As we enter the year of our general election and start seriously thinking about national politics, Will Thomas urges us to really think about who we are voting for, rather than seeing politicians as, well, ‘politicians’.
With the election in May it’s time to think who we will be voting for. We all have an image of politicians being dull identikit characters: leaving school, studying PPE at Oxford, then getting a job as an assistant to an MP and after that being parachuted into safe seat where they will sit for the rest of their working lives or until they get caught up in a political scandal. During their career they will pay more attention to his or her expenses and pay than the plight of their constituents.
90 MPs currently sitting have had no experience in the real world whose lives have panned out in the factory production line fashion I described. This figure is only likely to increase in May with Ed Miliband placing many of his closest advisors into Labour safe seats.
Even Tony Blair sees this as a problem: he gives advice to wannabe Camerons and Milibands saying in The Telegraph “Go and work for a community organisation, a business, start your own business; do anything that isn’t politics for at least several years and then, when you come back into politics, you will find you are so much better able to see the world and how it functions properly.”
This dim view of manufactured career politicians has now become so prevalent that all MPs are seen in this way and now rarely a week goes by on Question Time without someone shouting “you’re all the same” or “you’re only in it for yourselves!” This comes to the delight of the audience who respond with rapturous applause and cheers as if the shouter had found the way to defeat ISIS, save the NHS and eliminate the deficit all in one go.
This image is partly the fault of the politicians themselves, but also the media, whom it suits to paint politicians as ‘scroungers in suits’. It sells papers. I’m not saying that if you were an assistant to an MP before you entered parliament you’re a bad person. These people are probably just fascinated by the drama of Westminster and want to be at the centre of it. This does however mean that like Tony Blair points out you don’t understand the way the world works like those who have been out and experienced it.
Here are just five non-career politicians who are not afraid to be outspoken or go out their way to represent the people who voted for them and hopefully restore some faith in this system.
Anna Soubry – Conservative
Anna Soubry is the Lincolnshire born, single mother of two, Defence Minister, whose previous jobs include Barrister and Soap Reviewer for This Morning in the 80s. She is respected for always expressing her own views even if they are against the populist trend- whether on Kim Kardashian or immigration- and probably best known for accusing Nigel Farage of looking “like somebody has put their finger up his bottom and he really rather likes it”.
Alan Johnson – Labour
Only last month it was rumoured that some Labour MPs were trying to oust Miliband in favour of Johnson. Johnson’s story is very different to Miliband’s and much of his shadow cabinet, he was orphaned as a child and became a postman prior to being elected in 1997. The former Home Secretary has a way of understanding the electorate that his leader could only wish to have. He is known for his lack of ego and arrogance and support of local train services and the local fishing community.
Leanne Wood – Plaid Cymru
If you’re not from Wales then you probably haven’t heard of her. In fact, if you are from Wales, the chances are you still haven’t heard of her. Wood is the leader of Plaid Cymru. A former probation officer from the Rhondda, she has made her mark in Plaid Cymru by being the first leader to call for the Republic of Wales. Although as a Welshman I disagree entirely with what comes out of her mouth, you must admire her for her dedication and passion towards her beloved principality and its people, which is evident by her occasional appearances of BBC Question Time.
Douglas Carswell – UKIP
Call him what you like, betrayer or a man afraid of losing his seat. He was voted MP of the year while a Conservative MP, last year he won Guido Fawkes’ Backbench Maverick of the decade award. While a Tory MP he regularly rebelled against the whip when he felt the motion wasn’t what his constituents would want: responsibility to his constituents is clearly something he takes very seriously. He has campaigned vigorously for electoral reform and for a Brexit; he doesn’t just campaign on these issues because they are popular but because they are principles he believes strongly in.
Roger Williams – Lib Dem
Roger is one of many Welsh farmers that have become MPs including Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies and Montgomeryshire MP, Glyn Davies. Roger says “I believe my background in farming does help me understand local people’s concerns.” He turned down ministerial roles so he could continue to serve the people of Brecon and Radnor, which is one of Britain’s largest constituencies. He is likely to be one of the few Lib Dem MPs to survive this year due to his dedication to the role.
These are just a few politicians of all colours who don’t quite fit the stereotypical mould we like to think of. I’m not defending all MPs, and we the public have been let down in recent years by the expenses scandals, sex scandals and other such shenanigans in Westminster. However it would be naive as an electorate to simply tar politicians with the same brush as we see almost week after week on Question Time. This May I hope we all look carefully into who we vote for, whether in Exeter or our home constituencies- please don’t just view them as ‘all the same.’
Will Thomasbookmark me