Why the politicians of today are the way they are

“We want politicians who are neither populists like Farage, or “born to rule” types like Cameron…..we want politicians who are more like every day people.”

I am paraphrasing above something I once heard in a focus group discussion several years ago. You hear similar things all the time from people when asked about the current state of politics. Which is strange given the most successful politicians of our age are either demagogues or people who have been around power for most of their lives and are comfortable with it, i.e not “every day people” in the slightest.

A great example is Nick Clegg. Here’s a guy who could have easily been a Tory MP if he had wanted to be one – he worked for Leon Brittan, who tried to get him to become a Conservative and stand for parliament as such. He said no thanks and joined the Lib Dems instead. Clegg clearly never craved power; as a former Westminster pupil, he could have taken many relatively easy routes to it and eschewed them all. By a weird twist of fate he ended up there anyhow when the 2010 general election went the way that it did.

And people ended up hating him in large numbers for it. He was neither a toys out of the pram rabble rouser or someone who knew what to do with power when it landed in his lap; neither a Farage or a Cameron. Before you say “tuition fees”, that’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about: a populist or a power hungry politician would have spotted the 2010 plan as politically daft and rejected it without question. It was Clegg who looked at the whole thing as objectively as possible and figured it was probably the best deal that was going to happen within the parameters as they existed then.

As a result, the man was burnt in effigy and suffered some of the worst favourability ratings ever. All while Cameron, a man who planned his whole life around being prime minister one day, managed to get a parliamentary majority that everyone thought was beyond him, and Nigel Farage, a man who couldn’t lead a real party never mind hold a real position of power, is the most successful politician of our age – all done by shouting from the side lines.

What I’m saying is, we have ended up with the politicians we deserve. Some might wish to blame the voting system, the media, other external factors, but all of that is a smoke screen. Truth is, most people like shouty demagogues like Farage or Corbyn or Trump and if they don’t want that then they want ruthless competence. It’s one or the other. And most normal people are neither of those two things.

I think we’d all be better off if we could just admit that we don’t want politicians to be normal – we want them to either be impassioned weirdos or power mad robotic weirdos. It might help improve the body politic if we could come clean on this and then try and figure out why this is the way things are.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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