Questions of leadership
19 November 1996
I write in connection with a recent article from Tony Holland. I would first note the interesting point, that, once again, Mr Holland is cited in his capacity as senior partner at his firm. Quite clearly, his articles (which appear regularly and may be said to form part of a series) are written not because he holds that status, but because he is a former President of the Law Society and long-standing member of the Council of the Law Society and, more particularly in view of their content, because he was an outspoken opponent of the recent presidential regime.
Although Mr Holland has some fair comments to make in his article, once again he appears to have his main aim as presenting yet another bout of criticism of Martin Mears.
I take issue with the conclusions which Mr Holland draws regarding the election of the president. The legislative basis of the system which Mr Holland prefaces by the use of the word "previously" is still in force. The difference is not a change in the system, but a change in how that system has been utilised.
The manner of utilisation previously involved one candidate only emerging and therefore the electoral college consisted entirely of the Council members. Mr Holland, with italic emphasis, describes these as "elected". However, a significant proportion of the Council members are not elected, but nominated as representatives of various groups. This does not mean that their voices should not count, but they are not elected in the sense that Mr Holland implies.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, those members who do represent constituencies have, in the main, not been elected at all. This is because a large proportion of them are in fact returned unopposed. There is no basis upon which to claim that there is any specific democratic mandate for a large number of the Council's members.
The elections which have taken place in the past two years have moved in a new direction, in that they have given the members of the society the ability to make judgements on the programmes of those who have stood for election. While one might accept that they have not seen the candidates in action in meetings of the council of the society, those who voted have at any rate had the ability to peruse the programmes of the candidates and their written articles.
Given that the concepts involved in these elections have been formulated around policy and personal style, performance in running the Law Society and such matters as controlling the bureaucracy and the ability to exercise influence in certain quarters, these are matters upon which the electorate of the society can form a valid judgement.
Mr Holland's contention as to the preferred mode of selection would indeed be appropriate if one were talking about choosing someone who would not be required to take issue in political debate (legal politics, that is). But there are divergent views on what needs to be done, and definite choices have to be made, so the political element is involved and it is entirely appropriate that the electorate should have the chance to choose.
I would comment also on Mr Holland's latest attempts at criticism of Martin Mears and his character. I fail to see how it is to Mr Mears' discredit that he should be expressing the wish to stand again and make another attempt to try to make what he considers to be changes that are necessary to the Law Society.
Finally, on the question of "clear and firm leadership", I would put the view that whether that is able to be given depends upon the character of the individual concerned. Mr Mears appeared quite able to provide a firm approach and, indeed, struck me as being the last person who would trim his policies in order to win an election.
Mr Holland no doubt disagrees with the direction of Mr Mears' leadership, but that is a different matter from saying that he did not provide it.
Preston Borough Council