Thursday, October 09, 2008

Candidate approval and its ironies

It is sometimes hard to believe that I've been an assessor of wannabe Parliamentary candidates for more than thirteen years. When I first got the call, I was somewhat surprised, especially as I had;
  • never been a Parliamentary candidate
  • never been an agent
  • never run seriously for public office
  • never had any personnel/HR experience

Given that I had just turned thirty, and would be likely to be assessing applicants far older, far more mature and far more experienced than I was, and had been semi-retired from frontline Party activity for three years, I could easily imagine the potential difficulties in terms of my personal credibility. Being male, this (naturally) didn't stop me from accepting the invitation...

In some ways, I regretted it from the start. An in-built lack of self-belief, combined with the semi-perpetual fear of being exposed as a rank amateur, made for some deeply discomforting experiences. On the one hand, as a young, BME assessor, I added diversity to the process. On the other, the sense that I might mistakenly damage someone's 'career' or, equally harmfully to the Party, approve someone who wasn't up to the job, tended to cause me to fret.

Many a sleepless night was spent marking application forms until, one day, I had a minor breakdown in the middle of the assessment day caused by a combination of three hours sleep in the previous forty-eight, and vast doses of coffee to overcome it. My ability to function failed me and I went into emotional overload. Fortunately for all concerned, it conveniently happened in the midst of a constituency surgery roleplay, and I was the constituent. Whilst my fellow assessor was complimenting me on my acting skills, and the 'lucky' applicant was retreating in shock to the 'holding pen', I was pulling myself together enough to carry on.

Strangely, it was a bit easier after that, and as time passed, and I found myself becoming one of the more senior assessors, it got easier still. I still agonised over some of the scoring and some of our decisions, but with age came experience.

Time passes, and the assessment process has changed to reflect the needs of the time. Now, we are moving to a new, streamlined, more relevant process. The irony is that all of the existing assessors have to undergo retraining and, to be invited to attend, we have to complete an application form. Even more ironically, the form for potential assessors is longer than that for potential candidates.

I'm having real problems filling it in. It brings back a whole set of doubts as to whether or not I have the qualities required. After all, I am still to be a Parliamentary candidate or seriously run for public office. In a Party which purports to be moving towards greater professionalism, is there a place for the well-intentioned amateur?


Jennie Rigg said...

"In a Party which purports to be moving towards greater professionalism, is there a place for the well-intentioned amateur? "

How many of our front bench team are experts in the fields they are supposed to legislate on? Half, maybe?

How many supermarket HR managers can work a checkout? How many Pubco owners have worked behind a bar? Or know how to brew beer?

In any HR type job, it's not that you could do the job yourself that matters, it's that you can spot that talent in other people. That's why HR people get paid more than those of us who actually monkey down and do the work (much to my chagrin). Talent spotting is rarer than talent itself, and good judgement is rarer than rocking horse shit.

Chin up beardy. We, as a party, are lucky to have you. And, mostly, we know it.

Susan Gaszczak said...

As I was one of your candidates, can I say you were fab! ;-)