Friday 12 November 2010

Missing the point

Different political bloggers adopt different styles.  Some simply regurgitate press releases, others reiterate the party line, whilst others spend their efforts attacking others.  The nature of blogging is that in some ways it offers an opportunity for a more personal style and approach; and part of my approach is to illustrate my points with anecdote and personal experience.  It’s a technique to get my point across which I found effective as a manager and which I use in my writing.
There is a problem though; sometimes people can pick up on the illustration rather than the main point – and that seems to have happened with yesterday’s post.  So, let me be clear – if I had intended to post largely about myself, I would have done so, and some months ago at that.
Politics is overly dominated by men in suits (although I’d prefer the expression middle-aged rather than old men!); on that I agree with Ieuan, and I have been trying for many years to address that – openly and democratically through the party’s processes.  My point, however, was that a concentration on addressing the image aspect of that alone will have an impact on the level and range of experiences which people bring into politics.
It isn’t the only factor limiting the experience which politicians bring; there are a number of others.  Here are a few for starters.
  1. The intensely personalised nature of politics.  Some of the most able people in other walks of life do their best work in a collaborative fashion.  Ability in others is seen as an asset to be leveraged rather than as a threat.  In the world of science in particular, Dr Phil used to talk about how one scientist correcting another would earn thanks and a friend for life; a politician doing the same would make a bitter enemy.  "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer" is no basis for building the most able team.
  2. The lack of responsibility.  Although AMs and MPs claim to have highly responsible jobs, in practice few of them have real authority over anything.  Backbenchers are usually told what to say and how to vote.  Ministers have rather more authority, but the Civil Service as an institution exists largely to prevent them exercising it.  Why would someone with real authority and responsibility relinquish that for the possibility of sitting on the backbenches in opposition?
  3. Time commitments.  People sometimes talk about the salaries of politicians as though increasing them would attract high-fliers.  I’m not convinced.  Firstly, politicians are already paid well above average wages, and secondly, it would take a very significant increase to attract some of the real high fliers.  But I don’t think that it’s the salary which keeps them out in the first place – it’s more the case that people on the highest salaries have to make a massive commitment of time and energy to their work and would find it difficult to sustain a campaign as well.
There are others, of course.  But to return to the point which I think Adam was making – the pool from which politicians are being selected is a very small one, and getting smaller.  I believe that all parties are having difficulties in attracting candidates from outside that narrow range, and are increasingly falling back on 'career politicians'.  And I think that it is the nature of political debate and activity which is causing that to be the case. 
It’s also a vicious circle, unfortunately.  We need a paradigm shift in the nature of our politics, but the narrower the pool from which politicians are selected, the more likely it is to deter others – and the less likely it is that those within the pool will be able to make that shift.  That’s the issue which we should be discussing, not the personal feelings of any individual; but the fact that people choose to reduce the debate to comments about individuals serves only to highlight one of the problems.


Anonymous said...

There's also another factor in the increasing tendaency f chosing 'career politicians' who've worked for another AM or MP or some lobbying firm. It's this.

When it comes to hustings the person who's worked 'on the inside' is privy to all kinds of facts figures and arguments which the 'lay' politician isn't. They're very often very much at ease in discussing issues of policy and the detail of those issues. They're by and large intelligent people as well. As long as they don't have a total personality by-pass and can speak publicly fairly coherently (many AMs and MPs aren't much good themselves at public speaking) then, they'll invariably get chosen.

There's no 'fault' in this. It's just that the 'lay' poliician has a hard act to follow and needs to spend a lot of time briefing themselves on information which is bread and butter to the 'insider'.

The result is that many candidates chosen are 'insiders'.


Anonymous said...

Well done John
In South Wales it used to be a standing joke that if Labour had put a donkey up for Parliament it would have been voted in.
Perhaps those days have gone but I suspect not
The mechanisms for selecting candidates whilst probably done with the best of intent are invariably flawed in one way or another
I remember going to Cardiff to a hotel just off the Motorway 200 miles round trip for list interview??
As I sat in the foyer a group of interviewers passed me by with the comment that " we dont have to bother now as we have got our quota" need less to say the interview lasted all of a minute who are you? and we will let you know. goodbye..was all I heard