Are “career politicians” a bad thing? Should our MPs be a local?

Jessica Asato, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North. Picture: Geoff Wilson. Jessica Asato, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North. Picture: Geoff Wilson.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
12:41 PM

Does it matter if our MPs are careerist politics? Should candidates be from the local area?

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The rise of the UK Independence Party in the European elections has ignited that debate, as the mainstream parties question how they can reconnect with voters.

A recent major poll for the Guardian by ICM revealed that almost half (44%) of voters are fed up with careerist MPs who “look

and sound the same”, but the same poll revealed 56% of people think the biggest problem with Westminster is politicians breaking promises.

With former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain warning in the Guardian that traditional politics is now in a “state of terminal decline”, fuelled by a sense of disconnection with the electorate, what do the MPs and candidates think we are now looking for in our parliamentarians?

The Labour View

Norwich North candidate Jessica Asato has a CV which boast many political jobs - she is currently political adviser to former cabinet minister Tessa Jowell and chair of the Fabian Society.

She is also deeply involved in the Blairite think tank Progress.

But despite a career in politics, believes that spending her formative years growing up in a low income household in Norfolk - from 11 until she left home at 16, and being the first person in her family to have made it to university, gives her a good foundation for life as an MP.

She said: “We do need a Parliament that represents the country, rather than the elite, which is why I’m pleased our Labour candidates in East Anglia are a diverse bunch - whether it’s the lives they’ve led, their heritage or their gender.”

In contrast Norwich South candidate Clive Lewis has not had any political jobs, but does now work for the BBC, where he was journalist.

He moved to Norwich in 2001.

“Personally, I think an outsider can understand a community if they make the effort. But generating an arbitrary number of years or months that somehow defines whether you’re local or not seems somewhat futile,” he added.

Denise Burke, who is taking on Norman Lamb in North Norfolk, has lived in the county for four years.

She worked for both London mayors, Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, but now runs her own business.

“Having links to the area that you are representing helps but ultimately it’s about what you can offer as a candidate and across Norfolk Labour’s PPCs come from a range of diverse backgrounds.”

While Deboarah Sacks, South Norfolk’s candidate, has worked in both public and private sectors, running her own company since 2010.

“I have never worked in Parliament or for an MP but I can see how that would be very useful experience for anyone who is committed to achieving change through the political process.”

The Tory View

The selection of Elizabeth Truss ignited a nationwide debate five years ago about an “A-list” of candidates drawn up in Westminster.

After surviving a bid to de-select her by the so-called “Turnip Taliban”, Ms Truss has since split her time between Norfolk and London for five years.

While she was not on a Westminster payroll before being an MP, she was deputy director of the London-based think-tank Reform, but also worked for Shell and Cable and Wireless as a commercial manager for 10 years.

“I wouldn’t preclude MPs with (political job) backgrounds, but politics should be open to people from all walks of life,” she said. “The reality is people do move around the country for all sorts of reasons. The important thing is the ability to listen and represent people.”

In contrast Norwich MP Chloe Smith grew up in West Norfolk, where she still has family.

She worked for Norfolk MP Gillian Shephard and Essex MP Bernard Jenkin during her university holidays “to pay the bills”, and during a gap year. But also had a career as a consultant for Deloitte.

While she said her experience of working for an MP was helpful, the business background allowed her to “bring business experience to bear on getting things done,” she said.

George Freeman was brought up in a village in East Anglia and had a 15 year career helping start and grow small businesses in the East.

He worked in Westminster as parliamentary adviser to National Farmers Union and started a campaign for new powers for local government, before his business career.

“I think the most important thing the public want to see is MPs who have had experience of the real world of work outside of the ‘Westminster Bubble’,” he said. “But its not unhelpful for MPs to know a little of how Westminster and parliament works.”

“It’s obviously possible to be a very effective MP without coming from the area, but I do think people these days want to see their MPs active in showing local leadership in making a real difference in the area, which is easier I think if you know the area well.”

The Lib Dem View

“I’m not sure why anyone would want to represent a constituency that they don’t know very well,” Norwich MP Simon Wright has said.

The Liberal Democrat, whose parents were farmers and went to school in Dereham, has always lived in the county, with the exception of a brief stint while at university in London.

He was North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb’s agent and organiser working in his North Norfolk constituency before deciding to stand for election to parliament, but was a maths teacher before that.

“Having experience of Westminster shouldn’t in itself be a negative as it can only be a good thing to have an understanding of how politics works in practice and how to use the system effectively to help those you represent. “However, it is vital to have an understanding of the world outside Westminster. Westminster is an unusual, closed environment, and doesn’t give a balanced perspective of the ‘real world’,” he said.

The UKIP View

The UK Independence Party’s Norwich North candidate has accused his two opponents in the fight for the seat of being put in place because they are women.

Glenn Tingle, who has lived in Norwich all his life with the exception of four years when he was an army medic, claimed that other parties put their candidates in place because it was “jobs for the boys and girls” or to be “politically correct”.

He said: “Most of the Lib Lab Con candidates seem to be selected from a political background because it’s ‘jobs for the boys’, and girls. Nepotism springs to mind, and in many cases some are selected because it’s PC to select a candidate because of their gender. This happened in 2009 by election where Chloe Smith was chosen both for her being a woman as well as being a party apparatchik.

“I fear this has happened again with the Labour Party in Norwich North as well. They believe it’s their best chance to combat Ms Smith - it’s a shame people whoever they are aren’t selected on ability instead of gender.”

He said; “I can understand the stance of placing party apparatchiks in marginal seats because the “out of touch” political elite think this is what the public want. That they want to see experienced, well-read, hard-line candidates, but recent results seem to buck this trend.

“The general public - if there is such a thing - are no fools and the majority who take time to vote also take the time to do their homework and can see through this ploy and indeed favour the “man in the street” as they feel they will get more recognition if that candidate is elected.”

What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk.

14 comments

  • Good luck Peter, I hope that you try and defend your local mandate against the party political agendas that will permiate every campaign you join.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, June 26, 2014

  • none of this matters . The next election will be fought and won on one subject,,, Immigration

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    milecross

    Wednesday, June 25, 2014

  • V never mind the lab con councillors what about Labour`s union sponsored PPC Lara Norris parachuted into Yarmouth. Strange our Annabelle hasn`t mentioned her. She usually gives her good coverage.

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    BG

    Wednesday, June 25, 2014

  • I am the Labour PPC for SW Norfolk. I have spent most of my working life as a teacher in Norfolk, though I have also worked in the voluntary sector in London My children went to Norfolk state schools. I have never worked for a politician.My Tory opponent in SW Norfolk was parachuted in from London by her party to take over a 'safe' seat. I fought her at the last General Election and will do so again in 2015.

    Just selected as PPC for SW Norfolk

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    Peter Smith

    Wednesday, June 25, 2014

  • Lord elp us, patience and confidence in party politics has landed us with PM's who thought that financial control of the City was not necessarry, currently they even propose to pull out of the EU, because the City gents want it all their way. Every party has lied to you us, judges deemed doorstep promises as not binding, so we carry on, and electoral reform took the shape of an ultimatum,i.e. take the worst possible option party politicians choose for you, or nowt. The paesants were not allowed a choice of systems, because it would have upset their oligarch applecarts if a fair voting system had been the result. But do carry on. Patience and confidence to make considered decisions? when? the whole show is machiavellian and has nothing to do with mandates from voters, but party political agendas as 'advised' by vested interests and hangers on. That politics takes money to win elections is unfortunate, because it excludes and therefor negates the whole idea of democracy. A random selection, every four years via our NI numbers, would cut through all the hang ups and corruption, it would rejuvenate parties, if they were really interested in making society work, because their struggles with gender balance and the vast expenses of elections would be a thing of the past. They would have to woe for support after a random selection, and politcal parties would have to offer something, not demand to be elected. Jack, yes, it happens, loads of people from 9 different countries, students mainly, helped an Independent candidate in Norwich North. That said he was cold shouldered by the media and our dependent BBC.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • I'd like to know how the people who diss party politics in this thread think that a candidate without independent wealth is going to campaign. It costs a lot to introduce yourself to the 65,000 people in a constituency; why shouldn't people come together in groups to help a candidate who they like to get elected?

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    Jack1956

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Ingo - I completely agree with you that we need self aware thinking individuals who represent their constituents first and party second. But it is not "tosh" to suggest you only get this after turning 50. It is only then that you have the life experience, strength of character, patience and confidence to make considered decisions in the interests of your constituents, not the party. In addition by 50 most people have the experience of raising a family, seeing the difficulties the children (and possibly grandchildren) experience through their education and entry into work.

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    Lord 'Elp-Us

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • No freemason should ever be an MP or public servant, local or not. I do not mind a young unindoctrinated young person representing me, age and the experience of other politicians should not even come into it. Do we want clones of each other, or self aware thinking individuals who are able to communicate? To make out that party politicians have something you can only get after 50 years of 'experience' is tosh, it is the civil service and staff that will bend over backwards to help make it work for an MP, nobody is perfect. The infestation of both houses by lawyers, solicitors and City gents is not down to 'experience', nor is it accidental, it is too much onesided and unrepresentative 'experience', don't you think? select them at random I say, and ensure that they are genderbalanced and exchanged every four years.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • No one should be an MP until they are 50 years of age, have spent a number of years working in the private sector and have lived in the constituency for a minimum of 10 years. Problem solved.

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    Lord 'Elp-Us

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Why do these young candidates need their spines propped up and get their campaigns paid for by party politics which aims to divert and hogg our politics? Why, if they are sooo dedicated to become a well earning MP do they need to peddle party political porkies at the doorstep? Can they not just stand up for local people's causes? Could it be that party politics has diverted democracy to their own ends, ONLY?

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • headline should read' Should our Labour politician be local'? The EDP is starting its Tory election campaign. What of the numerous twin and triple hatters on our councils? Stop elections and make use of everyone's NI numbers, put them into an electronic hat and pull one out. No more 300 million GE expenses and an end to the political class and corruption.Sorted, everyone takes part, genderbalance is guaranteed and in four years time we choose new representatives. Oh boy would they hate such an egalitarian system, because their hogwash would not wash anymore, leaving crocodile tears to be had over political tradition.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • These people are the cause of most of what is wrong in our country, that includes local councils which should not have any links to political parties in my view. These people have only one intension and that is to get re-elected, that's why they do what looks like the right thing which is very different to what is the right thing. This country is going downhill and it thier fault, none of them care if they get things wrong, which is made clear as they are nover going to admit or apologies when they do.

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    parkeg1

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Career MP's are killling our country along with political parties involvement in local councils, they are only able to repeat the party line and have no imagination of thier own. They are only concerned with getting re-elected, nothing else is important to them and have no interest in anything else.Doing what looks to be the right thing is very different do actually doing the right thing, we get the former because it will get them votes. Watch them make a speach and see if you see thier faces or the top of thier heads, they are unable, all they do is read stuff out which shows they don't understand nor care about the subject. If polotics in this country doesn't get better we will continue to fail as a country and that will include local council. You just need to see how many times these people mess up, but it's never thier fault.

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    parkeg1

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Perhaps the EDP should also be looking at career councillors, especially the lab cons in Yarmouth

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    "V"

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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