Friday, 27 April 2012

What's Wrong With British Politics

So here, in the UK, the news is full of politicians sucking up to the press at the same time as the economy is in its worse peacetime condition.  The odd thing is I think the two are connected.

The problem is career politicians; people who have only worked in the political arena and who see their life in terms of how 'successful' their career has been. That means how much power do they wield and power and the press seem to be linked all too closely.  Now I know that is a massive generalisation but it does appear that the top echelons of our major parties have a predominance of these people.  In the past politics was seen as serving the nation but now it's your career.

One of the big problems this leads to is short termism - something that is rife in government.  Apart from the obvious fact that every government is actually working to get re-elected it shows up every time there is a change of minister in a government department. The new minister arrive and wants to make a big impression to further their career and they do this by introducing a lot of new initiatives.  While there is nothing wrong in that in itself it usually means new initiatives and ways are working are rushed in before the initiatives of the previous minister have been allowed to bear fruit or even be fully implemented.  Now it should be the role of the civil service to bring a level of impartiality and continuity to the transition between ministers but, of late, this has been undermined by ministers appointing 'special advisers' who are not civil servants and report directly to the minister.  These advisers are, of course, political careerist who aim is not to look after the country but to further their own political career; paid for by the tax payer.

With ministers (and MPs) surrounded by career politicians all parties have become increasingly out of touch with the life of the average Britain.

I don't have all the answers but how about these fort suggestions of how to make politics relevant to normal people:

  • Ban special advisers.  If a minister wants a political assistant it should be paid for by the party and not funded out of tax revenues.
  • Set the salary of MPs at the national median wage; currently around £26,000.  There are two reasons for this; firstly to ensure MPs know how the rest have to live and secondly it might discourage people from entering politics for self interest and encourage those who want to serve the country.  I know people will say you need to pay more to get the right people but as that doesn't seem to be working we need to try something different.
  • Have a mainly elected upper chamber whose members are elect for 10 year terms to counter the short term objectives of the Commons.
Any comments?


serena said...

I think I largely agree with you but I would keep most of the upper chamber unelected so that people who know what they're talking about in specialist areas still get to debate legislation. My concern with a largely elected upper chamber is that we could end up with more of the current lot! I like the idea of longer terms, though.

serena said...

I thought I commented yesterday but it isn't here :( I was just saying something along the lines of being concerned that a mostly elected upper chamber leads to more of the same political animals, and would possibly lose some of the expertise currently able to debate legislation? Just a thought.