Given that politician's of all levels and all parties are such an intrinsic and pervasive part of our everyday lives, it's a complete mystery why we, as the electorate, don't scrutinise them much more than we do. Is are local candidate good or bad, honest or untrustworthy, educated or uneducated, locally raised or just a stranger who has been parachuted in to gain the benefit of a relatively safe Parliamentary seat?
Given that many of these elected individuals will ultimately be responsible for handling billions of pounds worth of taxpayers money, through the purchase and provision of our country's most vital goods and services, shouldn't we first be sure that the people campaigning for public office are actually capable of doing the job they're applying for. If we don't bother to do that, then whose fault is it when we end up with a butcher doing the job of a surgeon, a history student running the national economy, or an inexperienced politics student with a flair for PR running the entire country. These things, these responsibilities are serious issues; and yet the people of this country seem to put their blind faith in a succession of political ne'er-do-well's whose ambitions are streets ahead of their personal abilities, yet we continue to be both surprised and disappointed when they continue to fall on their collective political asses.
Some journalistic facts and figures relating to the great and the good currently employed in the Palace of Westminster makes for interesting reading, especially when it informs us that up to 30% of our current MP's have only ever worked in the White Collar industries, including politics and journalism. That is to say up to 30% of our representatives have NEVER got their hands dirty in the conventional sense, as in doing any sort of traditional Blue Collar work, yet still have the effrontery to order other less fortunate citizens (including members of their electorate) to GET A JOB - ANY JOB, otherwise they'll almost certainly lose their paltry welfare benefits.
The same investigations also found that around 40% of our sitting MP's have only previously been employed within the professions, where they have worked as Barristers, Solicitors, Doctors, Teachers and University Lecturers. This so-called professional status pre-supposes of course that each of these individual MP's were any good at what they did, be that a teacher, lecturer, barrister, solicitor or doctor, which of course isn't necessarily the case, as it seems just as likely that their failure to succeed in their chosen profession actually explains their change of career, to the much less challenging environment of the Westminster Village. One can only speculate why someone who was earning in excess of £100,000 per year would suddenly choose to earn a smaller salary, unless of course it's the prospect of much more power and influence, plus far less actual work.
An increasing number of the Westminster attendees are also reported to had a university education, 35% as opposed to the national average of only 7%, suggesting that there may indeed be some merit to the recent fears that working class students are far less likely to progress than their better off peers. An estimated 55% of the Conservative Party MP's are reported to have been educated at fee paying schools, while the figure for Liberal Democrat and Labour MP's is said to be 40% and 12% respectively. Equally notable is the fact that around 20 Coalition MP's, Conservative and Lib Dems combined, were educated at the same private school, Eaton, whilst up to 25% of ALL MP's, from all political parties, received their university education at either Oxford or Cambridge.
As time passes and the numbers of so-called "professional" politicians grow, so the average age range of MP's seems to get lower and lower, no doubt as a result of many never having pursued a full-time career outside of the political sphere. Over the past 30 years the number of professional politicians is reported to have increased four-fold, with anything between 90 or 100 of our current MP's never having held a job outside of politics, as against some 20-odd MP's in 1982. In fact, all three leaders of Britain's main political parties are examples of these emerging professional politicians, with David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband all being products of this new political hot-housing that has led us to this dangerous state of affairs. Is it any wonder then that our country is in such a perilous condition, when vital economic, social, military and political decisions are being taken by artificially raised wallflowers that have no first hand experience of working in industry, in finance, in agriculture, or indeed in the real world.
Ed Miliband has been groomed to be a political leader ever since he was apprenticed to Gordon Brown, in similar circumstances to the Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, whose only venture into the real world of working was as a journalist, which he clearly wasn't very good at, otherwise he would still be doing that. Nick Clegg, the leader of the now semi-defunct Liberal Democrats has previously been employed as a political lobbyist and part-time journalist, before moving on to become a full-time employee of the European Union. Against the odds; and perhaps despite the hindsight of some Lib Dem activists, he then managed to get himself elected as the leader of that marginal political party, whose very electoral future continues to hang in the balance even as this is written. The third and final professional political leader is of course the Prime Minister, David Cameron, another surprise candidate who somehow managed to come from the political "nowhere" to snatch the leadership of a mainstream party; again with perhaps predictable results. Famously, Cameron is renowned for his experience in Public Relations, people skills that have undoubtedly served him well in the past.
Unfortunately for him however, the old adage of "you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time" seems to be highly appropriate for this clearly likeable, but thoroughly unscrupulous professional politician. Starting at age 18, Cameron has lived, breathed and eaten from the political oxygen of Westminster; and apart from time spent studying for his degree; a gap year job as a shipping administrator; and his time at Carlton TV, he along with Miliband, Clegg, Balls and the rest of their political ilk have sheltered themselves from the realities of the daily hardships that they're happy to visit on the rest of us mere mortals who inhabit these islands.
The complete disconnect between the RULERS and the RULED, the HAVES and the HAVE-NOTS, the POWERFUL and the WEAK, or even THEM and US, is never so clearly illustrated than when one of the political elite, these same professional politicians, the ones whose daily decisions causes misery and penury for millions of Britons, try to explain why it's the actions of the poor, the dispossessed, the powerless that are really causing the problems in Britain. I particularly like the analogy trotted out by any number of professional politicians of comparing the nation's massive economic woes, to that of managing a simple household budget. So their argument goes, if your outgoings are greater than your income, then you need to reduce your expenditure, which on the face of it is a pretty straightforward piece of sensible advice. However, their approach to cutting the household expenditure seems to be more akin to paying off your debts all at once, even if that means living without food, gas or electricity, getting rid of the family, having the pets put down and perhaps throwing one or two of the kids onto the nearest skip. Nobody doubts that Britain's financial situation is chronic, but blaming the victim, excusing the villain and cutting your debts too deep and too fast is sheer lunacy. which even the most financially illiterate housekeeper would recognise instantly.
But then, why would or should we be surprised that such economic and fiscal madness is being proposed, when the person actually proposing it is a complete political and economic novice. In common with his boss, David Cameron, George Osborne is a wealthy man, who has never had a proper job, went from full-time education into full-time politics; and has no direct experience in finance or economics, but rather gained a 2.1 Bachelors Degree in History. As an independently wealthy man whose family and politics have kept him isolated from the insecurities of daily life, one can only guess at the reasons for him being handed the economic levers of power, when he plainly has little or no experience in handling such weighty matters.
Perhaps foolishly, some of us choose to believe just because you're well educated, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're clever, simply that you have an ability to ingest and regurgitate data as and when you're required to do so. It's what you choose to do with that information, once you've got it that determines whether or not you're smart; and able to contribute to wider society. Clearly in this respect most of our current crop of modern professional politicians fail the test, as they couldn't and haven't come up with any sensible approaches to running a vibrant modern economy, despite 600 of them having a go at doing so. The Labour Party had a go at doing it and failed miserably, primarily by not only squandering what few economic gains they had made, but also by a shameful manipulation of our country with regard to Europe, our national sovereignty, health employment, immigration, pensions, etc. etc. Now we have the current shameful coalition government having a go at fixing the myriad of problems, only they haven't got a clue either. First Labour try to spend their way out of trouble, now the coalition are trying to save their way out of trouble, the two sides of the same coin, with each party flipping it in the air to determine the policies of the day! And then we wonder why our country is in such dire straits!
The truth is that economic theory and therefore political strategy is old hat and completely unsuitable for our modern age, yet even our new and vibrant, supposedly fresh faced professional politicians cling to them like a drowning man does to a life-raft. Even the leaders of the IMF, the International Monetary Fund (the clue being in the name) have advised our Chancellor, George Osborne, that he might want to consider relaxing his austerity measures, as they might impede a British recovery. However, clearly because he has a 2.1 degree in History, Mr Osborne believes that he knows better than the leaders of the IMF and has therefore decided to press on with his cuts regardless of their advice. They say that "pride comes before a fall", a message that George Osborne, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are almost certain to recall by the middle of 2015.
The trouble for the British people and more importantly perhaps for our economic future, is that it seems likely that one dysfunctional set of economic theories will be replaced by yet another, the Conservative's squeeze replaced by Labour's swell, SAVE then SPEND, SAVE then SPEND, on and on ad infinitum. Monetary policies designed for the 19th and early 20th centuries are never going to work in a world where trading and financial transactions are not only global, but often highly risky, instantly transferable and easily manipulated by the growing list of sometimes unregulated companies that are now not only selling real goods, but also the imaginable and promissory. The difficulty is that in most cases British governments, both Labour and Conservative have little incentive in strengthening the rules, simply because most of the companies involved in such activity are the very same organisations that sponsor their party machines, so their reluctance to legislate effectively is hardly surprising, but just as unforgivable, when one considers that ultimately it is everyone else in Britain, normally the poorest, who will pay for that corporate malfeasance.
Of course for the British electorate there is no easy remedy for this situation, even assuming that you accept the basic premise that most, if not all, of our modern politicians are unsuitable for public office by virtue of their limited experience, lack of empathy for their fellow citizens, personal incompetence, or indeed their own innate corrupt natures. After all, most of those people who do still bother to vote might do so for any number of reasons, including simple tribal affiliation, a dislike of certain candidates, the policies of the party in question, or even the colour of the individual party's rosettes. Whatever the reasons though, ultimately it is the electors who place great power and influence in the hands of their individual representatives and as in everything else in life, arguing that you didn't know that the candidate was unskilled, uncaring or highly dubious is hardly likely to make much of a difference in the great scheme of things. As in law IGNORANCE IS NOT A DEFENCE, especially if that results in a complete charlatan not representing their constituency well enough, or exploiting the MP's expenses system for their own financial means. Maybe it beholds us all to look at the various candidates and assess them on their own personal merits, as in their employment history, their previous political history, how they have voted on important issues of the day; and whether that chimes with the voters own views. Until we all choose to make an INFORMED choice on those who represent us; and more importantly those who RUN THE COUNTRY we're all destined to keep going through the same old political to and froes that have managed to bring our country to its knees.