Every Parliamentary candidate should have to complete a formal application to show that they understand what it means – and are qualified – to be an MP, according to radical centre think-tank, Radix, in a report called “Avoiding the Pyschopaths” backed by Prof Tim Bale and former health secretary, Lord Lansley.
Working with former MPs, academics and parliamentary advisers, Radix has produced a job description and person specification for UK MPs updating its previous proposals published immediately prior to the 2019 election.
To support their calls to professionalise the process, the think tank’s Chief Executive, Ben Rich, quotes author, Jon Ronson, who claims that a significant number of our leaders – in business, industry and politics – are psychopathic, displaying common features such as glibness and superficial charm, lying, a lack of sympathy or remorse, poor behavioural controls and promiscuous sexual behaviour.
Ben Rich, who was Chief of Staff to then Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, says:
“Assuming that we do not wish to be led by psychopaths, Radix believes it is good practice to ask ourselves what traits we would like to see in our politicians. These are, after all, amongst the most important jobs in our country and almost all employers publish job descriptions and person specifications when recruiting, if only to discourage unsuitable candidates from putting themselves forward.
“Unfortunately, this is not the way we appoint MPs. The vetting procedures that political parties use to select candidates are geared towards winning elections, which is not necessarily anything to do with being an effective MP. For example, they may expect candidates to invest tens of thousands of pounds of their own money in fighting elections and to be acquiescent to a local or national party, rather than looking for local champions, law-makers and effective advocates.”
Radix recognises that while the only formal requirement for becoming an MP must continue to be to win an election, voters should have far more information about candidates to help them in their choice. Radix therefore puts forward not only a draft job description and personal specification against which to assess candidates, but proposes that all candidates be required to write 300-word applications which can be compared side-by-side, detailing their experience and expertise. These would then be distributed to
constituents in advance of voting, be displayed at polling stations, mailed to postal voters, and made available online. The draft job description says:
“We are looking for a hardworking, selfless, honest, objective, accountable and open individual. The ideal candidate will have demonstrated integrity, the ability to think strategically, logically and critically, be able to understand and scrutinise complex proposals, and know how to exercise influence to achieve meaningful outcomes… Candidates should, amongst other criteria, be practical, committed to public service, able to build alliances, juggle multiple tasks and have thick skins.”
Former health secretary and Radix Board member, Andrew Lansley, says: “Public confidence in elected representatives is low. So, as an election approaches, the public should look to choosing candidates in whom they would have confidence, whether based on their performance to date or their experience, ideas and ideals. This Radix paper should help them choose.“
Radix Fellow and Professor of Politics at Queen Mary, University of London, Tim Bale, adds: “While it’s vital that our politicians come in all shapes and sizes, voters have got a right to hope that the candidates vying to represent them at Westminster have what it takes to actually do the job if and when they get there: if this innovative initiative helps make that more likely, who could possibly object?”
For a copy of the report, Avoiding the Pyschopaths, go to radixuk.org. For further information and to arrange an interview please contact Ben Rich on 07469-159134 or [email protected]