Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Politics is not a profession - part 6

Peter Oborne has done well in identifying so powerfully a new political class whose malignant grip on our political institutions is corrosive of democracy. Politics is not a career. Politics is not a profession. Politics is something each one of us engages in as part of our everyday living, as normal as eating or breathing. And standing for election to occupy a democratic position is something that should come after having gained valuable experience in some other walk of life, not after having been a students' union Ents officer and spending a couple of years as an MP's researcher.

The graph below, published by the Parliamentary authorities, shows the worrying rise in MPs with no background other than 'politician or political organiser' up to the 2001 elections:

You will see that in 2001 the number of these had risen to 66. In the 2005 elections this rose yet again, off the scale, with 87 MPs having done nothing worthwhile in their lives but playing politics before entering the house.

The real debate is not about MPs with business experience (of whom at the 2005 elections Labour had 25 and the Conservatives 75) but about MPs with no experience of anything at all.

Against 87 know-nothing MPs we now have just 118 MPs with business experience, and the 2009 / 2010 elections could see them being overtaken. In 1987 we had 161 MPs experienced in business.

It is not surprising that 11 MPs have been miners. What is slightly surprising is that one of them is a Conservative (which one?). Nor is it surprising that Labour has 54 MPs who were school teachers or worked in local government or the civil service as against 12 Conservatives with such backgrounds. And less (fewer?) than 12% of MPs were barristers or solicitors before entering the house, which upsets a few popular stereotypes.

The HOC's 2005 analysis of MPs (from which the above stats came) makes useful reading. But more useful is our awareness of the relentless rise of a malignant metropolitan political class. And for this we must be grateful to Oborne.


Blue Eyes said...

Depressing, isn't it. And when senior MPs dare to have outside interests they are lambasted for not working hard enough at their politics job.

The problem has two causes: 1) MPs are paid too much and so being an MP becomes a desirable career end point for too many third-rate people 2) the parties tend to select candidates who have "experience" which means they have worked in the party or been involved in student politics, etc.

The Great Simpleton said...

I'm surprised its so few, given the way they all behave.

Apropos BE's comments on pay, I prosed some time ago that MP's and ministers should be paid what they earned before they stood for election. This will incentivise people who have done well in life but can't afford the drop in salary as well as discouraging the political carrerists, who I would further disurage by not counting salaries as political researchers or working for think tanks.

Anonymous said...

Only 66 who have had no worthwhile experience?

I think maybe your definition needs tweaking.

Perhaps we should extract the stats for those who have had no life experience outside the public sector.

I bet that would be a lot higher than 66.

Praguetory said...

On the Tory benches, Patrick McLoughlin was a miner.

patently said...

MP's and ministers should be paid what they earned before they stood for election.

A simply excellent idea. Why on earth would any reasonably successful businessperson stand for election today, unless utterly consumed with vanity?

TheFatBigot said...

Perhaps it seems that far more of them have had no job outside politics because they are the ones who get promoted. Loyalty to the party machine is more important than ability, hence the pitiful bunch in the current cabinet.

Anonymous said...

I've long thought that there should be a 2 terms limit. That stops it being a career.

And anyone who wants to do the job should be banned from doing it. Athenian fundamentalism. Drag em screaming and kicking and make sure they really don't want to be MP's.

electro-kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
electro-kevin said...

Truly shocking. It explains a lot though.

These people couldn't run whelk stalls; however, they are about to feel the wrath of people who have TRIED to run whelk stalls and now find themselves bankrupt, not least through having to finance welfare chavs and profligate politicians.

When these very people have lost their livelihoods and their homes, when they are forced to beg at the welfare office and find that, after all these years of paying punitive taxation, there is nothing in the pot left for them...

Town halls will burn. The police will not have enough shields for what might follow.