Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Golowg Column translation: Parliament poorer at the end of term

At one time a barrel of beer would be enough to decide who would represent a Borough in Parliament. And there was not much choice of candidate either. It was either a Tory or Whig and the decision was in the hands of the local landed gentry. Westminster was in the hands of the upper classes and the vast majority of society had no representation.
In truth it took until the middle of the last century until we had a parliament that was truly representative of all. A representative democracy at last.
Perhaps. There is a long way to go before there is fair representation of women and members of the ethnic communities in the building. But the success of the twentieth century was the election of members of the working classes to parliament.
And indeed the islands have profited greatly from their contribution. What kind of society would we have today without the massive working class contribution to Parliament?
People like Jim Griffiths.
We remember him as the first Welsh Secretary of State. But he made his name as a Minister in Clement Atlee's government where he was responsible for creating the welfare state. His background? A miner that left school at 13 to work in a the Betws pit near Ammonford.
Aneurin Bevan had a similar background - the architect of the National Health Service. From England we had people like Ernest Bevin, a labourer and a lorry driver who became one of our best Foreign secretaries.
There are plenty of other examples as to how the House of Commons has profited from having politicians from the working class under its roof.
As this Parliamentary term comes to a close there are over 140 MPs that have declared that they are not standing again. In this cohort there are many members of the working class retiring.
The vast majority of those chosen as replacements are middle class. With a large number of these having down nothing but made their living from politics.
Straight from school to unioversity to red politics and economics. Out of university and into the office of a politician as a researcher or advisor. Taking advantage of the position to  find a seat and with a fair wind a Member of Parliament in no time at all. Experience of nothing but  the world of politics. Never coming out of the bubble, and certainly little experience of the world that the rest of the population inhabit.
Ther is no doubt about it, if there are less and less politicians that understand and are sympathetic to the working class, that class will turn  their backs on conventional parties and look to more extreme ones to represent their interests.
No, the big parties are recruiting their candidates from the same pool, they are all of the same mould. There is no place in todays politics for a Jim Griffiths or a Nye Bevan.
Consequently its our loss.


  1. Do I count as working class? Left school at 16 to work on the family farm - father was ill. Then a small businessman who grew a bit. Had a crack at politics later in life. I take your point Gareth, but they are not all the same.

  2. I think we need to be careful not to be overly-romantic by giving Aneurin Bevan too much credit for the creation of the NHS.
    Lord Beveridge drew up the NHS plan prior to the election and ALL parties agreed that it would NOT be a political issue nor be used in the election, and that whichever party was elected would implement the Beveridge report.
    As a politics graduate in my mid-20s, I can tell you that several of my coursemates ended up working as researchers for MPs.
    It seems that the career path of researcher, to adviser, to MP is what will get you into parliament these days.
    ‘Real’ people with worthwhile life experience and a few grey hairs are shut out the process of becoming an adopted candidate by all major parties, regardless of their background.
    The ‘career politicians’ will often be motivated by ambition and ego than somebody who has come into parliament later in life as a second career, and as a result may be less tempted to stick to their true beliefs, and instead toe the party line.
    Politics is far poorer without these experienced, independent thinkers on the back benches.

  3. Marcus I guess the past is often seen through rose tinted glasses. But lets elect real people with experience of the real world. Glyn, I count you as a member of the human race so you pass the Hughes test as an allowable candidate.