Saturday, September 23, 2006


Why do people want to get into a place no one trusts?

I've been at the annual conference of the Poltics Association since yesterday and today we've been taking the temperature of the body politic. Andrew Russel from Manchester University did a tip-top session on the decline of political parties which drew on the findings of Pattie et al in their Citizenship that on a 'trust' scale of 1-10 'government' managed only 3.7; House of Commons 3.9; and politicians in general a miserable 3.3. Next up was Phil Cowley from Nottingham University who was equally good in proving how vibrant parliament currently is.

But here's a thing. Phil told us of a woman, desperate to get selected in a Welsh constituency, who spent £5000 travelling every week to the land of my fathers only to not get selected anyway. Now, if so many people think politicians not to mention the Commons are so little trusted, then how come so many people are still so mad crazy to get elected to become reviled politicians sitting in the reviled House of Commons? I think I know the answer. Whilst politics leaves most people cold, a minority, a very small one I suspect, are obsessed by it.

You know the sort, like William Hague who used to read Hansard with a torch under the sheets in bed(why didn't he read mucky books like all the rest of us?), or indeed the sort of peopple who write political blogs. Politics has become the minority interest of a (sad?) little bunch of obsessives who actually care about the activity. Quite why politics is seen as so boring I just do not know; neither do I know why our institutions are so distrusted or our politicos so loathed. All I can say is thank the Lord, for the health of democracy, that at least some people are prepared to get elected and to try and make the sytem work. We'd a lot worse off without it.

You're right: we are sad obsessives. Figuratively speaking, we stand on the station platform with our flask of tea taking down numbers. Oh well, so it goes. Those who seek to get elected - as distinct from us mere students of politics - probably also have other motives: status-seeking, power-seeking. It's not all about a selfless desire for public service.
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