Erm, Neal?

Neal Lawson says that what we really need to do is get everyone voting on everything:

School governors, if properly trained and paid, could perform a much deeper role. And what if the headmaster or mistress was elected by the local community? That would serve as a huge incentive towards improvement. The same approach works for the local GP surgery.

In health and education the next revolution in reform should be engagement and democratisation. There is no reason why primary care trusts couldn’t be merged into local government, where they can focus more on prevention and be held democratically accountable. We could elect local education boards too.

Shades of student Trotskyism there, don\’t you think? Everything and anything is to be decided by a "democratic vote": thus all are subject in the minutiae of their lives to the tyranny of the majority, that majority unfortunately being those three sad people willing to turn up to a political meeting on a wet Tuesday night in December.

Seriously, does anyone think that party political elections for the local headmistress (for that is what they would quickly become) is going to improve a school?

Well, Neal Lawson seems to but then he\’s always struck me as somewhat strange.

12 thoughts on “Erm, Neal?”

  1. “The same approach works for the local GP surgery.”
    Elected doctors. I can’t see any problems with that idea!

  2. The dim bugger doesn’t seem to realise that voting makes sense for monopolies; if you can get a choice – e.g. of schools – what you want is a market.

  3. Well put, dearieme.

    Until those roles are empowered to actually institute real changes to the ways services are delivered, what is the point of electing people to them? Besides, if this rolling democratisation is to proceed, why not start with the most important positions first. For example, there are loads of schools but far fewer police forces. Why not give residents the chance to vote for the head of their local service, similar to the election of sheriffs in the US? Law enforcement is a primary duty of state and so making it reflect both the public’s wishes and be accountable to them should take priority over the various of merit goods, such as education and health.

    Don’t see it happening though. I don’t think the powers on high in the UK would stand to see locals electing Joe Arpaio.

  4. Strangely enough Tim I think it could and does work. for example the bottom tier of judges in the USA are elected then, depending on the state can be appointed for life. I once sat on a plane next to one and asked him why he was in economy, he said it is because I am elected….and as a general rule US judges are more capable than our own, the last judge to be sacked in the UK was in 1983.

    But going back to schools and hospitals, say where I live in Sheffield, if the local council run and financed the hospitals, for the first 15 years it would be a disaster as the Trots would take over, but eventually people would have to engage in the process. The problem is as with schools the cash comes via central government, thus when their bad ideas go wrong they have a ready made excuse, “HMG did not give is enough cash.”

    If you believe that society generally runs on a trial and error basis, I see no reason why in the medium and long term much more democracy cannot cure us of our statist whims.

    Just to add, it need not be party political, in Western Australia, councilors do not represent a party, folks have to make an effort to find out who their representative is or wants to do.

  5. “for the first 15 years it would be a disaster as the Trots would take over”

    The Trots have been running education for the last 50 years and still going strong.

  6. as a general rule US judges are more capable than our own

    This wins the award for “most epically mad thing ever said in a blog comments section”. Good stuff…

    [senior Federal judges are extremely capable, and not democratically elected. Local judges are the opposite.]

  7. As a school governor, elected by the parents at the school, I can say that the one thing governors can really have a major impact in is in head selection. It is left up to the Governors to appoint the new head. If they get a good head, great; if not there’s not much that can be done unless he screws up enough that he can be fired. I have been involved in one head appointment and we chose not to appoint from the first round of candidates, in the face of much pressure to do so, including in the local press. Fortunately we held out for a good head, not just the best of a poor bunch who initially applied, and he has made a world of difference to the school. If you are interested in schools, become a governor. If you won’t become a governor, shut up!

  8. The best of both worlds seems to be in the system that many states, most notably California, use. Judges are appointed, but have to periodically face (uncontested) retention elections. In almost all cases judges are retained unless they do something outrageous. For example, some years ago the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court was removed from office because she refused to allow executions. I suspect the judges who recently imposed gay marriage, against the express wishes of the people who voted to ban it, may have a difficult time in the next election.
    Note that these judges are removed because they acted as though they were philosopher-kings. They imposed their own version of public policy rather than ruling on the law as written.

  9. But does John B hand over the cash as well….

    As for the Trots already being in control, you are probably right, but I think if we want to archive more market solutions, which Is what I think would happen over time with real devolution, we have to push power downwards in the first place.

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