Politicians – more in common, but not with us

Politicians – more in common, but not with us

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Tuesday 19, June, 2018

TWO YEARS ago I was debating Brexit at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on behalf of the Bow Group. It was a testy meeting as a room full of remain-supporting academics invariably is.

The academics have been the most challenging of all pro-EU groups but not because they can argue well for the EU, but that they are so absolutely convinced that only they can be right and that everyone else is beneath them.

Of course, every one of them is somehow latched to the boob of the European Commission's funding programmes, generous as they are with our money. The sneering polite contempt has always been more discomforting than the enthusiasm of students, the conviction of politicians and the bias of journalists. I always found their faith more naive and well meaning, misguided but somehow pure and free of the gravy train.

In a phrase, academics in Scotland have more in common with themselves than any other section of Scottish society.

In that meeting the panel came together in shock and in raw pain at the stabbing of Jo Cox MP. As a medic I knew half an hour before the rest that emergency CPR on a stab victim outside of an A&E setting meant an unsurvivable injury. Facts do sadly eclipse blind faith.

Jo Cox is remembered for that phrase that we have "more in common" as she explained to the house. In one way I agree fully with Jo Cox. They do have more in common with each other than with their constituents.

The narrowing of repertoire is the worst sequela of professional politics and so often we hear of Labour, or Scottish Toryism, "taking a certain direction". The reality is this comes from both from self-selection and from the assertive allocation of party resources by leaders to suit their own ambitions and tastes.

Favouritism, gerrymandering, rigging, parachuting, grooming.  Jo Cox had more in common with such tendencies than I feel comfortable with. She was far from the exception. She was very much the rule.

Educated at a grammar school, she started off with a politics degree from Cambridge, then went straight into Westminster as a MP’s assistant. Then on to the European Union to work for Glenys Kinnock. Then onto a NGO, Oxfam, where like so many her work remains a mystery. That is no insult to her. As an organisation Oxfam is opaque, where horrendous abuse against women has taken place through such opacity and whose left wing bias is cringeworthy.

Then finally, inevitably, she was selected for a seat. From an all women shortlist of course. Why bother with the social mobility of working class men and women when the needs of left wing female graduates with NGO and EU experience are so underserved?

Jo Cox was not like "us" whoever "us" is. She was the ultimate politico, the insider to set the typeface of a textbook by. There is no doubt she was competent and loved by her constituents, certainly more than most MPs. 

Strangely, for someone who should have known how the EU encourages the plundering of African seas by Spanish and Portuguese fishermen, she also participated in a cruel and vitriolic protest on British fishermen on the Thames the day before her murder.  She had taken it on herself to find fishermen so terribly misguided about the EU, if only her and those she had more in common with could convince the protesters with evidence they could mend their ways. 

So where are we two years on?  To quote Mother Theresa of Maidenhead, "Nothing Has Changed".

The latest addition to our diverse pack is the Lewisham East MP selected from an all women, all ethnic minority shortlist, excluding more than 75 per cent of possible candidates instantly. We see Brexit and Brexiteers constantly ridiculed and foreign funded agencies trying to reverse the will of the people. Where would Jo be in all this? I have no doubt she would be part of the Labour faction pulling these stunts. 

I am not comfortable with Jo Cox day, which passed on 16 June. I am extremely uncomfortable with Steven Lawrence Day too. Both serve to make heroes of the victims of knife crime when both are victims, no more or less than so many others. Not all of them will have their day on the calendar. Many of the their parents would settle for a day in court where they see their murderers sentenced for life.

If we cannot take a sharp look at our political culture and establishment today then when? When will there be a day to point out the extreme narrowing of the range of people we have to represent us? Why do we have these disgusting alienating shortlists? Why do we let party leaders routinely rig the selection of candidates through favouritism and fudge?

And why is it that now more than ever when MPs mention the words "More in Common" it means something very different to the rest of us?

Photo: Ian McIlgorm

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