Tuesday, June 05, 2007

GLA selection: the Pygmalion conundrum

Se peut-il que tu choisis pour me percer le Coeur!
Est-ce donc pour gémir et soupirer en vain
Que mon art a produit ton image adorable?

You might guess from the excerpt above that I'm not referring to the musical but to the 1748 Acte de Ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau. If you've got that far, you'll now be wondering whether the bureaucrat hasn't completely lost it.

There is sense behind the reference though. In Scene 1, Pygmalion, a sculptor, is bemoaning his fate. He has fallen in love with the statue that he has created, "Can it be that you are the work of my hand?", to the despair of his former love, Céphise. He has become so entranced by his creation that he cannot love anything else.

The Selection Rules are a bit like that. You take your original rules, you shape them a bit to form a rough model, and then embellish them to add personality, strength or whatever. You look at them and think that they are perfect, to the extent that anyone who doesn't appreciate their beauty and elegance is a fool or a knave. You become possessive and lose track of the purpose of the exercise which was, to make something that people wanted and appreciated.

In this instance, the sculptors are that beleaguered group known as Returning Officers. They have two goals, to design something that generates a level playing field whilst making it policeable. This tends to create a very restrictive structure that discourages creativity and flair and supports incumbents, particularly in list selections.

Given the trauma of the last few days, and believe me, it has been traumatic, perhaps London has an opportunity to change the way the game is played and structured. Uniquely amongst the Regional Parties in England, London has a selection for which it is the sole arbiter of the Rules, i.e. that for the London Assembly. There are also some unique features, including the significant ethnic minority community (28.8% according to the 2001 Census), and a comparatively small, easily assessable geographical field of campaign.

At the moment, the trend has been to bring London's Selection Rules into line with those for Westminster and Europe. Perhaps we should actually look at using the London Rules as a laboratory for new ideas, freeing candidates to campaign in new and creative ways, attempting to create genuine equality of opportunity (sorry, I still don't support the notion of mandatory equality of outcome, I believe in genuine merit in selecting candidates). We've talked about a bonfire of regulations in government, perhaps it is time for a bonfire of restrictive Selection Rules.

I would set just one ground rule. In any discussion of any part of the Rules, existing or otherwise, the mandatory question should be, "How will this create opportunity?", instead of, "How do we police this?".

In 'Pygmalion', the statue came to life, fell in love with him and they all lived happily ever after (except Céphise, of course, somebody has to suffer in opera...). Perhaps we too can achieve a happy ending?


Anonymous said...

Tried to post on LDV but moderation is taking a while. Thought I'd post it here too.

One last go: please do not allow the divide and conquer regime to win this battle. If you do no-one gets any resources next year and everyone will get budgets and grants cut.

Rabi - stop feeling like you’re the only one who cares. You and EMETF have done good work but you’re not the only ones. Pool ideas, acknowledge the very valid differences. Meral - you have been a shining light for both women and BME councillors/candidates, as well as supportive of diversity matters on the FE. If you’re angry about the way under represented groups have been treated in any way - WLD your budget has been slashed, CGB likewise, DELGA - what grants and what status do you now have?, EMLD - ditto, EMETF - what space have you ever been given or resource from the party to progress your discussions. And LDDA has always been the poor relation with no support whatsoever, struggling to make an impact.

One last serious plea….. Please please get together. Understand that you are the people who understand the issues surrounding your campaigns, and that these capaigns are legitimate and have been quietly undermined for a nuber of years by those purely concerned with swelling their own budgets and power bases. you don’t even have to all have the same approach but just do not accept the funding cuts, nor the patronising attitude that somehow it’s either ‘all your fault’ or that ‘your campaign isn’t a proper campaign’. Your campaigns are all valid - and any Liberal who attempts to deny it is no Liberal. The debate must not be about your validity - each and every one of the under-represented groups - but about the best mechanism to move forward - and this should be free from discussions about funding. If the party prioritises these campaigns as real and relevant then the funding is there.

But please work together.

Duncan Borrowman said...

The Faceless Bureaucrat gets a face :-) http://tinyurl.com/yoc6bs