Over the years this site has taken issue with Assembly Members holding other elected positions, especially in Parliament where four Assembly Members currently hold seats – 2 in the Lords and 2 in the Commons.
The Conservatives come out slightly ahead on points here in that both of their AMs/Parliamentarians were at least directly elected to both bodies however none of the four will be standing for the London Assembly in 2008.
When Bob Neil stood for Parliament last year he declined to resign his Assembly seat due to the proximity of the next GLA elections and the costs of a by-election.
That decision was right then and remains right now, nothing would have been gained by forcing an expensive by-election on Londoners however, whatever the merits of specific individuals, it cannot be acceptable in future for Londoners to have to share their Mayor or Assembly Members with other bodies.
A city as large as ours deserves a full-time Government. For this reason we find ourselves having some sympathy with the Mayor’s suggestion that there be an agreed minimum number of days work Londoners can expect from their Assembly Members.
However the easy part ends there.
Responding last night to MayorWatch’s requests for a statement One London Party Leader Damian Hockney set out the difficulties inherent in defining what constitutes legitimate work:
Does my swift lunch (two sandwiches thieved from one of my staff) with the Panel Chair of London’s Custody Volunteers fit the bill? The team meeting (belated as always, this time at 3.30pm to 5.30pm? The dash across town to meet Police Authority Members for a meeting about the big get-together on Thursday?
The endless stream of blackberry e-mails and calls while trying to take my staff out to dinner between 7pm and 10pm?
Does typing and sending this e-mail on my blackberry at 11pm count? No moans. I absolutely love my role. It’s in my own interest to be as effective in it as possible.”
From an electoral point of view can there be any merit sitting in the Chamber at City Hall if no-one gets to see you? Between them London’s established media have managed to keep the profile of the Assembly so low that many Londoners seem almost unaware of its existence.
Sitting in on a meeting at City Hall can be pretty depressing for anyone in favour of accountability – there have been sessions where the Mayor and 25 Members of the Assembly have outnumbered the public by about 13 to one.
Very few AMs seem ever to have been invited into a news studio and, BBC Parliament aside which at least covers Mayor’s Question Time, it’s doubtful that the combined total of broadcast footage of Assembly deliberations over the past 7 years would run to a whole two hours.
For their part the broadcasters claim there’s no demand for coverage of the Assembly which brings us to the most important aspect of this issue: if we voters want people to turn up and do a decent job on our behalf we have to be prepared to take notice when they do.