David Blackburn

What’s wrong with being a career politician?

What's wrong with being a career politician?
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Nadine Dorries has broken her holiday to argue that the fallout from the expenses scandal will alter the make-up of Parliament for the worse:

‘The new pernicious rule for MPs to declare hours spent on outside interests will prevent the multi-skilled, clever, articulate, learned individuals who are, by their own obvious track record of achievement, the type of people Parliament desperately needs to attract and retain - from even considering a life as an MP.

Instead we will see the emergence of a new breed of MP: those who will enter Parliament because they are rich, or careerist.’

The contempt the public holds for politicians makes it unlikely that careerists will dominate Parliament.

Throughout the Totnes primary, the GP Sarah Wollaston was keen to point out that she was not a politician; by contrast, her opponents had worked in local party politics for years. Dr Wollaston won the contest precisely because she was not a career politician. If Dr Wollaston wins the seat, she will bring to Parliament her experience as a GP; but aside from that, what do voters know of her politics? As Rod Liddle wrote in last weekend’s Sunday Times: ‘Is she pro-EU or sceptical? Does she think the Tories should be the party of lower taxes and grammar schools? Should we hug a hoodie or kick him in the balls?’

There is a further question: can she understand political processes at the level of someone who has made politics their career? Variety of experience should be represented in Parliament, but not at the expense of vital understanding of how politics operates. To my mind, this is the great danger of adopting primaries during this spate of blood-letting. ‘Career politician’ has understandable negative connotations, and I’m not suggesting that obsessive students should stand for Parliament immediately after having whipped off their cap and gown. Experience is important, but arguing that political experience is undesirable in a would-be MP is more than oxymoronic, it’s counter-intuitive.