Top reasons why lists serve only to irritate

The media loves lists. Ten ways to find a lover, 20 bright young
things to watch, a dozen high flyers. What is infuriating about
this journalistic device is that although it’s often a rag bag of
personal opinions and a desperate trawl for someone, anyone, who
will fit a particular pigeon hole, once in print, it takes on a
false authority.

Last week, for instance, the Guardian Society supplement
published the clumsily titled “Influence 100” list, which named the
supposedly most influential people in public services.

Those in the list were picked because of their influence over
delivery of services and professional practice; their ability to
change institutions, towns and cities, or public perceptions; and
their financial clout and political muscle.

Many of the names were to be expected. For example, Paul Dacre,
editor of the Daily
Mail, who constantly exhorts
middle England to look back to the mythical “good old days” when
Britain was white, children did as they were told and wives stayed
at home.

Among others included were Richard Best, director of the Joseph
Rowntree Foundation; Peter Gilroy, Kent’s director of social
services; Dave Prentis, general secretary of public sector union
Unison and Anne Owers, HM chief inspector of prisoners.

Everyone, of course, could compile their own hot one hundred –
hopefully with many more women and people from ethnic minorities.
However, there is one glaring omission: the handful of women
involved with children’s services who have lobbied effectively,
demonstrated the transformational power of high quality provision,
shown leadership and helped to change the perceptions of many
politicians who traditionally viewed children as a private not a
public concern.

Anne Longfield from Kids’ Clubs Network; Collette Kelleher formerly
of The Daycare Trust; Naomi Eisenstadt, head of the Sure Start
Unit; Chrissie Meleady of the Sheffield Children’s Centre and a
number of others, have helped to drag child care and early
intervention up the political agenda as a tool of social inclusion
and of achieving greater equality between the genders. They have
also stressed a child’s right to a decent springboard in life. But
their names were nowhere to be seen.

Of course, it’s only a list and it shouldn’t really matter. But
someone, somewhere, will also take it as a record of achievement,
and that is why they truly deserve to be counted in.

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