James Forsyth James Forsyth

The consequences of political abuse

Nick Clegg’s interview with Jemima Khan (née Goldsmith), in which he admits to crying regularly to music, is already coming in for predictable mockery. But the point that Clegg makes about how his job is affecting his kids is worth dwelling on.
Clegg is not the only coalition minister to fret about this. Sarah Vine, Michael Gove’s wife, wrote earlier this year about how she worried about the psychological effect on her children of people verbally assaulting her husband in front of them. During the Labour leadership contest, Ed Balls, for all his faults, spoke movingly about his concern over how he would protect his kids from what was said about him and Yvette Cooper.
Now, I can already hear people saying that if they can’t stand the heat, these politicians should get out of the kitchen. But this attitude will lead to an even greater narrowing in the type and numbers of people going into politics.
Over the past few months, one of the most striking things in Westminster has been the number of talented members of the 2010 intake who are considering leaving parliament at the next election. They are not leaving because of their expenses or anything like that but because of a combination of the relative impotence of the backbencher and of the sheer abuse they receive just for being a politician. This is something that all of us who value the quality of our parliamentarians should pause to reflect on.

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