“Disappointing”, “Revolutionary”, “Disgraceful”, “Dickensian”, “Appalling” and “Miscarriage of Justice”
Only a few of the comments made by Regular Rots in relation to what some have described as the muddle that is the current election for the Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland President in July 2018.
In a matter of 72 hours the previous blogpost “Here we go again…” has received the highest every readership and comments every recorded on www.rotaryblogger.co.uk. So contrary to what many may believe, it seems that the online Regular Rots are actually interested in what is happening with the election of the RotaryGBI Presidents. This one is not going away!
Many of the comments are aimed at the Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) Chaired by former RI Director Mike Webb and the fact they appear to have “recommended” Ms Debbie Hodge as their preferred candidate – sidelining David Ellis, Graham Jackson and Mukesh Malhotra – but leaving them as eligible to be considered by the electorate.
As outlined in the previous blogpost, RotaryBlogger raised questions as to exactly what the SAC were recommending? A quick scout around the various online dictionaries comes to a consensus that to recommend is to “put forward [someone in this case] with approval for being suitable for a particular purpose or role“.
However a statement from RotaryGBI to RotaryBlogger.co.uk confirms that the word comes from By-Law 8 Clause 3e, which states,
Duties – The Selection Advisory Committee for President and Treasurer shall consider the nominations received and, if it considers it advisable so to do, propose such of the nominees whom the panel would recommend for election, such recommendations to be communicated in writing by the General Secretary of the Association to the clubs.”
A response from the RotaryGBI spokesperson explains, “This By-law was amended at the last Business meeting before the new procedure was created and maybe the by-law now needs further adjustment.
“What the SACs were doing was to indicate which of the candidate(s) fully met the person specification/competencies.
“The interview scoring identifies who fully meets the criteria down to not meeting it all (4 point scale). None of the candidates did not meet the criteria in some way (scoring 2 or 3) so were therefore all eligible but only one fully met all the criteria. The decision of the SAC was certainly not to indicate a preference but to detail who fully met the criteria.”
We may be play semantics, but the point remains – would it not have been easier to say that all four candidates have met the necessary criteria making them eligible for election as President? The field is levelled, no perceived preferred candidates, no-anti-canvassing processes commenced and no rages-against-the-machine…?
This is a new system – and with any system there will be bumps in the road as it starts its journey. It is slightly unfortunate that as the driver of the SAC bus Mr Webb seems to have unintentionally guided the system on the roughest and bumpiest route on its first outing.
That said, to be fair to the SAC – RotaryBlogger.co.uk has been informed they were asked to undertake a roll by the General Council to ensure the candidates met the criteria – and that is what they must measure them against. It would therefore have been entirely wrong for them to ‘create’ a false position in terms of ensuring the candidates all fully met the criteria – just to allow more than one candidate to go through.
What perhaps needs to be considered is the level at which the criteria was set. Was the bar too high? Were there too many essentials as opposed to desirable criteria.
Now, this very issues re-opens one that has been picked up before on RotaryBlogger.co.uk and that is of course the matter of canvassing.
The rules are very clear on canvassing in terms of holding the office of RotaryGBI President – basically an individual, a District or a Club is not allowed to canvass or electioneer in any way, shape or form on behalf of any candidate. And in addition, if a candidate is aware of representations being made on their behalf then they have an obligation to distance themselves from any such comments – for fear of being disqualified from the whole process.
But as highlighted in the readers comments of the previous blog; if the SAC is able to make a “recommendation” towards one candidate over and above the others – then they are surely overtly canvassing on behalf of that individual. Regardless as to whether it is right, wrong or indifferent – one candidate is now being “promoted” as fully meeting the necessary criteria – whereas the other three it would seem are merely eligible for the process.
And therein lies the issue – the appearance that it is one rule for one [the Regular Rot] but another for the Committees who are able (at the least) to ‘steer’ Clubs in a particular direction.
One point that has been raised is the fact that Regular Rots are not able to canvass in favour of one particular candidate – but as highlighted in the previous blog – there appears to be nothing to prevent someone taking an ‘anti-canvassing‘ position. This is where an individual doesn’t comment on the individual they are supporting; but in fact details who they would NOT vote for…
For example, if someone posts, “I will not be voting for the recommended candidate” is this type of anti-canvassing against the rules and by-laws?
Providing they don’t talk of “not supporting” a number of candidates to the point of identifying who they are supporting then is there anything against doing this?
Many will remember in 2009 that after four years of the hit TV show X-Factor winners taking the top Christmas Number One slot that an online social media campaign was started to make sure that the winner of the show did not take the most coveted musical position of the year. After a closely run battle, “Killing in the name” by Rage Against the Machine pushed X-Factor winner Joe McElderry into the number two slot in a two-fingered, enough-is-enough gesture to the TV Show production music machine.
Has Mike Webb become the Simon Cowell and the SAC the production team of Rotary? Will the Regular Rots become the public who say “enough is enough” and rage against the machine? And as unfortunate as it would be, has the SAC actually made Ms Hodge the Joe McElderry in this analogy? If the feeling on RotaryBlogger.co.uk and other social media platforms is replicated when Clubs around the country meet to decide to vote – then there is every chance this may very well be case.
However during the discussions, the spokesperson from RotaryGBI commented, “Hopefully the membership will still vote with integrity based on reviewing the C.V.s and candidate videos.”
Is the whole process tarnished?
So despite what was meant to be a new and fresh approach to selecting the President it has frankly become a bit of a muddle the needs sorting quickly.
The Constitutions Committee ruling against the joint ticket of Mike Jackson and Nick Corke. A ruling which was subsequently be supported in some kind of pseudo-appeal by the SAC – leaving the matter in an apparently un-finished position.
The fact the SAC has “recommended” a single candidate that is perceived as the ‘preferred candidate’, leaving the remaining three as eligible for election has in-turn left those who have shown an interest in the process confused, bemused and in some cases downright angry.
The fact the SAC may actually have unintentionally canvassed on behalf of their “recommended” candidate and therefore given Ms Hodge an advantage over and above the other three in the running needs to be considered.
Regardless, in my mind all of the above really only leaves only one question…
Would you want to be elected President in the year where it all appears to have gone wrong?
If it were me, I’d have unquestionably pulled my application by now and I know others feel the same.
Is the appropriate route, as one commentator in the previous blog said, for all four candidates to do the honourable thing and withdraw en-masse and ask for the process to be restarted with an entirely new SAC process. This would be up to the candidates and all would need to multilaterally agree – which even if possible seems unlikely. I guess it remains to be seen what happens in this regard.
One thing’s for sure – this Presidential Election Campaign is certainly not over and from discussions I have had with various Club representatives over the last 72 hours this is certainly no sure thing this year…
Images by Monica Arellano-Ongpin and Ken Douglas by CC