Politics from Greek politikos “of, for, or relating to citizens” Wikipedia
Over the past week we have seen career politicians horse trading with each other over the Leveson inquiry and reforms to how the press are regulated, it appeared that despite his original statement that David Cameron was not going to implement Leveson to the letter and had walked away from cross party talks, but this morning we hear that there has been an agreement. However on the way there has been allegations that Cameron has given in to the press barons, the action group Hacked Off has seen the interests of the press who perpetrated the hacking and the cover up over the victims.
However it emerges that the deal this morning means that everybody has one – accept of course the public. Isn’t it about time the politicians realized that the way they work only damages further their reputation, where the political interests of the individual and their party, and by that I mean the Westminster Parliamentary Party not the wider party membership, are put before any other considerations.
It seems clear that we no have a new class – the professional politician, individuals who devote their whole life to politics, this is not the same as it used to be when an individual with the means and the opportunity would devote their whole life to serving the public, today individuals choose to make a career in politics and devote their whole life to that career, perhaps a little harsh, but what is a professional politician?
Well a profession has discrete body of knowledge, or unique skills – such as Doctors, Solicitors, etc.. the traditional ‘Professions’, however you could say the same for plumbers and electricians, so a profession has a status or class implication middle and upper class people do not have a trade they have a profession. Another aspect of a profession is that there is usually some form of protected status – a privilege granted by legislation or membership – but again this could also be said of tradesman, but however theorists define what a profession is they all agree that a profession is a monopoly – it is more about who it excludes than it includes. For example medical professions have traditionally excluded ‘alternative medicines’ such as chiropractors, herbalists, acupuncture, hypnotherapists – but as each has acquired it’s own status many of these are now recognized by traditional medical professionals.
Surely one of the tests for a professional should be one of competence – so what knowledge and skills does one need to be a competent politician?
So what is it we expect a politician to do? Get elected? Tow the party line? Represent their constituency? Well clearly a politician has to do all of these, so the skills are? The ability to speak clearly and articulately and make an persuasive argument – rhetoric? They must be honest and ethical – surely no politician could lie or break the law?
Clearly as with any group the capabilities of politicians varies greatly and we see all sorts of politicians, but surely the best will always reach high office? Not necessarily, how often have we heard that an excellent constituency MP has been sacked for not following the party line or has quit on a matter of principle, so above all a politician must realize that to achieve the greater good they must some times defer to power and do what is necessary to climb the greasy poll – the art of toadying!.
But having climbed the greasy poll and got into government, not just parliament, and taken on responsibility in one of the ministries – surely here a politician must have some specialist knowledge? Knowledge of the law in the Home Office, Medicine in the Department for Health and surely it would be unthinkable to have a chancellor without an considerable understanding of economics?
Well obviously in office a politician has the civil service and their advisers – but they provide the leadership and political guidance irrespective of the facts .
So lets have a look at George Osborne the current chancellor – a brief glance at Wikipedia will a) make you question if he really is the Chancellor or b) make you wonder how reliable Wikipedia is. (See Wikipedia) With a background in journalism he is now the chancellor and is doggedly pursuing the policy of austerity, a policy the divides economists – but there appears to be a move towards a policy for growth. It will be interesting to see how this is resolved in the 2013 budget – will Osborne continue to pursue his programme of austerity and accept that he and Cameron are loosing political ground and they might fail to achieve the first requirement of a professional politician – being elected, or will we see a change in policy, a U-turn – which unfortunately might also damage their chances for failing to stick to their guns.
If there are any conclusions to be drawn from this I think that a professional politician has very few qualities to recommend them or qualify them for any job outside the Westminster Circus where even if they had skills in an area they are no more likely to succeed. Gordon Brown I believe was a very competent economist – but left office far from covered in glory for much of his time in Downing Street.
The most serio0us result of all this is not the failings of individuals or the government – but the fact that there seems to be so little confidence in democracy and a declining engagement with politics. Our parliamentary democracy is far from perfect – but as Churchill said it is the better than any alternatives we have.
The Independent – Leveson talks: Press regulation deal ‘has been struck’
Huffington Post Leveson Deal Reached And Includes Statute, Labour Claims
Guardian Budget 2013: Osborne ploughs on with austerity as rivals sharpen their knives