You may well not come up with the same answers as me, but I hope you find the five questions I asked myself useful whilst deciding how to order the candidates for the Electoral Reform Society‘s council:
1. Does an inability to produce a good written manifesto matter?
Some of the them are obviously very poor, a fair number are rather sloppy and a good number are deceptively bad (they look good at first glance but ask yourself five minutes later what distinctive reason to vote for the candidate you can recall).
For me this is an important factor because although the ERS Council should stay well clear of micro-managing the work of the ERS staff, if you do not understand the basics of good communication you are not going to be able to successfully oversee an organisation that has communications at its heart.
2. How much responsibility do you think the ERS should take for the running of the Yes2AV campaign?
3. How much better run do you think the ERS is now than four years ago?
I have grouped these questions together because the problem for me is that my answers are “a fair amount” and “much better”. That points both against and in favour of voting for restanding incumbents…
The reason I don’t buy the argument that the Yes campaign was run by a coalition so don’t hold the ERS at all responsible for it is two-fold: (a) many of the key staff came from the ERS – and if they didn’t go a good job, what does that say about the quality of ERS staffing?; (b) the ERS was a major funder – and major funders can insist on influence if they really want it.
(Without getting into too much personal finger pointing, I should add that all I’ve heard of Katie Ghose is very positive; my point above is not a dig at her.)
4. How narrow or broad should the ERS’s campaigning objectives be?
Traditionally the dispute in the ERS has been between the ‘STV or nothing’ crowd and the ‘some electoral reform is better than none’ crowd. However, there is now a new disagreement about – how far should the ERS stray into wider matters of political reform, even ones that are not about voting systems at all?
My own view is that there are other organisations, in fact quite a few, which interest themselves in wider matters of political reform. What we need in addition is an organisation that is focused on getting rid of first past the post, preferably with STV but with an open mind to supporting other voting systems if STV is not a realistic option to secure in any particular context.
5. How useful is experience?
There are a fair number of candidates whose experience of campaigning or running organisations of any sort is pretty limited, especially if you look at what they did pre-January 2010. Does that matter?
Myself, I think you need a mix of people with some genuine experience of the issues that come up in running a multi-million pound organisation along with some fresh faces and new ideas. But being young and keen on its own is a long way short of being able to oversee an organisation such as the ERS successfully – especially one with such a troubled staffing history at times.
Note: over on Liberal Democrat Voice my Co-Editor Stephen Tall has put together a list of other posts about the ERS Council elections.