Red Ken rejects white men for London Fire Authority

by Stephen Tall on June 19, 2007

As reported in today’s Mail:

Ken Livingstone has blocked the appointment of nine white men because they are “unrepresentative” of London.
The Mayor used his powers to promote equality to stop them serving on the London fire authority. He refused to confirm all but one of the Tory and Liberal Democrat nominations to the body that sets the brigade’s budget and policies. …
The Mayor approved all five Labour nominations, as well as one Tory woman and the sole Green and One London party representatives.

So, does Ken have a point? Should such public bodies be representative of the ethnic make-up of the wider public? Or should such appointments disregard quotas, and rely on elected representatives to act in the best interests of all citizens?

An interesting point is made by London Tory, Merrick Cockell: “It is disappointing that the Mayor has rejected two pensioners, an openly gay councillor and a councillor under 30 as being ‘unrepresentative’ of London’s diverse communities.”

If the London Fire Authority is to be strictly representative, should the Mayor set a representative quota for age, gender, ethnicity, nationality and sexual orientation? And if you are to achieve such a goal, how do you ensure the appropriate weighting for a body with only 17 members?

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8 comments

Quotas for this sort of thing are fundamentally illiberal.
What Ken was probably doing is promoting people he favoured whilst using the excuse of diversity.

Its a disgrace that he can do this and such ‘positive’ discrimination sets back race relations by making it look like ‘white males’ have less rights – playing right into the hands of bigots like the BNP.

by Tristan Mills on June 19, 2007 at 9:38 am. Reply #

Perhaps Ken should abolish LFA and have Mori ask a representative panel of Londoners everytime a decision needs to be made!

More seriously, we need to distinguish between bodies that should either be chosen by the people or representative of them, and bodies that have technical functions. No-one would ever say that there should be representative quotas for black/white/gay/straight doctors, for example, and equally the Bank of England monetary policy is made up largely of economists, irrespective of background.

In those cases the conditions for appointment should be published, so that people can judge whether the candidates appointed are suitable, or whether, consciously or unconsciously, the procedure is institutionally racist.

I don’t know anything about the LFA. Maybe you do need particular expertise, either from the fire service, public service more generally, or in running or monitoring a large organisation. If so, publish the criteria, and judge against it, and don’t give parties quotas of places.

If it is a political board then I would be much happier seeing it filled with cllrs or GLAMs, who would at least be representative of the regions of London. But if it is just a sinecure in the hands of the parties, then yes, I think we can invent a better system, and maybe Ken’s actions will prompt us to campaign for a more democratic way of doing things.

by tim leunig on June 19, 2007 at 10:21 am. Reply #

The problem of course is that the Liberal Democrat and Conservative nominations – ten in all – constitute nine white men and one white woman.

The Liberal Democrat nomination of three white men is bad enough, but the Conservatives have nominated seven white people. This at the same time that David Cameron is saying his party is more inclusive.

The Liberal Democrat and particular the Tory nominees are relying on Labour to do the work of appointing black and Asian people – which they have: Labour’s nominess are one white woman (Livingstone’s nominee for the Chair of the authority, Val Shawcross); three Asian men, and one black woman.

It’s no good saying Livingstone is being ‘illiberal’. He is saying that the situation cannot continue where political parties make warm pronouncememtns about tackling discrimination but do absolutely nothing about it.

Livingstone has reportedly written back to Mike Tuffrey, Angie Bray (the Tories’ leader on the Assembly) and London Councils to ask them to reconsider their nominations.

He is of course, absolutely right on this. Liberalism should not be equated with the maintenance of discrimination.

by David on June 19, 2007 at 2:22 pm. Reply #

Knowing Ken (as I do) this has less to do with the composition of the LFEPA board – and much more to do with Ken’s re-election. He does nothing that isn’t calculated to his political advantage. That doesn’t mean however – that this isn’t an opportunity to ensure that more people of all types are available to be appointed – that’s what allows him to take advantage!.

by lynne featherstone on June 19, 2007 at 2:23 pm. Reply #

Ken says “all three Liberal Democrat nominees are white men”. True, but in one case totally beside the point.

Perhaps Ken needs to read his briefing papers more closely?

LibDem nominee Cllr Ed Butcher is openly-gay (and therefore representative of a very significant London minority community) – he’s also on the younger-side. Dare I say more importantly than either, Cllr Butcher has worked with the fire service for a number of years – giving him first hand experience and valuable insight.

We must not end up with Government by quota nor must we lose sight of the fact that “diversity” is more than just skin colour – it’s also age and sexual orientation.

Think again Ken.

by Stephen G on June 19, 2007 at 4:10 pm. Reply #

Mr Livingstone himself seems to encapsulate the problem he is apparently trying to resolve.

He is, in the memorable phrase of former CRE chair Trevor Phillips, pale, male and stale as well as heterosexual and without even the fig leaf of disability to justify him hanging on to his ‘snowy peaked’and ‘glass ceilinged’ position as mayor.

Is it true that to set an example he has decided not to stand again as mayor?

by Gerald Hartup on June 19, 2007 at 5:46 pm. Reply #

This was a message from Mike Tuffrey, Leader of the London Assembly Liberal Democrat Group and LFEPA group chair sent to Lib DEems in London late this afternoon.

“Late last Friday (15 June) the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, launched an extraordinary attack on the independence of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, the body which runs the Fire Brigade, by seeking to remove his political opponents. He is trying to block the reappointment of all Liberal Democrat members and all bar one Conservative, while allowing Labour names to proceed. This would have given Labour a majority at the Authority’s AGM due on Thursday (21 June). Yesterday counsel separately acting for both the Greater London Authority and Lfepa advised that this is unlawful.
The Mayor’s professed grounds are the need for greater diversity. However the gender and ethnic balance on Lfepa is similar to that of Transport for London and the London Development Agency, both bodies wholly appointed by the Mayor himself. Lfepa comprises nine members appointed from London Assembly members and eight from among local councillors.

Mike Tuffrey, LibDem leader on the London Assembly and leader on the fire authority, said:

“The Mayor is again demonstrating his dictatorial tendencies, showing scant regard for democracy and independent scrutiny. At a time when central government is considering devolving more powers to London, this outrageous power grab confirms that Liberal Democrats are right to insist on proper checks and balances. The Mayor’s political game playing is not just unlawful. It also damages the services Londoners rely upon and violates an important principle: on bodies which are politically proportional by statute, it is not for one party to dictate who other parties should nominate.

“LibDems are making nominations based on the needs of the authority and the skills of available members. Our Assembly group is balanced, with two women and three men. The current councillor nominee, Ed Butcher, replaced a women, Anne Gallop, who retired last year after serving more than six years in post. We have a good track record on these issues. While this year’s team does comprise three men, only a few years ago the entire LibDem team were women. We will review the position after next year’s elections, based on the needs and availability at that time.”

by Nick on June 19, 2007 at 11:02 pm. Reply #

For the record it should be noted that the Mayor caved in this morning, and appointed the orginal three Lib Dem nominees to the Fire Authority until next May.

The Mayor made short term appointments (till August 31st) of the Tory, male, nominees from the London boroughs but has insisted that the Tories appiont their London Assembly group leader Angie Bray to the Authority, replacing Bob Blackman. The Tories have accepted this.

by Nick on June 20, 2007 at 2:13 pm. Reply #

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