“Real life” politicians?

In my piece on the unremarkable changes to ‘refresh’ the NZ Labour Party, I mentioned the shallow call from UK Labour for more ‘real life’ candidates. The call was wonderfully torn apart in this column from an ex-Labour adviser, Dan Hodges.

UK Labour seemed to ‘call’ for more business people as MPs. Actually, it simultaneously called for more working class MPs, more women, etc. As Miliband put it;

We need a politics where politicians look like the constituents they represent

Miliband put his finger on a key reason for the crumbling of public faith in politics – the rise of the professional political class. People there as a career not a calling, sourced from the middle class, and often lacking in professional skills to do the job.

He is partly right, but in totality it’s bollocks. Politics has almost never had people that look like the people they represent. Frankly, voters DON’T want people like themselves running the country. They want people ‘like’ them, but a smidgen better at the job of running a country. 

As the column points out, Miliband is actually calling for fewer of himself:

“Roughly one in four MPs, before they became MPs, were effectively full-time politicos already,”

In that respect I have sympathy. Professional politicians often lack ‘real life’ working and living experience that would better relate them to the people they represent / govern.

I also argue that those for whom it is a profession should learn the skills necessary to be better at it. Miliband might be okay if he accepted what he really was, and got better at the job. If the learned about psychology, sociology, political philosophy, political history, ideology, economics…

Being a politician is a remarkably hard job. What we need is more people skilled for it, rather than more people who were simply skilled at being at university or plumbing.

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