So the press have dug around into Conservative MP Louise Menschs past and discovered, shock horror, that she 'probably' took some drugs at a nightclub when she was in her twenties. Why this is news is frankly beyond me but why this has come out now, is not. The press are doing their thing, taking on someone that has taken them on. The 'probably' is a bit of a give away. There are lots of 'probablys' floating around the News of the World scandal. True or not, a 'probably' can hurt.
In the case of Louise Mensch I doubt it will hurt that much for that long because she had the good sense to own up to it in a way that takes the sting out of it. Obama did the same when he was accused of taking drugs in his youth. Lots of people take drugs in their youth and some into their older youth so it's not the vote loser that people may assume it is. Not that I'm going to necessarily talk about that. What I am interested in is the effect that this sort of press coverage has on people who might have been considering becoming an MP.
My friends tell me that no sane person wants to be an MP in this country and I have to say, there is some sense to that claim. The British public really doesn't like it's elected representatives. MPs are the second least trusted group of people in the country, just slightly more than journalists, which in this day and age is really saying something. (Not all journalists are bad, I know, I know). Who in their right mind would want to play a role that is this hated?
This already stops people from stepping forward into public leadership but there is another factor. When I ask women, specifically, to come forward to stand as MPs lots of them say no, never in a million years and refer to the treatment that they might expect from the press, treatment a lot like Louise Mensch is experiencing. They worry about their past and how that might impact on their families. It takes a brave woman to want to air her dirty laundry in public.
We know that female politicians get treated differently from male politicians in scandals. Remember when Liz Truss, Tory hopeful was deselected from running for Parliament after having an affair? Some might think this was an appropriate response from the party but you only have to look at the fact it was a Tory MP she had the affair with, who quite happily kept his place. Is there a double standard? Yes indeed.
Good on Lousie Mensch. She's essentially saying, 'Yes I've had a life. So what?'. I agree. Isn't that what we want? To elect people to lead us who have lived? People that have had jobs outside of politics, who know what it is to battle with life, those that have experienced money worries, maybe even battled with addiction. People who know how relationships can go wrong and the work needed to keep them going. People that have allowed themselves to veer from the carefully crafted story of who and what a politician is, a story that can only end in disappointment for the voters because we are all human, full of fragilities and vulnerabilities. It's a sham to pretend otherwise.
Lets select and elect more human beings please. Let's even encourage our friends and relatives to stand for public office. You know the saying, decisions are made by those that show up. And finally let's not sit quietly as the press dig around in peoples lives, bringing up stuff that frankly just doesn't matter.
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