The election process

I have access to the list of members’ email addresses, but not their identities (unless it is obvious from their email address). I can see who has voted but not for whom, courtesy of Election Buddy, the online programme which runs the election electronically (with data input from Martin Rathfelder, employed by SHA as part-time organiser, for those who do not know him). Election Buddy automatically sends out reminders to those who have not yet voted.

 Election results

I am happy that the candidates elected as delegates to the Central Council were elected fairly, and that the concerns I have expressed below have not affected the overall result of the election. However I would like to see these concerns addressed by Central Council in the near future.

At close of voting, the number of ballots was 422 out of a total of 868 eligible voters, and 2 spoiled ballots = 49%

The number of votes cast for each candidate was as follows:

Treasurer

395 votes were cast and there were 27 abstentions

4 voters were added after the ballot started, but I am satisfied that this was down to technical problems with Election Buddy, e.g. that a couple who were both members but shared an email address could not both be recognised by Election Buddy, or mistakes in email addresses.

Votes received:

  • Tom Fitzgerald    250 (63.3%)
  • Callum Vibert      145 (36.7%)
  • Tom Fitzgerald is elected

 Central Council

5995 votes were cast and there were 16 abstentions

Candidates who were elected two days earlier as delegates from the Greater London branch are marked GL .

Those who had the 20 highest number of votes in this (National) election are marked E.

Four candidates who were elected by both the national membership and the GL branch were given the choice as to which they wished to represent. Three chose to be National delegates, also marked E, and one to be a London delegate (GL). The person with the next highest no of votes takes his place on Central Council and is also marked E.

In addition, Tom Fitzgerald was elected as treasurer, so the person with the next highest vote takes his place as a national delegate to the Central Council and is also marked E.

Votes cast for each candidate are given below, followed by their % of the vote.

  • Carol Ackroyd E                          222 (3.7%) GL
  • Ruth Appleton                            132 (2.2%)
  • Dr Guy Baily E                            214 (3.6%)
  • Chris Bain                                  115 (1.9%)
  • Richard Bourne                          151 (2.5%)
  • Christopher Butler                       78 (1.3%)
  • Dr Zahid Chauhan E                    162 (2.7%)
  • Nicolas Csergo                            119 (2.0%) GL
  • Dr Jacky Davis E                             305 (5.1%) GL
  • David Llewellyn Davies E            229 (3.8%)
  • Mike Eakins                               125 (2.1%)
  • Dr Brian Fisher E                       196 (3.3%)
  • Dr Tom Fitzgerald Treas.            195 (3.3%)
  • Cllr Allison Gardner E                 183 (3.1%)
  • Vivien Giladi E                           254 (4.2%) GL
  • James Gill                                 146 (2.4%)
  • Dr Brian Gibbons E                     249 (4.2%)
  • Catharine Grundy Clew                29 (0.5%)
  • Dr Tony Jewell E                         291 (4.9%)
  • Dr Coral Jones E                         282 (4.7%)
  • Cllr Mark Ladbrooke E                 205 (3.4%)
  • John Lipetz GL                           174 (2.9%) GL
  • Corrie Lowry E                           153 (2.6%)
  • Lawrie Nerva                               53 (0.9%)
  • Jessica Ormerod E                      207 (3.5%)
  • Dame Jane Roberts E                  201 (3.4%)
  • Cllr Mike Roberts E                     181 (3.0%)
  • Cllr Dave Shields                        123 (2.1%)
  • Rene Smit                                    76 (1.3%)
  • Dr Kathrin Thomas E                   282 (4.7%)
  • Dr Andy Thompson E                   171 (2.9%)
  • Dr Judith Varley E                       214 (3.6%)
  • Dr David Wrigley E                      278 (4.6%)

Concerns

I have a number of concerns on which Central Council may wish to take a view or agree a policy or action.

  1. Blind or partially sighted members. We may wish to make alternative arrangements for blind or partially sighted members to vote if they are unable to use the online version. Our Chair, Alex Scott-Samuel is also partially sighted and registered blind, but able to vote online. He may well have some useful advice for the SHA in conducting online elections.

At the moment there are three other blind or partially sighted members known to Martin. One does not use the internet at all, so Martin posted them a paper copy of the ballot paper and candidates’ statements, for them to return to him. Two live near Martin, and he has visited them. The software they use to read their email interferes with the Election Buddy Software. Martin helped one to vote on line and the other is going to vote on paper and post him their ballot paper. If we wish to ensure that members who cannot vote using our chosen software, are able to do so in complete confidentiality, we will have to propose an alternative.

  1. 2. Regional & Branch Elections. I would strongly recommend the Central,Council to amend the constitution so that branch or regional delegates are selected well before National delegates, or vice versa.
  2. Candidates’ Statements. I had some difficulty in accessing the candidates’ statements before voting. I am not sure how clear or straightforward other members found it. I have also had difficulty in accessing my own biography on the SHA website in order to update it. We might wish to investigate this further.
  3. 4. Canvassing support. As many members of the SHA are also members of the Labour Party, we will be used to canvassing support from voters both at election times and in between elections. As individuals, we will no doubt be offering our opinions to people we know who are also SHA members, about the candidates for election as Treasurer and to the Central Council, as Conference delegates, etc. I take the view that this is normal and acceptable for members of a political organisation.

However, if a list of candidates is circulated, apparently officially, via the SHA website, SHA Facebook page, SHA Twitter feed, or other SHA medium, or “liked” by any of them, in my opinion that is a different matter. It gives the impression that the SHA as an organisation favours a particular set of candidates over others, and we cannot accept this.

For example Allison Gardiner from Staffordshire & Stoke and Mike Eakins from Weaver Vale tweeted asking for members to vote for them to be delegates to Central Council, and both received a “like” from the SHA’s twitter account. We need to decide whether tweets from candidates seeking votes should be permissible (or whether we take the view that not all candidates have equal access to or ability to promote themselves via social media, and so should not be allowed). But in any case it is my considered opinion that the Association’s staff, official statements, web pages, etc. should NOT be seen apparently to support some candidates over others. 

In between these categories, there have been lists of candidates for SHA positions drawn up by various groups and individuals, some within SHA and some outside the SHA’s own structures, which SHA members have been invited to support in the election. Apparently one such has been circulated by Red Labour, but I have not seen it. According to Google, Red Labour is a group of Socialists within and outside the Labour Party, who circulate material largely by social media. In response to this list, an alternative list of 20 candidates has been circulated by John Charlton on behalf of the West Midlands SHA branch EC. A copy of the West Midlands list was subsequently circulated by Gurinder Singh Josan – as a list of the candidates he had voted for, followed by thanks from some of the candidates mentioned, and a “like” from the official SHA account as well as from Martin Rathfelder as an individual.

Central Council needs to discuss this, to take a position on (1) whether or how we might wish to deal with the circulation of “preferred candidate” lists, and (2), more seriously, what action to take concerning the apparent endorsement of some candidates over others by officials of the SHA.

I have no reason to believe that any of the candidates themselves have been involved in attempts to influence the voting unfairly.

  1. Election of Treasurer At the Greater Manchester AGM which I attended on March 1st 2018, the SHA Chair, Alex Scott-Samuel, was present as invited speaker, as was Callum Vibert, who was standing as candidate for SHA Treasurer as an alternative candidate to the “sitting” Treasurer. Alex informed me that he had asked Callum why he had decided to stand for the position, and Callum said “Martin asked me to stand.”

Again, we may wish to decide whether it is appropriate for the SHA organiser – as a representative of the association as a whole – to ask members to stand against ‘sitting’ officers in SHA officer elections. (Note: This is a different case from encouraging members to stand in elections where there are not enough members putting themselves forward for the positions available, which I consider to be entirely acceptable).

The issue here is that Martin Rathfelder is both a member of the SHA and its paid staff member. As a member he has an opinion and a vote as we all do. As an organiser – especially, in this case, as the person with the most control over the voting procedures – he must be seen to be impartial in the conduct of SHA elections and other procedures.

Conclusion

The SHA is growing, and with growth has more influence, on the Labour Party and public opinion, concerning health policy and the best ways to defend and improve the NHS. Consequently we are beginning to attract more attention from the Party and the press, which – most of the time – is what we need. However it also means we must be as scrupulous as possible in ensuring that our processes are, and are seen to be, totally fair and democratic in every way.

The Central Council needs to decide whether it considers that there have been systematic attempts by the SHA staff member to influence the outcome of the election. And if so what is the appropriate action to take.

 

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