Monday, 13 September 2010

Is Burnham right to raise unfairness in the leadership campaign?

Andy Burnham says that the system supporting the Leadership Election is flawed - by Union support favouring some candidates and that MPs have their votes publicly available. He’s right to raise these concerns.

The Labour Party believes in fairness and transparency, and goes out of its way to be fair and transparent. But its attempts are often means by which it shackles itself to overburdensome bureaucracy and systems with are at best transluscent and at worst opaque.

Burnham is right, for instance, about MPs voting. I would have thought the idea of secret ballots should be sacrosanct. But by making MPs’ votes public, MPs will vote for the person they think will win, rather that according to their conscience. This may be wrong, but it’s human.

Selection meetings are meant to be fair; but I have seen meetings packed with groupings of members that make the system unfair. Candidates are not chosen by their ability but by the number of friends they have. Systems to ensure fairness to get on to selection panels can be so burdensome that good candidates cannot reach the set down standards (and haven’t the time to fulfil requirements - or even fill out the forms.)

AV as a voting system is another example. The process of allocating second and third choices (and so on) can result in a candidate winning that’s best for some and OK for more, rather than the one who’s best for the largest number. A sort of British compromise. I have written about AV earlier in my Blog.

I’m not putting forward an argument for lack of transparency, or for favouritism, but for ways to be found to ensure we get the best people in the elected positions.

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