The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

What Kind of MP?

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 1, 2009 @ 06:34

This was the first result for "career politician" on Google Images. I haven't a clue what it means...

This was the first result for "career politician" on Google Images. I haven't a clue what it means...

The MPs expenses debacle has led to the newspapers discussing something that has been mostly of only academic interest for some time. This morning the Telegraph is leading on a whinge-piece created by a think tank about how many of our future MPs are likely to be “career politicians”.

We use such a phrase as if its obvious to all that such a thing is totally undesirable; that nobody could possibly want careerists managing our country. No. What we want is the good old-fashioned, disinterested, dispassionate amateur who has merely a passing interest in politics and is only dragged into it against their better judgement.

Wait a moment. That doesn’t sound right at all.

How many times have we heard moaning about how little time MPs spend in Westminster? How many of them have second jobs which distract from their parliamentary duties? I thought we wanted MPs who appreciated that it is a full time job and spent all their life devoted to it. Clearly David Cameron thinks that was the way the wind was blowing when he banned his Shadow Cabinet from having second jobs. And, let’s face it, he knows how to get a good headline.

We’re in danger of tying ourselves in knots over this issue. It’s not practical to square the idea that politics is a career, a respectable one to serve the public, with the idea that we want our politicians to be high=fliers from other professions and the world of business who then find themselves accidentally dropped into the House of Commons.

Career politicians, in fact, are most likely to know the ropes. They are most likely to have worked within parliamentary procedure and know it like the back of their hand. They are most likely to be dedicated, committed, professional people who have spent their lives preparing for how to be an MP. They are likely to be adept at using the media and communicating with the public they intend to serve. I thought these were skills we wanted?

The part-time amateur politician is very likely to want to keep their second job. After all, that’s what they’ve done their whole life and are good at it. Surely it’s unfair to deny them that?

A parliament made up of 100% part-timers would be far more worrying, to me, than one with 100% career politicians. The chances are they would all be older than great swathes of the population. And why should we deny younger people, and a broader range of opinion across the generations, access to Parliament?

In truth, what Parliament needs is a good balance between the two. We want a wide range of perspectives and talents. That way we get, at least, a little bit closer to reflecting the range of backgrounds and interests that comprise some of the population.

We need to tone the rhetoric down a little. The rise of the career politician is not necessarily a bad thing. It will be if it reaches 100% of the Parliament. It hasn’t, so it’s not a major concern.

To me, it’s a sign that the career is still an attractive one, and we should not always be cynical about the large number of people who wish to dedicate themselves to a life in public service.

The reputation of politics may well be in the gutter, but in parts it is not particularly deserved. This is one of them.

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One Response to “What Kind of MP?”

  1. […] thing to say but rather difficult to achieve in practice. I’m not so sure the trend towards “professional” politicians is that bad; as long as our MPs are extremely empathetic individuals with a great deal of emotional […]

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