What does it take to be a good politician?
Today, asking that question is likely to solicit a response such as ‘anything other than Theresa May’, or ‘anyone other than these selfish bastards that we have now’.
It is a question that I have thought about lots. When I wrote my book How to Get Elected, I chose to work backwards from the point of viewing what a good politicians does to reverse-engineer the points, rather than focusing simply on what observers too easily assume to be the things about a politician that makes them appear good. Characteristics that are usually snapshots in time but nonetheless form the basis of everything that those looking on perceive.
A good number of those people that have such perceptions are the people who are falling over themselves to become candidates for political parties of all kinds. Especially those parties that at this very odd moment in our political history look like they could deliver an unknown face a seat in our Parliament, within one of our many Councils or even as an MEP.
The thinking of many is that having different people in politics will be all that it takes to deliver change, when the truth is that change in politics will only be delivered by people who think differently.
And they aren’t thinking differently to the Politicians we’ve already got. They think their ideas are best. That they know better than everyone else. That the only thing that has stopped or prevented them from showing how to do it better is the fact that they haven’t yet had their chance.
If only it were so simple, or just about Brexit.
What they don’t realise is that many people have been in the exact same situation before. Some of them make up the very same majority of MPs incumbent within our Parliament today who have fallen foul of the rule that they are elected to represent the best interests of the majority of voters and not simply to do whatever it takes to further themselves.
People who seek public office to genuinely represent others will always seek out others to understand how they should best represent.
But it takes work, commitment and a preparedness to continually learn about, translate and make sense of everything that comes across the desk, as well as the ability – and courage to look, think and step outside of your own box (or comfort zone) and do what it takes to get things done.
When you get elected, gain responsibility or find yourself with a public platform without putting in any great level of effort to get there, the results are often predictable and whilst they will be presented (and attacked) differently depending on which party or movement you represent, the building blocks that would have put you there will be fundamentally the same. Like a lottery win which brings great riches, it is rare for the recipient to truly value what they have got and they will be all too eager to squander this new form of wealth on anything that works for their own cause.
Whilst UKIP is now a diminishing force, due in no small part to its recent lurch to the far right, but also because it had appeared in 2016 to have achieved all that it was originally set up for when the Vote to Leave the EU was ‘Won’, there is much for would-be politicians to look upon in the behaviour of those who were elevated or elected under the UKIP banner and then blundered and fell over their own words as they simply assumed that their new responsibilities made their own views of the world the same as those wanted by everyone.
They are not. And one of the key things absent from the skills base and approach of many of the MPs and those who would be MPs is the experience and willingness to relate to others and especially those with different views and to use this intelligence effectively to develop policies which are inclusive, considered and mindful of all consequence, rather than simply jumping on any fast moving bandwagon which looks like it will bring instant glory to all of those who throw in their lot and get involved.
I fear for what lies ahead. Not because there is an absence of people who want to get elected. But because there are far too many people with the wrong idea about what it means to be elected as a politician that do.
Regrettably people with the wrong ideas have been getting elected for such a long time, that they now even fill the top positions. In terms of the impact that it is now having upon all of us, what the political parties have ultimately thrust upon us with the resulting mismanagement and bad policies is in itself a crime.
We have a distinct absence of good leaders and political big beasts, because so few MPs are plugged into the real world outside Westminster and the reality underpinning what it takes for everyday British People to work, live and to survive.
A good politician must have that connection with the lives of the People they are in Office to represent.
It is only when politicians have that understanding of our different realities or the ability to step inside of them that they will be able to muster the passion to make the changes to our politics which are now necessary.
The changes needed to deliver Brexit, to bring us all together and to create a fairer system that demonstrates the belief that everyone in our society deserves more.