I think I decided quite some time ago that I don’t want to be an MP. I was reminded of the decision recently when I had an interesting chat with someone who does want the job (and will very likely have it in 2011). The conversation – the kind you have while killing an hour in an airport cafe – certainly made me think again about who’d want to be an MP, and why.
In many ways it’s a dog of a job. The hours are dreadful, as is the impact on family life. You live in the glare of the public spotlight, with some of the less savoury reporters and bloggers always trawling through your laundry. Much of the population viscerally hate you and most of the rest don’t know you exist. It’s confrontational and competitive, in many cases the struggle to “get ahead” is with your own friends and colleagues. The continual confrontation seems to bring out the worst in politicians as they gradually adopt the tactics that everyone else is using (I find this in a minor way even as a blogger). And it’s hard to see how passion and enthusiasm can survive the numbing routines and long hard grind of parliamentary process.
Against all those negatives is the chance to “make a difference”. And that is why, of course, the best of those who become MPs, take it on. Parliament isn’t the only place to make a difference in the world, but it is one of the big ones, especially if you make it far enough up the ladder to be a minister.
Most of the commentary directed at politicians is negative. We the people tend to distrust them as much as sex workers and telemarketers. And far too many of them, sadly, deserve nothing more. We do our share of getting stuck in to politicians on this blog of course. But I want to end this ramble with a salute to all the good politicians. To those of you who got in to politics because of the strength of your convictions and a desire to serve. To those of you who still manage to conduct yourselves in the meat grinder of parliament with honesty and passion. Good on you all. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.