The solution to our current crisis is to make politics not less “professional” but moreby Christopher Grey / May 13, 2019 / Leave a comment
One of the most remarkable features of the recent local elections was the rise of the independents, who well over doubled their seats from 439 to 1045. Their appeal to voters seems to chime with an anti-politics mood and a distrust of professional politicians. But is professionalism really the problem, or could it offer a solution?
Distrust in professional politics is milked to good effect by populists on the national stage. Hence Farage successfully presents himself as the outsider antithesis to the “career politician,” despite his many years as an MEP. And Boris Johnson trades on his carefully cultivated “eccentric” persona to imply he is an “authentic” antidote to party hackery.
The lure of the independent outsider is a powerful one. It has been mobilised in different ways by Trump, Macron, Salvini and most recently Zelensky in Ukraine. It is an anti-politics politics, imagined as avoiding both ideology and the shabby compromises of party discipline, and emphasising “just getting on with it.”
But it is only an imagination. Suppose for a moment that we had a House of Commons consisting entirely of independent MPs. To get anything done, they would have to find majorities. So they would have to form alliances. Suddenly, in effect if not in name, there would be parties.
Immediately, in forming those alliances, compromises would have to be made by each individual. As well as agreeing policies they’d have to agree who was going to deliver them, with the inevitable jostling for these positions. In these ways, as well as because they would be paid for doing their jobs, they would instantly become the career politicians they were supposed to supplant.
Nor would they be free of ideology. Politics can never just be about “getting on with it” because decisions about the aims and the means of the “it” are based on something. Call them principles, theories, values, or ideals. Or call them, in shorthand, ideologies.
This isn’t, though, to disparage the main sentiment underlying the appeal of independence. That seems to be the perfectly reasonable expectation that politicians be both competent and trustworthy. But the way to meet that expectation isn’t to de-professionalise politics, it is to make it far more professional.
Two of the defining features…