David Cameron once said “because I thought I’d be good at it” when asked why he wanted to Prime Minister. He was, and remains, wrong.There is nothing good in the motivations of a large majority of politicians, like himself, because the criteria that a broken and cynical system uses to attract them isn’t “good”. It is at best foolish and at worst totally disgusting.
In his excellent book, “The Establishment: and how they get away with it”, Owen Jones, occasionally (though not always affectionately) referred to as the “Katie Hopkins of the left”, describes an encounter he has with a lobbyist and his media officer. The pair are unduly alarmed when Jones suggests that MPs are in fact members of a wealthy profession and could perhaps do with a pay reduction. When its established that this comment isn’t a joke, Jones relays the press officers response as follows:
“Such a move, he said, would deter the most talented people, particularly from the private sector, from entering politics, because he reasoned ‘on the golf course, MPs would hear friends boasting of having salaries of £90,000, £100,000 and more.'”
Of course we can all sympathise with that. Golfing is awkward enough as it is, what with all those ridiculous clothes and the interminable dullness of the game. After all, only being paid as little as £67,060 (Source: Parliament.uk ) plus expenses would could well make the conversation somewhat strained.
In 2011, former Labour minister Jack Straw said that there is “never a good time to increase MPs pay”, but that if we didn’t then “people from modest backgrounds” would be put off entering the political arena.
It wouldn’t be contentious to suggest that over £60,000 is not a wage known to most individuals from a modest backgrounds. That being said, a large proportion of the current cabinet were millionaires before they became MPs so everything is relative…
It seems positively ludicrous that the recruitment process for roles of public office is treated in the same way that recruitment is treated in the private sector. Competitiveness is the go to word for the banking sector when it comes to attracting the best talent. Whatever that means. Just recently the Barclays, RBS, Citi, JP Morgan and UBS were hit by a record fine of $5.7bn (£3.7bn) for colluding to fix exchange rates. The MPs expenses scandal is another example of this failed approach and it hardly needs reiterating here.
It wouldn’t be going out on a limb to suggest that possibly this approach to recruiting and attracting people is flawed. The talents an MP requires are the abilities to communicate, to understand, to compromise and to represent. It is far from clear that any of those attributes are in anyway dependent upon, or enhanced by, a significant pay cheque.
The Westminster talent’s greatest achievement has been to pull themselves so very close together. Labour and the Conservatives are so close ideologically in 2015 that a the commonly held perception is that there’s no real difference between the two main parties and the divide is now present between the electorate and the elected.
Which isn’t true. Sure, they all went to the same Universities, but not necessarily at the same time. They’re all different ages.
The 2015 general election boldly heralded the beginning of the age of multi-party politics. The redundant old boys club of the political establishment is about to have its doors kicked in and its cynical ideas torn from the ornate walls and tossed into the gutter. About time.
There’s no real evidence that those who will be sacking those hallowed and corrupt halls will be the polar opposite. Many of them are no doubt motivated by political grudges, naive idealism and occasionally poisonous ideas. But at least these are all offshoots of passion and a desire for change.