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President’s Bulletin: What if Gladstone had fallen in?

Updated on: 27 Apr 2021   First published on 27 Apr 2021

Author:  Dr Alastair McKinlay 

“If Gladstone fell into the Thames that would be a misfortune, and if anybody pulled him out, that I suppose would be a calamity.”

Benjamin Disraeli


Why anyone should put themselves up for public office is something of a mystery. Benjamin Disraeli was an author, a celebrated wit, and something of a maverick. Whereas Gladstone’s speeches had a reputation for being worthy, but rather long and tedious, one can only pity him having to face Disraeli over the dispatch box.

There is a lot of cynicism about government at present, with allegations of cronyism, leaked memos, and sleaze. In one sense the “COVID consensus” has simply given way to business as usual. As Ambrose Bierce put it, “Politics is the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” In the end, as flawed as they may seem, democracies are only as good as the people who put themselves forward to represent their electorate or members.

The same principle applies to the BSG. The Society has several routes to participation. Some posts such as the President, Secretary, Vice Presidents, higher committee chairs, and the mentorship lead, are appointed at interview, against a published job specification, by a panel chaired by a lay trustee. Under the revised governance arrangements, we now appoint a deputy chair for two years, who takes over as the chair of the Committee for a further two years. It allows a defined period of learning and assimilation, ensures consistency, and helps to divide the workload; a workload that can be considerable. Some experience of participation in the activities of the BSG, through the sections or committees, is usually a pre-requisite for these posts.

Other posts such as the elected councillors, section committees, and membership of the clinical research groups, are elected by the Society. There are 87 positions up for election at present, so this is a perfect opportunity to come forward if you want to contribute. The person specifications for all positions carry the BSG equality and inclusion statement, which in addition to gender and race also includes a reference to work pattern, so that members who work less than full-time are not only able to apply but are also encouraged. If you are unsure about any of the posts, want advice, or simply want to talk through the role, we can arrange for you to have that conversation. People need to come forward.

In the Society, just as in the country, we often end up with the government we deserve.

Edmund Burke said,

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.”

Nowadays, Burke would not have said “men”. At the BSG we trust in people, not just men, and we cherish our diversity. If you can contribute and want to join our team, please step forward.

Finally, some congratulations and thanks:

  • Prof. Reena Sidhu is the new education convener. We are now also looking for her new deputy and successor in two years.
  • Dr. Beverley Oates is the new treasurer.
  • Prof. John Dillon is the new Vice President for hepatology.
  • Dr. Simon Panter is the new deputy chair of the training committee and will become chair in two years.
  • Prof. Helen Steed is the new secretary.

The deputy chair for education, the Vice President-elect for endoscopy, and the mentoring lead are all still to be appointed.

There is one elected councillor vacancy and membership of many specialty committees and CRGs to be filled.

Next year we will be looking for the next President-elect.

Truly a time brimming with opportunity.

Finally, the whole election process is overseen by the BSG office and involves a mountain of work, so particular thanks are due to them, and for the work they do to keep our democracy running.

Dr Alastair McKinlay

BSG President


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