Friday, 1 June 2012

The Eurovision Song Contest and College Council Elections.

Last Saturday was Eurovision night - I love watching the Eurovision song contest - it is compulsive watching on many levels due to its entertainment, suspense and often hilarity value.

In Malta, the Eurovision is taken very seriously by everyone including politicians. It is one stage where Malta (pop. 390000) could until fairly recently punch above its weight. Over the past decade, Malta has come second twice. As tourism is a major currency earner for the country, this level of Europe-wide exposure is invaluableIn recent years however, voting in the Eurovision song contest has been dominated by partisanship, usually between countries of the former Soviet bloc and poor Malta, who really really wants to win, has suffered. As I watched the different countries tuning in to declare their vote, I was reminded of a recent election I was involved in - that for council of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

I am proud to be a fellow of the Royal college of surgeons of England and enjoy going down to the college in London to teach and for meetings. I recognise however that the institution is in need of reform and has on occasions not pulled its weight on certain issues. Although things are definitely getting better, it sometimes has the feel of a privileged London club and not one dedicated solely to ensuring the highest standards of surgical training and care throughout England.

In recent months, during the social media debate on the Health and Social Care bill, many unfair and often inaccurate statements were made about the English college of surgeons and about surgeons in general . These comments resulted from the refusal of the college to demonstrate outright opposition to the whole of the bill. This refusal of the college and president to jump onto the frantic bandwagon was IMHO the right thing to do. The inaccurate representations and the need for further modernisation persuaded me to stand for election to the council. Now, I am not normally a political animal - I usually consider myself lucky to be spared that particular characteristic. However I have realised that if one wants to get elected, one must do politics

The election for council seats uses the single transferable vote system and is administered by the Electoral Reform Society. Everyone who is a fellow or member gets an equal vote - whether you're a 26 year old CT1 doctor or a 62 year old Professor. Amongst the 20 plus candidates for the four available places on council, there were four Consultant Cardiothoracic surgeons standing for election. Our society had decided not to publicly back any one candidate as they felt that the single transferable vote system made public specialty based backing unnecessary. As long as all candidates were placed in the first four preferences, the votes moved down the food chain as candidates were eliminated.

Disappointingly but unsurprisingly I was not elected. What surprised me was the fact that two of my more senior and better well known (or so I thought) colleagues did not get elected either and were way behind, in terms of votes, those who eventually were.

It seems that cardio thoracic surgery is like Malta or the UK for that matter in the Eurovison song contest - it has a small constituency and no natural allies. Council will always therefore be dominated by the big beasts in the jungle - general surgery and orthopaedics.

I might consult one Tony Blair next time - I bet he'll know how to get a chestcracker onto council!!