I neither called for a vote nor formally withheld my support for the motion. Thus in all political fairness, I have voted to continue an obnoxious system. As the more sagacious and experienced politician than I was, he ended his media submission with: “Collins is showing early signs of election fever. Please don’t take him seriously”
As political newcomer in my first term as Councillor for Social Affairs during the 2006 – 2012 legislative period, one of the issues that I took up the ruling socialist #leadership in council was on favouritism. More specifically, I was piqued to discover on assumption of duties that children of councillors and top civil servants were given priority in the selection for vacation #jobs in the Centre for Social Welfare. The favouritism went so far to the point that as Councillor, if you had no kids of schooling age, you could bring in grandkids, nephews, nieces or just anybody of your fancy. Just submit the name and that was it, no questions asked. As a matter of fact, the #vacancies were neither published anywhere nor publicly announced.
What I wondered aloud about was why would my kids be given priority over other kids just because their dad was Councillor? What happens then to competence? Does been my kids automatically make them more competent or better qualified than other kids, I queried the Council Chairman at the time.
I went further to suggest that if any prioritising was needed, we should consider children of clients on living wage and income support. These are exactly the #people whose networks are limited, if they have any at all. If we were serious about dismantling generational poverty, which was prevalent in our constituency at the time, that could be a place to start from. Council #leadership has sufficient #network to get their kids a vacation #job in just about anywhere in the private sector. If they are keen on their kids getting the public sector #experience, then they must compete for the job with others. Throw the student job market open, I persuaded.
At the end of my interpellation, I made what in my view at the time was a constructive proposal, but one which turned out, on the benefit of hindsight, to be politically naive. I do not wish to vote against the motion or to abruptly dislodge the existing order. But I implored Council to amend this order against the next #recruitment season a year away. We now have a whole year to plan and make a transition to a fair and equitable system.
When the #media later picked up the story and questioned the socialist Council Chairman, he denied that anything like that happened. In fact he concluded his denial by convincingly pointing to official Council records which didn’t register any objections to the motion. The motion was unanimously carried. Indeed mine were observations and recommendations. I neither called for a vote nor formally withheld my support for the motion. Thus in all political fairness, I have voted to continue an obnoxious system. As the more sagacious and experienced politician than I was, he ended his media submission with: “Collins is showing early signs of election fever. Please don’t take him seriously”
At the time, a truly independent media was scarce in my constituency. The Socialists had been in #power for such a long time and so highly networked that most journalists will rather look the other way than do a thorough investigative job. But not Johannes Hosten of the regional newspaper “De Zeewacht”. The young fearless reporter interviewed persons who in his words “were in a position to know the facts”. They all collaborated the denials of the Chair. He then went into public archives to dig up Council reports of the Sitting, which indeed confirmed my narrative. And he stated it as such, to the envy of the true progressives.
Fast forward to a decade later, when news broke about former UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, nominating his father for the 2023 Honours List for Knighthood. I had a moment to ponder over what I’d do. Would I nominate a family member for Honours List if I were in Johnson’s shoes? How similar or dissimilar is this to my vow never to favour family in public appointments? Recall that my point was not that my kids and those of other Councillors should not apply. Just that they should not be favoured based on our privileged positions. Indeed why should they be discriminated upon just because their parents are politically exposed?
In Boris Johnson’s shoes, I will nominate my father for Knighthood if I’m convinced that he’s qualified. I do not believe that it’s fair to discriminate against family because it’s family. Nominate but allow the system to run its full course without interference. There is still that little voice in me raising the question of #ethics. Is there an ethical question here or could this be that I have now attained the level of political sagacity that I lacked way back in the days. I kind of think that if political sagacity equates favouritism, then I’d rather remain political naivety. Not sure, just thinking aloud.