Tuesday, May 12, 2009
"The real problem is that the whole nature of an MP's task and duties has changed as the adversarial party system has disappeared during the last 30 years. This is why MPs didn't grasp, until the public noticed, that they were doing anything wrong. They thought these things were the normal perks of their jobs.
Jobs? Yes, that is what they think they are. They even refer to politics as a 'profession' as if they were accountants, lawyers or doctors, whereas in fact it's a trade, learned on the job, like journalism, and a refuge for people who can't or won't submit to the discipline of a real profession.
...To some extent, any MP elected in the old days had to be a warrior of some kind, who had done battle in the conflict between Left and Right. In those days, the opposing armies of Labour and Tory were large, with mass memberships, busy social lives, regular meetings. You had to put in a lot of work in these legions before you came anywhere near a selection committee, and in most cases you would be in your 40s before such a committee would even look at you.
So by then you would have had to have had some sort of real job, perhaps brought up some children, paid your bills, run out of money, seen how others lived, led a strike, run a business, met a payroll, won a few court cases (or lost some) even fought in a war. Also, you would have come up through a party machine which was deeply distinct from the other side's. You were partisan out of duty, as much as anything else, and you recognised the almost impossible divide between you and the other lot. If you had any sympathy with them, you kept quiet about it. It was your job to be adversarial. There were people in the Labour Party who might have been at home in the Tories, and vice versa, but they were much rarer than such people are now, and they didn't tend to defect, or give comfort to the enemy.
In short, MPs were older, more experienced, more wedded to their political tribe, more conscious of why they were there and who had put them there, and either well-off on their own account or used to living at a reasonable level through their own efforts...
The new MP rapidly finds out that if he pleases the whips nice things happen to him. And if he displeases them, a life of miserable obscurity on tedious standing committees looms, quite possibly followed by nasty rumours about him in his constituency and an early, ignominious de-selection. Whips gather gossip and scandal, and use it, and many of them have not been above what might in other trafes be called intimidation. ...Someone barely out of his or her teens who's been nothing more than another MP's dogsbody, or a 'special adviser,' or a local government official, is likely to be a pushover. He's an employee of the executive, anxious to please. And, like all employees who have sold a large chunk of his integrity in return for a quiet life, he'll expect something back for it.
...the pay-off has to be made in a different way to those who can never hope to be ministers, or have had their turn and muffed it. And so the allowances have suited both a government which wanted compliant servants, and a new breed of MPs who saw politics as a career