Those who want to see politics treated as a 'profession' are dangerously closer to their goal today. One loud chorus of voices are calling for the structures of commercial and industrial executives to be applied to MPs; an expenses code, a nine to five working day and no doubt annual performance reviews, with party HQs becoming Human Resources departments, recruiting graduate trainees for a career with 'the firm'. Those who read this blog regularly will realise the revulsion I have for any such move.
Politics is not a profession. Professions are closed shops; their members create barriers to entry to exclude outsiders, and then work to improve their mutual well-being - exactly the opposite of healthy democratic politics. I believe it is largely the efforts of those misguided fools who have sought to treat politics as though it were a profession over the past few decades that have landed us with this mess. The central Statist parties. The 'A' lists. The blow-ins. The rules-based systems. The calls for fat executive salaries and rewards. The self-serving exclusiveness of the political class.
The expenses scandal is just a symptom, not the disease. The disease is a weak Commons undermined both by Europe and by a system of central Statist party patronage; the disease is the greed of a new breed of constituency MPs for place and preferment.
Charles Moore had the germ of it in yesterday's Telegraph. So did Guido.
A powerful Commons, a strong Parliament well-stocked with independent minded MPs, MPs who have entered the House to bring something to it, not to take something from it, must see the saving of our democracy. Unless the three main parties reinvigourate their grass roots by a massive devolution of power from central office they will soon slip below a combined membership threshold of 1% of the electorate. Open primaries will do much to dispose of the inane delusion that politics is a 'profession'. MPs are beginning to realise their future lies with the voters in their constituencies, not with the management consultants in party HQ. Voters will be far less tribal, and will start to look at the person and not just the party.
The Mail reports today that the public overwhelmingly feels a salary of £60k - £70k is right for MPs, and I agree. So a bonfire of the allowances then, and expenses on the same basis as the rest of the nation. And an encouragement for MPs to continue to pursue their trade or profession whilst in Parliament, for this will keep them anchored in the real world while continuing to reward those with merit and discouraging the pestilence of 'professional' politicians .
It's our Commons and they are our representatives. Let's reclaim our democracy from the political class.