Wednesday, October 15, 2008

20 Questions to a Presidential Candidate - Ros Scott

Having charged down to Cardiff on the train after FPC last night, and driven back to Bedford via Llandrindod Wells today......I am a little zonked but inspired about what a beautiful country we live in. The Brecon Beacons, the Malvern Hills, Worcester, Stratford on Avon.........all enhanced with the gold bronze and scarlet of Autumn......aaaaaah! So what we all want is that this is a country enhanced by having a Liberal Democrat government :-)

So............our chance to begin to shape that future in choosing our future President. I asked all three candidates to answer 20 questions. I have made my decision, but I hope this may help you make yours. The reason I struggled over who to support was that I think both Ros and Lembit are excellent and have I also been impressed by Chandila's drive and enthusiasm.

As President I believe Ros would be a champion for the activists. She is someone who is approachable and there is no edge to her. She is also an incredibly inspirational woman. Her approach to her campaign and her commitment to the party gives me confidence that if elected she would do a fantastic job, particularly in chairing FE.

So - Here are the questions and Ros's answers, great answers, but I will leave commenting on answers until I have posted them all up:

1. What motivated you to get involved in politics and does that still motivate you now?
I got into politics as a result of being involved with my community of Needham Market in Suffolk. Being active in all sorts of local organisations I kept coming across my Lib Dem District Councillor who was always at the heart of things and enabling people like me to move ahead with our projects for the town.
2. Which political figure, living or dead, do you most admire and why?
I’ve always been taken with Sylvia Pankhurst who was rather overshadowed by her mother and sister but was a more substantial person. Despite coming from a privileged background, she worked in the East End and realised that true emancipation would come when they were represented, and not just the wealthy middle classes into which she had been born.

3. If you could introduce a new party policy, what would it be?4. If there was a party policy you could overturn, what would it be?
9. What is your view on our policy on Trident?
I’ve grouped these questions together, as they all come under the category of policy, and because I’m not going to answer them! The role of the Party President is clearly defined in our constitution, and doesn’t include policy formation; it is the Leader who chairs the Federal Policy Committee whilst the President chairs the Federal Executive. I think it’s vital that Party office holders concentrate on the job they are mandated to do. It’s not that I don’t have a view on the issues you raise, it’s just that they are not relevant to the role of the President. What is relevant though, is the role of the President in ensuring that policy making continues to include the wider Party membership and properly reflects their views.

5. Have you done the “political compass” exercise and if so where do you sit?

Comfortably in the “Left Liberal” sector.
6. What will you bring to the position of President?
20 years of experience as an acitivist, councillor and member of the House of Lords. Business experience running a council in joint control, on the Board of the Audit Commission, Non-executive director in the private sector. Over a decade of representing the Party in the media, in the business community, with community groups and internationally. Plus energy and absolute commitment.
7. What will be your priorities if elected
Making sure that the changes to our governance resulting from the Party Reform commission strike the right balance between effective decision making and party democracy.
Encouraging reform of candidate selection to make the process less demanding of Party resources and look at how we can best support Parliamentary candidates when they are in place.
Look at the feasibility of creating an “associate member” category to encourage people who sympathise with us but are not ready to take the full step of membership.

8. What is your view on the marketisation of public services?17. As someone more on the “left” of the party, why should I vote for you?
I’ve grouped these questions together because my response to the second determines my answer to the first. Across the world, services are provided by a mix of public and private sector organizations, large and small, in a myriad of arrangements. Nothing is going to change this whether we like it or not so the question for me are not about who provides but how. The ballot box has not stopped some public services from being unresponsive any more than the market has prevents some private companies from being inefficient – neither is intrinsically better than the other. For me, the questions are about
Accountability and redress – who is responsible for something, and who should put it right when it goes wrong and who should you sack if there are persistent failures.
Level of regulation- how much regulation is appropriate in order to protect people from abuse and to achieve public goods such as preventing social exclusion or promoting sustainability.
Level of public subsidy and decisions about who should be subsidised and to what end?
Cost and Scale – at what level and and size are services best delivered? Does big mean more efficient ( probably not in my experience) and does it lead to alienation between users and providers. Isn’t it ultimately more expensive to do something cheaply and fail – the costs of dealing with the effects of failed service are enormous
9. See Q 3 above

10. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in this country, what would it be?
One of the greatest scandals is the way we deal with mental health issues. There are many things which make my blood boil, but one of the Many thousands of people fail to get timely diagnosis of problems, and thousands more receive insufficient or bad treatment. People with mental health problems are often stigmatised and end up in a desperate state through no fault of their own. A visit to a prison or to a homelessness centre will tell you that.
11. If elected how will you advance the cause of Libdemmery?
We should all be doing that! The job of the President is to ensure that the Party runs smoothly and consistently and that members and activists are empowered to get the Party message across and that the messages are clear.

12. As a party, despite our values, we still seem to find it impossible to reflect the diversity of the country we seek to represent, how will you redress this?
This remains a cause for concern. I am not persuaded of the case for affirmative action, either in principle or practice and the results of my recent survey suggests that there is no appetite amongst activists for it either. This shouldn’t surprise us, as it is a basic Liberal principle that people should be free to choose. In this Presidential election people should be free to support the white, male candidate rather than the female or BME candidate don’t you think Linda?
The targeted approach of the Campaign for Gender Balance has had some success, and I think that the new Diversity Engagement Group should take the same approach.
Above all, we need to ensure that as a Party we reflect the concerns and aspirations of all sections of society – genuine diversity is not just about gender and ethnicity, but about background, education and economic circumstance.
13. There has been a lot of debate, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, about our narrative. What should it be?!
Reflecting individual people, their aspirations and concerns and fighting against faceless large institutions - a narrative that talks about giving people power and hope that they can change things. Being less managerial. Stressing the need for international institutions to take a lead on climate change, security and financial co-operation.
14. What do you consider the most pressing issue facing the world?
Almost out of the blue has come the financial meltdown – so this clearly is it. We should be clear that this is a result of Labour following the Tories into a US led agenda of de-regulation, escalation of debt and corporate greed.

15. With a resurgent Tory Party, how would you ensure that as a third party, our voice was heard?
The so-called resurgence is entirely built on anti-Labour sentiment and not based on any positive assessment of the Conservatives. We need to emphasise their similarities – on the economy, the war in Iraq, and issues such as tuition fees and education & health reforms. We need to be shout louder about how right we were in the past to give people confidence about our place in the future.
16. If elected, what do you most look forward to about the role?
I really enjoy getting out and about, working with local campaigners and meeting members. Whether I’m elected or not, I’ll keep doing that. I am genuinely interested in processes – not in an academic kind of way, but ensuring that the outcomes we want are actually delivered. There are ways in which the Party could change the way it does things which would deliver real benefits –simplifying the selection process is one example.
17. See Q 8 above
18. If you were stranded on a desert island, which politician – from another party – would you be happy to be stranded with and why?
David Puttnam, Labour Peer, is one of the most interesting, charming and funny people I know. I wouldn’t get bored, and then he’d make a great movie of our experiences once we were rescued.
19. If you were stranded on a desert island, which politician – from our party – would you be happy to be stranded with and why?!
If I was allowed a Party bureaucrat rather than a politician then of course it would be my short-suffering husband Mark. He’d spend his spare time devising new rules and making ballot boxes out of palm leaves while I went out spearing fish.
20. If elected President what will you do to help elect a second MEP in the East of England?! (Or anywhere else actually!!!)
The obvious response is to say that I’ll campaign across the region, and across the country and of course I’ll do that. However, the most important contribution, in my view, would be to ensure that we have a robust analysis of our performance in list elections and take a good hard look at our campaigning techniques in that sort of contest.

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