Yes, Minister. In the Thick of It. Hollowmen. We don’t need more satire to see that there is something not working in our political class.
Whether it is the contempt for ordinary people, or the treadmill from union/university, our political class is not what is envisaged by the concept of “representation”.
Now a writer behind Yes, Minister is saying exactly the same thing:
They went straight from university to a job in public relations consultancy, became assistants to party functionaries or ministers, then stood for a hopeless constituency in an election and finally got themselves parachuted into a safe seat with the respectable salary, generous allowances and long holidays they had always been aiming at.
It is no coincidence that in parallel with this change we have seen public respect for MPs sink to its lowest level in history.
We no longer feel they are our representatives. We see them as self-seeking careerists out to feather their nests and line their pockets at our expense.
Of course, there are exceptions. But we see them as the exceptions, not the rule.
Pathway to change this? Minimal, I am afraid. Not unless party members – of all parties – start to deliberately embarrass their own leadership into change. And the likelihood of that is zero, given that unambitious party members simply want to be part of the tribe, and the ambitious ones are disciplined into political class norms by their very ambition.
It is this kind of stalemate underpinning the energy that emerges in groups like the Tea Party and UKIP. Just look at the increase in the projected UKIP vote in UK general elections to 16%, now exceeding that of the Liberal Democrats (11%), which will deliver government to Labour. Other polls suggest the difference is 9% to 8%. And in the Euro elections, polling suggests a UKIP vote in the region of 22% and Conservative around 24%.
This should be concerning for our isolated modern politicos – no party is eternal, no party is guaranteed a place at the table, and the electorate is highly volatile. This is a fertile field for the charismatic populist. And that rarely ends well.
What is more concerning for me – more concerning than the breakdown in representation and trust – is that a government composed of this type of politico leads to a particular type of government dysfunction.
With no other career options, a social life entirely centred around politics, a lifetime of crunching internal and external votes, a fixation on appearances rather than substance – well, we get governments focused on bribing voters, media management, not rocking the boat, and ignoring the needs of the future.
Basically, the governments we have. Basically, governments delivering paternalist reassurance, look-over-there propaganda, and fiscal armageddon.