Berating politicians is a most enjoyable pastime of a good patriotic Brit. They will tell you that their motivation for entering politics is to effect change, to lead their people, to institute social evolution from the seat of government. In my experience this is rarely the case; the majority of politicians that I have met and worked with are rarely more than average in intellect. They're home-grown politicians with many hours of public speaking courses under their belt, self-styled demographers trained and choreographed to preach to us ideas that are rarely their own, but come from the architects behind the scenes who actually have skills and abilities.
I am not against these greenhouse-fast-grown-procrastinators of the free, I just think the system of selection is broken and needs revisiting. The process is mired in old-school nudges and nods, where those who-you-know give the approval ahead of those that could, and should, be standing up to be counted. Much of the talent in this country would not even consider running for Parliament, for a number of reasons; these need correcting if we are to ensure our place in the world continues as a bastion of fairness and good governance, earning the trust that the world has in our institutions. There is good reason many of the worlds companies choose to domicile themselves here and bring our courts into any arbitration or dispute; that's because our legal system is the most trusted in the world, free of corruption and free of political persuasion. Why then can our political system not share the same reputation? Why do we distrust our politicians so much? Why can they not talk straight and man-up to issues they believe in? They seem in constant fear for their careers, willing to save them at all costs; are they really that insecure and worried they cannot get a real job in the real world if they lose their seat? Or not have worked long enough in politics to get a job after-dinner speaking for £3k a pop?
So, what is the problem here? Firstly, we need to regenerate respect - we should respect them whatever their chosen party persuasion, but they need skills and expertise that we can at least look up to as well. Politicians should be respected as accomplished and determined in their cause? How can we respect belligerent, cheating, lying charlatans that twist the truth in such a way that they rarely answer the damn question? We cannot, and until there is a radical shift in straight-talking it simply won't happen. Secondly, courage: politicians long ago fought for our democratic rights in combat alongside Oliver Cromwell; they would have actually spilt blood with the sword for the legislation they would later pass with the pen. I see absolutely no passion in politics these days, except rare bursts of aggression in the tit-for-tat at Prime Minister's questions. I simply do not believe the crap they spout, they look drab, uninterested and repeat the same lines over and over again, regurgitating manifestos and party lines to perfection, their speech writers and spin doctors stood off-camera coaching them. Now look; I do not want groomed posers that are created in the spirit of Hollywood as in the US, with fat bank accounts full of cash corrupting the election campaign process, but I do want determined, passionate statesmen and women who are do-ers with a skill set behind them of actual real work and reality.
A prerequisite fast track into politics these days is a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford or Cambridge, followed by membership of a political party; most will join from University. Then a job carrying stuff in and out of party offices for a summer, closely followed by a job in the civil service - taking eight times longer than a person in the city would do, learning that everything around you involves covering your arse, with no risk, no exposure to reality, just bureaucracy and red tape. I have worked with many teams in many areas of the civil service, they would not last five minutes in the real world, and they would be sacked almost immediately, as with a few rare exceptions they are useless.
So, following the civil service, next you get in with the 'selectors' of the next intake of would-be recruits to run for a hard seat and first attempt at becoming a Member of Parliament. The hard battle against a tough opposition 'safe seat' is to test your mettle and groom your skills of debate and campaigning. When you lose, if you show your devout stoicism and loyalty (if something as churlish as this can be called such a thing) they then eventually lob you a safer seat and off you go to Westminster. You are in! Show enough loyalty again and someone will suggest a Ministerial position eventually. So within a decade you could be Minister in the Cabinet despite never having done a day's work in your life.
There are of course the rare few who are extremely accomplished at their job in the real world, those that the government seeks to want on their team sheet; given we do not have a written constitution in the United Kingdom, you can place these people in your cabinet without them being an elected Member of Parliament. You do this by sticking them in the House of Lords and then bring them into the Cabinet. Some excellent politicians have been made this way, and whilst it is not entirely democratic, it works. I would sooner have industry experts, who dedicated their lives to their cause, being raised to positions of influence than home-grown sprogs straight out of private schools, Oxford and the civil service without a damn day's work in the real world. Getting your rugby colours and working in the Uni Bar does not count.
I personally would stick all of them in the service sector, working the fry station in McDonalds for a year; or send them to Afghanistan. In fact I would send them all to Afghanistan, perhaps then they would think carefully about military intervention as a tool in their arsenal when they get into power.
I am however agreeable to politicians being paid £71k a year, it is a decent salary for a decent day's work, we should not cut corners here if we value real management leadership, or talent will go elsewhere and do something else - which it clearly is currently. What I am questioning is the quality of the fools taking the cash. In order to correct the issues raised we must immediately begin a new selection process and offer up robust criteria for being chosen; amongst these criteria should be a period of selfless service to one's country. Through the military, through volunteer aid agencies and UK NGOs or through some sort of pre-approved channel - straight after university, and lasting a minimum of 2 years. Most of these arrangements pay a survival wage, enough to live on and eat some beans, what more do they want? This should be followed by a city job, a real job, working with real people in the world of capitalism and profit, eighty hours a week, to understand the flair of entrepreneurialism and why it's imperative for the backbone of our country. To see how hard it is for one-man-bands, small businesses and companies trying to grow and secure debt in a tougher than ever economic climate.
Then they can go and work in the civil service, and begin the process to political stardom thereafter. This needs revision immediately, confidence needs to be put back into politics, we must respect our politicians, and until we make their job elite and coveted, we will not make it respectful. Many politicians demand automatic respect, not because we agree with everything they say, but because we know their journey, their life story; their message is based on honour, loyalty, determination and contribution and that their right to be in power is well-earned. I want Members of Parliament like Paddy Ashdown manning the benches of the Palace of Westminster, not the gimps we currently have dribbling their way to I Am A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here or Strictly Come Dancing. This is little more than reality television for them, but for the working classes of this Great Nation this is THE reality.
That or bring me my Cromwellian sword, and we march to Westminster!