Friday, December 05, 2008

Politics is a calling not a career

In the previous post I linked to a piece by Jeff Randall on The Telegraph. As Randall seems to notice, politicians on both sides of the house seem to accept many progressive preconceptions as real without bothering to either investigate them or challenge them. Why? Well, partly because they are, with few exceptions, all progressive politicians and also because .... well, to be frank, it suits them to do so.

Politics used to be a vocation, but the vast majority of modern politicians are careerists. They chose a career in politics a long time ago - often while at university. One thing a careerist needs is a career path and politics, when it was vocational, had a pretty narrow career path.

Once you'd entered the Houses Of Parliament - usually after years building up a successful career in an entirely unrelated field - you'd spend some years as a backbencher, serve on committees, maybe get promoted to some junior ministerial or shadow position and -if you were very very good at your job and very fortunate - might get a senior post in government where, if you were exceptionally good at your job, you might remain for some time.

After that, you'd return to the backbenches where you'd serve your constituents and your time till retirement or, in some cases, move on to the Lords as a noble. Eventually you would retire and spend your days writing your memoirs and the odd article for the Sunday papers.

That was it. The "career" of a politician could be lengthy with very little recognition or reward - but that didn't matter to those who entered because they were truly motivated by a passion to do good for Britain and the British people. It was a vocation - a calling - rather than a career.

It's totally different today. These days virtually the only way into Parliament is through university. The thrusting young turks are spotted early and fast tracked into Parliament. By the time most MPs make their maiden speech they've seen virtually nothing of the real world since they were 17. They may have held a position as a junior exec in some City company for a few months - usually on the advice of their mentors - but apart from that all they have done is work for the party for a few years.

Furthermore. they now have a variety of options once in Parliament as there are more junior positions to fill and more committees to sit on. There are more senior positions too. plus the potential to move into the EU or UN. Beyond being an MP there are lucrative directorships to be taken - either in some business, quango or NGO. It is all part and parcel of the political career. Becoming an MP is no longer the pinnacle - it is merely the stepping stone towards the real goal - power and wealth.

That's the difference between a vocation and a career. A vocation is something you do for the love of what you do while a career is simply the pursuit of recognition and reward in your chosen field.

This is why I am so opposed to "professional" politicians. They don't strive to make things better for anyone but themselves because all they are interested in is furthering their own careers. I know that most of them will have some cause or another which helped to motivate their choice of politics as a career, but that was always the case. Now they are motivated more by the rewards than the cause.

It's also why I believe that there should be higher minimum age limits for MPs - because one of the essential "skills" an MP should have is real world experience. I believe that you should not be allowed to even stand for election as an MP unless you are at least 30 years old (actually I'd prefer a minimum age of 40, but that may be pushing it a bit). I know that would have excluded such luminaries as Pitt The Younger, but then again so would the abolition of rotten boroughs - did anyone object to that?

Politics should be a calling, not a career. Professional politicians do not make things better for our politics - only for themselves. They're more interesting in building their careers than a future for Britain which is why they allow all sorts of non-democratic institutions to have more and more say in how we are governed - always at the expense of us, the electorate.

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