Politics is too important to be left to the professionals

COMMENT: A good mix of people – not just socially but crucially in terms of life experience – would strengthen our failing democracy

Thursday, 3rd March


Houses of Parliament

ARTICULATE, likeable and seemingly brave, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is capturing the hearts and minds right now as the symbol of resistance against the Russian invasion.

Is this because rather than coming across as strategy-obsessed, spin-doctored and emotionally-mute, he has an intrinsic anti-politics quality to him?

The Ukranian leader appears capable of summoning a speech without resorting to stilted hand movements to add critical emphasis to what he is saying.

A former stand-up comedian and political TV satire star, he may not seem like an obvious candidate for success on the world stage.

But the veneer of professionalism cloaking so many politicians in recent years – particularly in the David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg era – is wearing thin. Has the professional politician had its day?

More and more it seems that so-called outsiders are winning election after election, often on promises of tackling corruption and injecting fresh ideas into broken political systems. Authenticity and life experience are valued more than the length of political CV.

Zelenskyy won a landslide election in Ukraine by promising to only serve one five-year term in office with the aim of bringing “decent people to power”.

The public identify better with representatives who firstly do not seek a career in politics and secondly can draw on life experience in the real world.

Politicians have always been hewn from a small pit. But more and more candidates – and this might be particularly pertinent in the coming council elections – have only had a role in politics prior to running for elected office.

Perhaps, all some have known since leaving university is political theory. It’s unlikely they will be much good in a war.

Hopefully, it won’t come to that in Camden, but wouldn’t it be refreshing if we had a council chamber full of credible and lively politicians, from all walks of life, after the local election in May?

The professionalisation of politics makes our democracy less representative and less accessible.

A good mix of people – not just socially but crucially in terms of life experience – would strengthen our failing democracy.

Engineers, scientists, shop keepers, teachers, road sweepers, plumbers, electricians, airline pilots and every trade and profession should feel represented by politicians.

Councils make efforts to tackle a lack of diversity on race and gender; they should do the same with life experiences too.

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