Class Doesn’t matter? Actually it Might!

I was rummaging around the internet today, as you do on a day off and have no mates :), and came across the SNP candidate to challenge Alistair (LIAR) Carmichael in Orkney and Shetland. Her name is Miriam Brett and she is from the Shetlands and works as a senior economics adviser to the SNP at Westminster. Now I wish Miriam all the best against Carmichael, if anyone deserves to lose their seat in June it is him, but it also got me thinking that while candidates have to go through selection if you are a spad (special advisor) for any party selection seems to become more of a norm. Miriam studied international politics, and then worked for the YES movement and Common Weil before going to work for the SNP, a quick rise for any young person. The blog isn’t about Miriam though, it’s about politicians.

One of my big gripes in politics is that I never hear about the dinner lady MP, or the plumber MP, or the unemployed MP etc. Our MPs tend to come from the political system in the main, how many come from the street so to speak. They are also usually described as brilliant, outstanding, leading light, inspirational when most of us know that too many of our politicians don’t have a bloody clue about much at all. I don’t feel that I have anything in common with many of our national elected representatives these days, how representative of me and the community I live in are they!

At the General Election in 2015 only 7% of Labour MPs came from what we would class as working class, the Conservatives only had 14 MPs out of 305 who could be classed as coming from working class backgrounds, 91% of MPs today are university graduates, while 32% of the 2015 intake of MPs were privately educated (compared to just 7% of the public). According to the Westminster Library since 1979, the number of MPs who had been manual workers decreased from around 16% of all MPs in 1979 to 3% in 2015. The proportion of MPs with a background in one of the ‘traditional’ professions has also fallen, from 45% in 1979 to 31% in 2015. MPs from a manual working background in 2015 was Conservatives 1%, Labour 7%, Liberal Democrats 0% and the SNP 0%

How representative are they? A lot of people now don’t vote, at the last General Election in 2015 35% of registered voters did not bother to vote. Now there is an argument that says that many people turned away from politics after the Iraq War and MP expenses, and there is a bit of truth to that but I would argue, and it is just my opinion, that many people are disenfranchised with politics due to the increasing domination of our politics of a small social class of middle and upper class graduates who have little or no idea of the real world. They just don’t see it, they might volunteer at a Food Bank and hold a surgery but that doesn’t make you representative of the people if you are not one of them, does it?

I also understand that class plays far less a role in how we vote these days, I understand that but how much of that is down to the choice we have before us, the parties before us and the candidates they put forward.

My MP is Chris Law SNP who will be standing again in Dundee West, I am indifferent to be honest, I am a YES supporter so the chances are I will vote for Chris but how representative is Chris of the communities he serves, his background is financial services, Chris went to St.Andrews and for ten years operated a business providing tours of the Himalayas on 1950s motorcycles, I have nothing in common with Chris Law at all and he is just typical of the background of far too many of our elected representatives. I find myself as I get older becoming less and less happy with both our political system and those who represent us.

There are no easy solutions to this problem, if we want things to change we have to either join parties in huge numbers and force change or start new parties, both are unlikely to occur. How much has the SNP or Labour really changed with the influx of thousands and thousands of new members, I would say very little. Some would argue that the national executive of the SNP had taken more power with the influx of new members and especially around candidate selection, there appears to be some truth to that. Either way though Westminster and the main political parties just do not represent the population at large and communities they represent. We have a mix of career politicians or politicians from the middle to upper classes making it less likely that you and me are represented by someone we have anything in common with or even talk the same language, that is dangerous and could explain how shit our politics are and how disenfranchised many have become, myself included to a growing degree.

I will admit to one thing though, I read the Scottish Green Party manifesto recently online and found that I agreed with 95% of it, are they the new party of the left?

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12 comments

  1. trispw

    I worry that far too many politicians haven’t ever had a proper job.

    In the Tory and to a lesser extent Labour Party, so many of them went to a good school, a good university and then worked for an MP.

    It is welcome that there are teachers and doctors and lawyers that go into politics after having worked in their professions for years because they take the experience of the shop floor with them. But they are professionals. Where are the welders and the shipbuilders? Well, by and large, they don’t exist anymore. Not in politics… not even in the real world.

    The doesn’t mean that some politicians don’t do a really good job without having been plumbers or shop workers. Mhairi Black came straight from university and she makes a first-rate politician; the voice of the working classes (even if she got a 1st at uni).

    But then, you look at some of the ex-shop floor, supposedly working class Scottish politicians from the last parliament, who had had what were then safe seats. Seriously, in many cases, they were laughing stocks. Utter embarrassments.

    I hear what you are saying about the Greens. I’d certainly look at them seriously in the future, but of course, for a UK election, I’ll certainly stay with the SNP.

    • Anonymous

      Tris
      I am not saying they are all bad, what concerns me is the demographics. A very small section of society are now prevalent in parliament and it does not make up the picture of the country at large. I totally take on board what you are saying about the former Labour MPs from Scotland and how bad they were, part of the party machine who predominantly came through the trades union movement and did very little for Scotland in the main. There are no easy answers to this as the problem lies with the system and the parties themselves. I spent a bit of time looking into this and there are also MPs very concerned about the current state of affairs also, I was shocked that the SNP and the Liberal Democrats had 0% of MPs from a working class background, even the Tories had more, a lot came through the party or local government structure as well so not as many as we thought via the YES movement. I agree that Mhari Black has been a bit of fresh air but I am not as convinced yet as many are, I would hate her to just stay in parliament and not go and have a bit of a life and maybe come back in the future or better yet stand for Holyrood as Westminster is pretty much a waste of time for us now anyway.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

  2. Alan

    Aye, sometimes I do think the electoral system has failed and human nature is just so inherently corruptible that no matter how clever or complicated or simple a system is, it will always end up subverted by the invested interests.

    That’s why I’d like to see a second chamber of the Scottish Parliament – with its members selected by sortition. Think jury duty. It would be mandatory, it would come with expenses and a reasonable salary and the full body would be re-selected at every election. Eligibility and exemptions would be similar to jury service – http://jury-service.co.uk/jury-service-eligibility/ – A simple majority of this body would have veto authority over the elected chamber’s legislation. With at least 10% of their numbers, they can debate their own motions and then vote them through to the elected chamber for their consideration/improvement.

    The selectees would have to be weighted. I’d keep it simple – split it 50/50 male/female and make it representative of the population’s age(by year of birth). So for example, if 2% of Scotland’s population were born-in-1967s and 4% were born-in-1987s, then out of 200 selectees 4 would be fifty years old and 8 would be thirty years old. This shouldn’t be difficult to do – the electoral register does record date of birth. Granted, this would slightly favour groups whom are more diligent about being electorally registered(which is why I’d go Australian and make registration and voting mandatory also, although with a “none of the below” option right at the top of the ballots).

    • Anonymous

      Alan
      I think Holyrood does need a second chamber rather than be increased in size as many are suggesting within the Edinburgh bubble. Sortition, I never knew it was called that, is an interesting idea and one that was mentioned I think as the people’s chamber. I am not so sure our elected reps would ever go along with it to be honest, there is sadly an arrogance with many of our politicians, but a people’s second chamber chosen at random and representing the make up of our communities as you suggest would be a good starting point. I am for having a none of the below or above on the ballot paper and it’s wrong that we don’t have that as our system does not encourage people to get involved let alone vote. I am not so sure making voting compulsory would work but don’t know how effective this has been in the countries that have it to be honest, would need to research that a little which I might do as a blog in future because it is interesting.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

  3. Dave

    There are a few golden rules that hold true whether you aspire to be a councillor, MP, MSP whatever; you have to possess the motivation to do it and you need the mindset. You must be able to survive long term in a hostile confrontational environment and say ta ta to any notion of a private life. You require the ability to press the flesh and endure pleasant small talk with lots of boring people not to mention all the photo ops. You have to either be tough and committed or just not give a shit. It’s possible that those so inclined realise political life is for them relatively early on and go for it to the exclusion of all else. It does help if mummy and daddy can help you through Uni and if they’re connected also because I would imagine that having some credentials will aid your selection. I could go on but hopefully you get my drift.

    I cant think of a less enjoyable career personally and I think we’re struggling to get decent people because being a politician involves intense scrutiny, being subject to constant personal attack and then after all that you’ve to get re-elected every 4 years or become unemployed.

    What a shitty job. If you stick to plumbing at least there’s plenty of homers.

    • Anonymous

      Dave
      I totally accept that the environment is not a particularly good one for people to be in but the system we have allowed to be created has brought this about and attracts the career politician now. Most seats in the country are safe seats in the main with a few exceptions here and there, 2015 being an anomaly and a shifting of the guard in Scotland to a degree. If politics is not enjoyable that again comes down to what it has to become but I suspect that it is very enjoyable for too many of them as they are there for would appear to be all the wrong reasons as far as I can see. I would like to see limited terms being looked at or a local vote before the main election to choose candidates so you might end up with 3 or 4 from each party wanting to go forward to a second vote, only the winner from each party and any independents would then go forward to the election vote. far fetched no doubt and there will be zero appetite for any real change amongst our politicians for any real change. If we can even get to a system of PR that would be a major step forward. The demographics do concern me though as we creating or have created elected prince and princesses and that might just explain why our politics are so poor and why the decision making is some of the poorest in this countries history. Either way an interesting debate.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

      • Dave

        Bruce
        I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for politicians or particularly identify with the type of person who has the required skill set and I have met a few in the course of my career and personal life. What I maybe went round the houses in my post with though was that much is said about political class and privilege etc.. and most of it is said by folk who wouldn’t touch the job with a barge pole. I believe that a certain type of insularity is required for individuals to be able to emotionally survive being a politician. Egocentricity is required along with a confidence that few possess. You can also in many cases add an overblown and entirely unrealistic assessment of personal intelligence and capability. That applies safe seat or no.

        Yes there may be a political class but to be able to function effectively within it doesn’t involve a range of abilities that myself or most people I know have. I think it’s entirely possible that the so called political class exists because no one else wants to do it. Do you? I certainly don’t.

        How do we change that? Well if I had the answer I’d probably be loaded and elsewhere because that’s a biggy.

        • grumpyscottishman

          Dave
          A lot of truth there, you certainly need an ego to be a politician and an over assessment of their own ability. However I have met some good local ones but I have also met people who wanted to stand but wodge never get selected for, mainly the SNP, as they don’t look the right way or just don’t fit. It’s sad that the parties are like that.

          Thanks

          Bruce

  4. Tedious Tantrums

    To a degree the problem is more about the whip. The whip reduces localism. Could we not have a system which local people elect and then have the resulting MP nor a member of any political party? All votes would be based on local people voting on each upcoming item which the MP would then use their vote to vote as determined by the people in each constituency.

    • Anonymous

      Tedious Tantrums
      I would certainly be open to looking at that as the party system is a huge part of the problem, along with vested interests and most of what has been noted above. What you are suggesting is democracy and I am not so sure many of our politicians would ever go for that but it would certainly be fun.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

  5. 100%YES

    It’s not what you know but who you know, there all at it even the SNP, ask your self this what is purpose in sending 59 MP to Westminster when they are out voted by 500 plus English MP. Our voice will only be heard when we achieve Independence. Just look at that jo swinson deselected as an MP where has she been the last couple of years I turned on the Parliament programme and guess who was talking to a select committee jo swinson then turned on to question time 27.04.17 and guess what a gest apperance jo swinson running again to be an MP, Stephen Gethins MP was treating her like a long lost friend, I dont know if you have ever been to an SNP meeting but if your face fits it shows. They say they are standing up for Scotland well if they where when the SNP got 56 MP why didn’t we delcare Independence. Not a big fan of the SNP but while we are part of this union I will keep suporting them with money and my vote.

    • grumpyscottishman

      100%YES
      I think all the parties are lime that to a degree and the SNP are no different. The members might vote on the candidate but the national executive chose the candidates and there lays the power. I like you will continue to vote SNP and I overall I think they have done well but I find I agree with Greens on most things mow, I like a lot of what they say and there MSPS. Jo Swinson being a candidate didn’t surprise me, the Lib Dems will do anything to get her back and all women short lists helped her be the candidate in her area. I ant stand her personally, Tory through and through.

      Thanks for commenting.
      Bruce

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