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?