Sunday, February 18, 2007

Leadership does not necessarily impart wisdom

I've been thinking about my recent, rather narrow, victory in my quest for re-election as Regional Secretary and, it would seem, my problems come down to a mistaken notion that I am unreliable in my approach to confidentiality and in the choices of people I interact with.

The post that follows might well be seen to be confirming that but, sometimes, the only way to put the record straight is to address a problem openly and directly. I will be critical of named individuals so, if you're of a nervous disposition, you might like to look away now...

It seems, from personal contacts who have, hitherto, been pretty reliable, that the Chair of the English Party, Brian Orrell, thought that my continued friendship with Susanne Lamido was a "problem" best solved by having me terminated as Regional Secretary. To achieve this goal, the support of the Regional Chair, Sean Hooker, was required and, as Sean has great respect for Brian, obtained. But who to run against a modestly competent, if eccentric incumbent? It would have to be someone likely to be sympathetic, with some credibility, who could be relied upon to be untroublesome if elected.

Havard Hughes was prevailed upon to fill the role of 'under the radar' candidate and the trap set. Nominations were opened at the Executive Committee meeting and Havard duly nominated. I freely admit to being surprised, and actually indicated that I was willing to concede there and then before being persuaded that I should stand and fight.

And so the contest followed. I wasn't actually able to campaign for myself as, due to a computer fault, I had no contact details for the Executive other than e-mail (and campaigning by e-mail will never replace personal contact to my mind). But I survived. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough.

Sean has since then gallantly confirmed his full support for me. Sorry Sean, but I don't buy it. You yourself told me, immediately after the nominations closed, that, if I lost, you wanted me to take forward our Regional diversity strategy. The more I thought about it, the easier it was to conclude that you not only knew about my challenger (you did at least admit to that) but that you were supporting him. You were willing to believe the worst of my motives without having the courtesy to raise them with me, one of your Officers, first.

In fact, Havard appears to be happy to tell all and sundry that he never actually wanted to be Regional Secretary, and that you put him up to it. Doesn't anyone understand that politicians can be incredibly indiscreet when they think that they're talking to someone apparently sympathetic to their position? So, in future, if you do want to engage in political assassination, do try and do it rather better next time. As Machiavelli said in "The Prince",

"...it must be noted that men must either be caressed or else destroyed, because they will revenge themselves for small injuries, but cannot do so for serious ones. Thus, the injury done to a man must be such that there is no need to fear his vengeance."

It is somewhat fortunate that my loyalty is to the institution rather than to the personality at its head. But a little communication is usually a good thing, and you might want to work on it during the remainder of your final term.

I am yet to understand what Brian's problem is. Alright, I have not always been wholly respectful of some of his 'quirks' but, as Regional Candidates Chair, I have admired his ability to deliver a very difficult job in trying circumstances. Everything works, although the late night telephone calls can be a bit disconcerting - just a personal preference of mine, I admit. And yet he seems determined to show disrespect at every opportunity. The attacks during the last year at Regional Executive meetings became wearing and I became more and more defensive as slight piled upon slight. I can take criticism, especially the constructive kind, but it was always sprung upon me in public forums. It impacted elsewhere too, in that I've been doing Returning Officer 'gigs' outside London for the sole reason that my own Region never asked, unlike South Central and South East, who seem to be satisfied with my work thus far. Ironically, due to the volume of work I'm doing elsewhere, I'm no longer able to do much for Brian's successor...

And as for Havard, if you didn't want the job, you shouldn't have run. It says volumes that you would do so, and then tell people that you were forced to do so. I actually think that you're a better person that that, although my impression is that your political antennae need tuning. I haven't forgotten your manifesto though...

For the record, and so that there can be no doubt, I retain contact with Susanne. I freely accept that she drives some people crazy, and admit that her behaviour is not such that I would emulate it. On the other hand, she has never personally caused me any great difficulties, although some of her descriptions of me have been a mite brusque. I tend, generally, to be more cautious in my views (I'm a bureaucrat, remember?) and I don't, as a rule, like to condemn people out of hand. Susanne believes that she should be able to 'tell it as it is', a habit which does not fit comfortably within the confines of a political party and, since the revocation of her membership, I have, from time to time, talked to her about errors of fact or judgement. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't. As a private individual, she is entitled to her views, frustrating though they may be to others. The party is likewise entitled to take the view that her behaviour was likely to bring it into disrepute, and that, unfortunately, is the price you pay for wanting to belong to a membership-based organisation.

And as for questions of confidentiality, I have openly noted my preference towards openness and transparency. However, it must be openness and transparency with consent and sensitivity. If I believe that information is appropriate to a more public domain, I seek authority from the responsible Officer before release and agree the substance of that release prior to proceeding with publication. It isn't a difficult concept to grasp, yet it would seem that some of my colleagues find it easier to act as judge, jury and (failed) executioner first.

So, I will focus my energies over the remainder of the year on making my Regional Party run more effectively and then, if someone wants the position after that, I hope that they have the courtesy to tell me why, rather than make semi-libellous allegations in their manifesto.

4 comments:

Susanne said...

Well done Mark for have the bottle to say it out loud. May be a one off from you but it had to be said

I know Dominic will probably suggest you to tone down some of the wording but leave it as it is.

Tristan said...

gah. Sounds messy.

I do hate politics... (ummmm... perhaps personal politics is better a better description ;) )

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Anonymous said...

Mark

Honest and reasonable. I don't envy the position you found yourself in. Please be assured, though that many people have the utmost respect for you. Examples could be found of this sort of behaviour all round the place, from those you mention, and for that reason please be assured that respect for you is far higher than for many others, and just keep doing a good job. Just one word of caution - don't ever be caught out again by being too nice and trusting!!!