Richard Fuller MP: we need politicians with life experience

As the elections in Italy this week showed, across the Eurozone disillusion with professional politicians is growing and in the UK we should not ignore the trend.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 28th February 2013, 10:36 am

For 15 years, from the mid 1990s to 2010, the country got used to living beyond its means and it was never going to be easy to make the necessary changes to stop us borrowing from future generations. In the mid 1990s, the country’s total debt was two times the size of our national economy, by 2010 our debts had risen to five times the size. No other major country followed the same path. It is this fact that provides the context in which all our economic decisions are now made.

I have been considering this, and the willingness of our politicians – and the wider public – to make the tough decisions, the sacrifice of everyday things, in order to get our finances back in order. Do our politicians have the nerve to take long term decisions, even if they are unpopular in the short term? Are the people prepared to continue with this collective effort, so that our children and grandchildren’s prospects will not be shackled by our own excesses?

Of course, we know that politicians can be categorised based on their political party but there is another, more subtle, potentially more important divide in these tough economic times: the divide between the MPs who are professional politicians, and those who come to politics after a career elsewhere.

To draw a contrast, the first group are more likely to draw on the world of ideas and are shaped by focus groups and media presentation. The latter are more likely to draw on their direct experiences of the world outside Westminster and are shaped by the principles that they have come to believe in.

To be effective, Parliament needs a balance. But if we want to carry the people of this country with us in the need to do more with less, and to make difficult savings in their weekly budgets, in my view we need more politicians with life experience outside of politics and fewer looking at the next stage of their political career.