Thursday, 27 January 2011

Not posh enough for Labour?

I watched the Andrew Neil show, Posh and Posher, last night on BBC2 with interest. I thought it was an excellent programme, albeit a vehicle for Neil to push the grammar school system, but I did feel pretty low by the end of the show. I do have some political ambitions; the idea of helping to improve society the way that we live and function day to day does excite me and I am constantly trying to up skill myself to move in this direction. Some of the statistics mentioned last night left me feeling that maybe I am dreamer. I do have a degree, from an ex-polytechnic, and I do have a career; I am a Director at a FTSE 250 business and furthermore I have lived a life - I am 34, have a family and yet it seems that because I didn't go to Oxbridge, have family connections in the party or take an unpaid internship as a graduate (how do people afford to do that?!!) my chances of becoming an MP are very slim.
With the right energy this can definitely be fought against, my CLP, Tooting, is thriving with a real mix of people and I can imagine at least two members becoming MP's in the future. But we are in London and hence have access to numerous groups, societies and networking opportunities. At some point my family will relocate, probably to Bristol, and I do worry whether this will further impede my ambitions. Surely it shouldn't be so; the whole point of our democracy should be that everyone in society is represented and logic would dictate that in a modern Britain we don't need to be deferential to a political class to blindly state our case at Westminster.
To be fair to Ed Miliband he has talked about turning the tide on this and he seems to accept that the Labour Party is moving in a dangerous direction.  Perhaps his commitment to Movement for Change will help because of its programme of training community leaders, some of whom will surely harbour political ambitions? The recent Oldham bi-election did demonstrate that constituents do prefer local candidates and perhaps the Labour party needs to promote this further and end the practice of parachuting Westminster careerists into the safest seats in country? The success of local MP's such as Sadiq Khan and Dawn Primarolo in my two home cities shows that this is surely the way forward?


  1. Good post - did you see this from Matt Gwilliam on LFF?

    I agree with much of what you've written. It seems to me that unless you prepared to put 24/7 into political activities you're going to miss out, or perhaps that's just how it feels in London.

    I wonder if we'll see a rapid decline in those who come into politics after pursuing careers in teaching and nursing because the barriers to entry are just to high. I think of friends who teach, people who'd make great MPs but just don't have the time to dedicate to political meetings at the same time as juggling their career and a life. You can't go to conference because it's in term time, etc, etc.

    Its also really interesting to read some of studies that organisations like Progress have put together about the other barriers - What do you think of open primaries? Could they be part of the solution?

  2. I suspect Open Primaries may just be a way of the best funded best organised person prevailing... (which tends to be the rule of thumb in politics) - which once again favours careerists...

  3. Although grammar schools are not without their problems - I think you have to question why politicians in general are willing to stand up and say no to selection based on ability yet allow selection based on wealth to continue and indeed encourage and support it through affording 'charitable status' and public funding of private sector teachers. This is where everything starts.It's not just politics dominated by public school educated people, but large swathes of most public and private organisations. Policymakers need to address this if they want to change things - until they do I fear we'll stay largely as we are .. i.e governed by people who really have no idea how the majority of people live/what drives them and the pressures they face. Add the career politician to the mix and you start to understand why so many mistakes are made!!! That Douglas Adams quote springs to mind - anyone capable of becoming president should on no account be allowed to do so .. almost written for the current crop really. Greater diversity of representation and proper links to the community are definitely the way forward. On that note Helen - you have my vote :0))). SamH