Saturday, 12 December 2009

Everybody wants to win an Oscar

Posted on This is My Truth on December 12th

So the dust is settling. Oscar is a Tory.

In his defence he is not claiming his defection to be an act of principle. In a candid interview with the Golwg website he confirmed that the reason for his shift was that the chances for advancement were greater with the Tories - even suggesting he may have had reassurances that the number 2 spot on the south east Wales list would be his. Indeed at the press conference to announce his defection he said he looked forward to 'playing an important role in the shadow team within the National Assembly'.

As Paul Flynn has recorded "His four changes of party all coincided with times when his chosen party was in the ascendancy". Oscar seems unashamed. Indeed in an interview with the Politics Cymru blog he seemed bewildered by all the fuss - it is worth a look.

There's been much venting of spleen, which is understandable - as is the inevitable criticism of the list system and its application. But for me what this episode shows up is the dangers of political parties going for a quick fix to address their own lack of diversity.

Ieuan Wyn Jones and Dafydd Trystan (then Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru) put enormous time and effort into securing a seat for Mohammad Asghar. The Party Chair John Dixon acknowledged that the defection had thrown up flaws in the selection process but said in the Party's defence "We don't use polygraphs to test their sincerity, nor would I want to".

Of course, there can be no safeguard against crude opportunism. But the question in my mind is were causes for concern overlooked in the rush to secure the prize of diversity?

Writing on his blog this week Dafydd Trystan said he took Oscar to be an "honourable person, idiosyncratic in his views and his approach to life, rather more right-wing than your average Plaid member, but dishonest no".

I have been hearing stories of two years of concern about Oscar's political ability and performance, but it was all treated as a joke - Oscar, he's a one!

It is only fair to point out that of course he is not the only AM whose behaviour or ability is the subject of criticism. Blind eyes are turned for others too. But Plaid suspected he may have been an opportunist and chose to ignore it because of the political value of having a Muslim AM (both to the Assembly as an institution and the Party).

Now the Conservatives are in danger of doing the same. Nick Bourne has been able to make little progress diversifying his stable of candidates. It is only by luck they have a female AM. And political tacticians will not blame him for a bit of opportunism of his own in swooping on Oscar. But the far harder task of changing the culture of his own party remains

I have no quarrel with wanting a more diverse political class, far from it. But it will take more than tokenism to achieve it. And as this episode has demonstrated token gestures open parties up to opportunists, and that does nothing to advance the cause of diversity.

1 comment:

James D said...

Somehow the words that spring to mind are:

When glorious Anne became our queen
The Church of England's glory,
Another face of things was seen,
And I became a Tory:
Occasional conformists base,
I damn'd, and moderation,
And thought the Church in danger was,
From such prevarication.
And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my dying day, sir,
That whatsoer king shall reign,
I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!