when I get there...