/ A Career in Politics

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mypyrex - on 02 Mar 2013
I've long thought that one of the problems with politics nowadays is that, irrespective of party, people enter politics a) at too young an age and b) regard politics as part of their career progression.

Years ago people stood for election after a lifetime in the "university of life" be it the military, industry, business, profession or as a trade union member. Consequently they had a wealth of experience upon which to draw in order to serve in parliament. Politics was seen as a way of serving the community and something of a pinnacle of one's working life. I feel that nowadays people come out of university, sometimes with some obscure degree, and enter politics because it might look good on their CV and no longer do it out of any sense of duty.
Andrew Lodge - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex: I couldn't agree more, the classic path now is PPE at uni, a job as a parliamtary researcher and then after standing for a couple of no hope seats get dropped into a safe seat.

If it didn't make me sound like the old fart I am I would ban anyone under 50 from standing, I would much rather have policticians on either side with life experience than the media clones we currently get.
confusicating on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to Andrew Lodge:

I'm not sure of my opinion on this at all, but wouldn't having all older politicians lead to a massive gap in knowledge that the younger generations could provide? How could it be ensures that the leaders of the country move it with the times?
mypyrex - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to confusicating: Well in what way is a wet behind the ears MP almost fresh out of university experienced enough in ANY sphere to pass legislation that impacts upon the lives of the rest of us. It's like a 20 year old bank clerk telling a 60 year old how to conduct their bank account.
Dax H - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex: I am in full agreement. Life experience is vital for a politician and there should be a mandatory experience level required.
I think it should be the same in the world of academia too.
In reply to mypyrex: You're right.
mypyrex - on 02 Mar 2013
I'm convinced that many only really enter politics for their own personal kudos and what they can milk the system for.
Bruce Hooker - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

You seem tempted yourself... is this the start of your campaign?

Just do it! As they say.

I've often noticed that most people who denigrate politics and politicians have never even tried getting involved and trying to make it all work better, which leaves it open to the "wrong sort of people". The right sort, IMO, are those who don't like the idea, they're the ones who should give it a try, even if it's only for a few years. It's difficult to combine with a family life though so you either have to do it before (as I did) or after when they've all left home (still not there yet).
mypyrex - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to Bruce Hooker: I take your point Bruce but, on the other hand, I like to think that I am too honest to be a politician. :)
mypyrex - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Anyway, would YOU vote for an old fart? :)
hairyRob on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
The average MP was 49 at the start of this parliament and had an average of 9 years service, implying an average start age of ~40. You can normally count the number of sub 30 year old MPs at the start of any parliament on two hands, more likely one.
confusicating on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

They are experienced with the mood of the next generation. With bright new ideas and perspectives to move society forward. That must be a good thing, right?
mypyrex - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to confusicating:
> (In reply to mypyrex)
>
> They are experienced with the mood of the next generation. With bright new ideas and perspectives to move society forward. That must be a good thing, right?

So you seem to suggest that the view and experience of the current older generations count for little.

Bruce Hooker - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker) Anyway, would YOU vote for an old fart? :)

I think you'll find that this is what many people end up doing, although I don't know how old you are.

Also there many ways of participating without standing for election, you wouldn't usually start at the top, unless you were extremely rich or talented which is not the case for most of us :-)

At least it might convince you that all politicians are not dishonest, I hope anyway.
dregsy - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex: Is it just me being naive or is the expenses scandal, the guy who got his wife to take the points a sign of moral decline, and the failure to deal with the banking crisis and other big business greed issues protecting puppet roles that politicians aspire to when finished with politics. Finally how can we ever hope to deal with the nations problems when each Government is only looking at outdoing the opposition for 5 years or so.
cb294 - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
> (In reply to confusicating)
> [...]
>
> So you seem to suggest that the view and experience of the current older generations count for little.


I dream of weighting voting power by life expectancy. What right does the generation of my parents have to f*ck up the future of my children, a future they won't have to live in?

I know that this is not even remotely realistic, but it does serve to illustrate a point. Short termism and irresponsibility due to age is a problem that must be weighed against the experience of age. Our unwillingness to deal with climate change is just the most blatant example.

Making work experience outside the party political machine mandatory for all MPs might also help.

CB
Bruce Hooker - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to cb294:

> Making work experience outside the party political machine mandatory for all MPs might also help.

I quiet agree but this implies a huge increase in the number of people willing to invest time in democracy... IMO that's the main source of the problem. It could be we get the political system we deserve, our own laziness and fondness of letting others decide, and do the work, in our place has its payback.

None of which is very original and making people feel guilty isn't much of a solution, what's required is serious thought about how to involve more people in the democratic process. Things like guarantee of finding your job or similar after a period in and elected post, or after the electoral campaign or protection against discrimination if an employee stood for the "wrong" party, or whatever constraints limit people getting involved at present. Maybe it's already been done but I haven't heard of it.
wushu - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

It does make me wonder why nobody creates a new party with people who have worked their way up through their chosen field and so have a wealth of experience to offer.
Such as a teacher who has years of experience of the education system including being a headmaster/mistress, then place these people in the positions of 'education minister'.
Maybe a doctor/nurse/paramedic etc. to advise on welfare reforms, instead of a minister who has no experience in the field but decides the fate of it.

The point of a democratic party is to represent the people, I feel these days the parties no longer represent the people that voted them in and do not intend to understand the electorate.

Finally, All MP's should have to spend 1 year working on minimum wage living in a deprived part of their constituency to have a chance of representing it. This would show who really cared about 'the people'.

Ah... Dreams...
Timmd on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
> (In reply to confusicating)
> [...]
>
> So you seem to suggest that the view and experience of the current older generations count for little.

She didn't suggest that at all. She said that MPs all being older wouldn't be a good thing, and suggested why. Two different things.
dissonance - on 03 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

> So you seem to suggest that the view and experience of the current older generations count for little.

this experience? Whats it in exactly?
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ice.solo - on 03 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

first you need to define 'politics' before you can define who should/shouldnt be involved.

nothing personal, but the OP is fairly rose tinted. the politicians of yesteryear came from professional backgrounds because only those sectors generated the capital to manipulate parliment. they were just as corrupt and rapacious as any politician today, if not more as they were less accountable.

agree tho on elected politics being a career move - it always has been.

cant agree on age being the thing tho. yes, a 25 year old telling a 60 year old how to arrange their finances is daft - but so is a 60 year old telling a nation how to implement emerging technologies.
thankfully elected spokespeople have entire ministries of advisors to assist with that...
OneLifeOneHeart - on 03 Mar 2013
In reply to ice.solo:
Agreed.

Also, I am sure that regardless of age, people who have a genuine motivation to do some kind of good, to fight for a cause, and show some reliable level of results, should be able to train and run as politicians.

I myself was always interested in a career in politics but chose to gain "life experience" first.

Nevertheless, young people could also do a lot in terms of think tanks, activism, etc. The only downside of this is that, in most countries, the starting salaries are ridiculously low and it may be impossible to sustain a life, let alone a family life, on such low wage.
John Roberts (JR) - on 03 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

I think there were 14 under 30s elected at the last general election. 10 Labour, 4 Tory. Most of those are oxbridge PPE - so not so obscure.

In the main I would agree with the OP, but I do subscribe to "if you're good enough you're old enough" also. It's a case of being good enough, and it's not necessarily arbitrary with an age. I've worked with a fair number of politicians across parties, positions and from 25 - 60+, and I'm not sure I can draw a link between age and effectiveness yet.
confusicating on 03 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

No, I was suggesting how the younger generation may be valuable.

I am coming round to the thought that in order to include the view of vast range of different groups of people in the UK there should be as much variation as possible in the people in parliament.

[So long as their views and stuff are backed by evidence and that sort of thing]
Chateauneuf du Boeuf - on 03 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex: I think a younger generation is valuable. 5 years or 30 years as a public affairs/TV exec type only makes so much difference to your understanding of the real world. I think we need people from more varied backgrounds.
andic - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to hairyRob:
That may be true but what is the overall trend over the last few years? The average age is not very informative anyway, there are no doubt some right old farts with a hell of a LO of experience at one end of the spectrum and some young swinging dicks with a ppe from Oxford at the other. The question for me is who is replacing the old farts when they retire/snuff it? And wether they are 40 or not it is the career path that is important: we're they always aiming for that prize of being an MP? People like Ed milliband and David Cameron to name but two.
dissonance - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to andic:
> (In reply to hairyRob)
> That may be true but what is the overall trend over the last few years? The average age is not very informative anyway, there are no doubt some right old farts with a hell of a LO of experience at one end of the spectrum and some young swinging dicks with a ppe from Oxford at the other.

Again, "a hell of a lot of experience" in what? Just because someone is older doesnt necessarily mean they have more useful experience than someone far younger.
andic - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to dissonance:

Ok i'll work backwards on this one: what I think is wrong with what you might call "career politicians" is that they are indoctrinated with a philosophy at an early age Ed and Dave Milliband appear to be prime examples. They then chart out for themselves a career path leading to a role in politics, which includes a politics related degree (therefore they decided to enter politics with their embryonic political philosophy before even leaving school), and several years working as a gofer with the party of their choice, before eventually making it onto the public payroll either as an MP, advisor, quagocrat, etc. My problem is that they are driven to become an MP most likely only associate with like minded people at uni and in the political bubble. This is in no way a rounded development.

Someone entering politics later has had a little more time in the, hate this term, real world, encountering people of different backgrounds and views, having their political convictions challenged not reinforced by their peers so when they do go into parliament they are going with their own set of convictions (rather than daddy's) and less likely to be a party drone. Also more likely to have entered parliament as a duty rather than as a career path.

I am not arguing that politicians should be technocrats though, when I say experience I don't think business owners for example are any better suited than metallurgists. The most desirable attributes fr me are integrity and a political philosophy developed over a lifetime of experience
The New NickB - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
> (In reply to confusicating)
> [...]
>
> So you seem to suggest that the view and experience of the current older generations count for little.

Alternatively just countering your view that an older person must have more wisdom than a young person.
tony on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

Margaret Thatcher became an MP at the age of 34, as did Ted Heath. Alec Douglas-Home was 28 when he became an MP and Jim Callaghan was 33 when he became an MP.

Were all these people too young?
EeeByGum - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex: You make fair points, but I am getting a bit peed off that politicians and councillors for that matter tend to be older people. As a result, you see the younger generation shafted time and time again whilst free bus passes, free TV licenses, winter fuel allowance and the like are doled out on mass to the older have-it-all generation with no means testing whatsoever.

I would like to see some younger folks (under 30's) in parliament. It might certainly shake things about a bit. But given that we still have a ruling class (of mainly older people) in this country, that is unlikely to happen.
New POD - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

I don't think age should stop you representing people, but I think the electorate, should look a bit more closely at the previous track record, and jobs that individual candidates have done, and vote for the person and not the party.
hairyRob on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to andic:

The average age has varied between 48 and 51 over the last 30 years, ie it hasn't really changed. A steady stream of mid/late 30's replacing the early 70's.
Eric9Points - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

Yes, spending twenty years as a bus driver is just the sort of preparation you need to make decisions like giving arms to rebels in Syria or what stance the UK should take on European fish quotas.
999thAndy on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to mypyrex)
>
> Yes, spending twenty years as a cab driver is just the sort of preparation you need to make decisions like giving arms to rebels in Syria or what stance the UK should take on European fish quotas.

Fixed ;-)
mypyrex - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to mypyrex)
>
> Yes, spending twenty years as a bus driver is just the sort of preparation you need to make decisions like giving arms to rebels in Syria or what stance the UK should take on European fish quotas.
And why should that be any less of a qualification than a university degree in some obscure subject which might be equally totally irrelevant to such matters.

If I recall the late Dr. Rhodes Boyson was a spokesman for the Tories on education having been, appropriately, a Headmaster for many years.
Bruce Hooker - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to mypyrex)
>
> Yes, spending twenty years as a bus driver is just the sort of preparation you need to make decisions like giving arms to rebels in Syria or what stance the UK should take on European fish quotas.

This makes you sound a bit of a snob! You forget that a bus driver can still be both intelligent and self educated and also years militating in a political party will give him more experience and insight into people and politics than many a teacher, lawyer or whatever. On the other hand he (or she) may well be far more practical and have other advantages over those of a more intellectual bent. I have teacher friend who cannot change a fuse and whose knowledge of "real life" after 30 years in front of a group of kids in a guaranteed job is pretty limited in many domains.

Once elected the same person would not be expected to understand all the technical details, that's one of the functions of political parties, they have specialists, but will vote according to more general criteria... It seems to work for juries, why not in Parliament?

IainRUK - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex: Because one has demonstrated the ability to acquire and assimilate information.. one can learn parrot fashion..
IainRUK - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Of course they can.. but being a driver doesn't demonstrate that... but nor does it preclude them.
mypyrex - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to IainRUK:
> (In reply to mypyrex) Because one has demonstrated the ability to acquire and assimilate information.. one can learn parrot fashion..
Then read Bruce's comment.

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dissonance - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

> And why should that be any less of a qualification than a university degree in some obscure subject which might be equally totally irrelevant to such matters.

it isnt but its you who seems to think being old gives some special qualification by definition. I was the youngest in my team at work for a while and yet by far the most experienced and skilled.
Its what you do with the time that counts.

Now once you go beyond someone having that obscure degree and seeing they spend the next ten years working specifically in the area under question, why do you think they will be less experienced than someone whose only knowledge of government departments was watching prime minister question time?

> If I recall the late Dr. Rhodes Boyson was a spokesman for the Tories on education having been, appropriately, a Headmaster for many years.

and? Being a headteacher doesnt mean you will be good at top level management or indeed at supporting teachers.
Eric9Points - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

Yes, I suppose a degree in law, politics or economics followed by several years of researching subjects like welfare law, drug policies, sustainable energy, offender rehabilitation schemes and then writing it all up for the MP who employs you just isn't in the same league as getting a city and guilds in plumbing and setting the world to rights with your pals on on Friday night down the boozer.
dek - on 04 Mar 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
Wot, Something like Milliband?!
Timmd on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to dek:
> (In reply to Eric9Points)
> Wot, Something like Milliband?!

That's down to personality/personal qualities, perhaps?

Possibly the best mixture would be the right personal qualities and something like what Eric9Points describes?
crustypunkuk - on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex: As far as i can see, the only 'young' people who go into politics, are the ones who were bullied at school, and are looking for a way to get their own back.
As for life experience meaning something- that's all well and good, but what do those experiences equate to? Tea and scones on the lawn served by Jeeves? Or grafting with the working man for 40 years? Which gives more 'life experience'?
Take drugs policy as an example- I see nothing more horrific than some upper class twit telling us proles that drugs are bad when they have no experience of the substances or the circumstances of their use.
If you're going to preach about a subject, at least have experience of it!
tony on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
>
> If I recall the late Dr. Rhodes Boyson was a spokesman for the Tories on education having been, appropriately, a Headmaster for many years.

He was a parliamentary under-secretary for Education - hardly front-line material. He was also a Minister in Social Security, Northern Ireland and Local Government. How did his career as a schoolteacher help in those jobs?

And you haven't commented on my earlier post about the ages of Thatcher, Heath, Douglas-Home and Callaghan - all in the their mid-30s or younger when they became MPs.
TheDrunkenBakers - on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:
> (In reply to confusicating) Well in what way is a wet behind the ears MP almost fresh out of university experienced enough in ANY sphere to pass legislation that impacts upon the lives of the rest of us. It's like a 20 year old bank clerk telling a 60 year old how to conduct their bank account.

I sort of agree with the sentiments of the OP and this statement. Then again, surely as a nation we want a balanced group of MPs. Of course you wouldnt want someone with no real economic background to become the chancellor (such as now) but a new MP recently graduated would be much better placed to offer opinions on certain aspects of the education system or legislation which affects the younger generation.



Postmanpat on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to crustypunkuk:
> (In reply to mypyrex)
> If you're going to preach about a subject, at least have experience of it!
>

Does that mean a doctor can't treat diabetes unless he's got it? Or the CEO of the local council has to have cleared the bins, been a housing officer, a teacher, a road mender, a planning officer etc etc .

crustypunkuk - on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to Postmanpat:
I don't see those comparisons as equal.
A doctor deals with a diabetes case (for example) based on years of medical training and experience, with a diagnosis based on the patients best interests. A politician makes decisions based on their own whim and that of their political leanings without necessarily having any experience of the subject on which they rule. Their decision affects (potentially) millions of people.
Personally, i'd rather know that the politician knows their arse from their elbow, and isn't in place purely because of their political skills or as a result of the school they attended.
GrahamD - on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to mypyrex:

The problem we have is that the the politicians most likely to get elected (by us, collectively) are the ones that are liked by, and can play to, the media and the opinion poll - not the ones grizzled by 30 years as a shipbuilder.

I think we get what we ask for, by and large.
Postmanpat on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to crustypunkuk:
> A politician makes decisions based on their own whim and that of their political leanings without necessarily having any experience of the subject on which they rule. Their decision affects (potentially) millions of people.
>
A good politician (and most aren't) does the work and study to make good decisions. He or she listens to his civil servants, experts on the issue etc etc-just as a council CEO or a corporate CEO would, or a general would listen to the expert officers under him. That is their version of a doctor studying.

No leader of a significant organisation can be have experienced all its parts. He or she is paid for their ability to absorb information, analyse the issue, make decisions, and see them executed.

One of the problems with most politicians is that they have little experience of those skills. I doubt many drug addicts do either.

Bruce Hooker - on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

What was Blair's background?

I rest my case :-)

PS. All manual workers aren't necessarily thick, and all lawyers or teachers are not necessarily suited to run a country in a way that benefits all, and not just their own rather privileged class.

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