At the end of last week, the Spectator came out with which party they are endorsing for this very shortly to be upon us election. It was, as I fully expected, the Green Party. All kidding aside, there was one sentence in the endorsement article that stuck in my teeth:
“Like so many former bag-carriers who end up elected to parliament, Miliband has no experience outside the world of academia and politics.”
For a start, all of the above could very easily apply to David Cameron (sorry – a few years in a PR agency is hardly “real world” worthy), which makes it hypocritical. But actually, more to the point, who cares if most of Ed Miliband’s vocational experience comes from inside of politics? Given that his ultimate career path is to become prime minister, should the good British public allow it, I don’t see why him having a shed load of experience in his field of choice should be taken as an automatic negative.
Think about this for a moment: you’d never say of a surgeon, “she has no professional experience outside the world of medicine.” This is because it would sound very stupid. Like I say, people spend time in their chosen career paths doing things directly relevant to said career. Why should it be any different for politics?
What’s so strange about the Spectator’s demonisation of this particular aspect of Ed Miliband is that the man has more than enough faults without having to invent some new ones. His slightly robotic nature which causes him to ask people their Christian names in a slightly creepy way, as a for instance. Why is the Spectator attacking Miliband on what is arguably his greatest strength? Think about this again for a moment. Ed Miliband has been a SpAd in the Treasury for an extended period of time, served as a backbench MP, went into government as a minister and eventually was in the Cabinet. Of all the things that make me nervous about Miliband as prime minister, his lack of experience in worlds exterior to politics is literally the very least.
I think we’re all caught in a vicious cycle with this as well. I recall seeing an interview with Ed Balls at Labour conference a couple of years ago. He told a story involving he and Ed Miliband as young aides at 1996 Labour conference, going over Tony Blair’s speech. I remember suddenly thinking about Miliband and Balls in a slightly different light – here are two guys with over twenty years experience at the very top end of British politics. Yet, Balls stopped the anecdote abruptly, realising he had strayed off message. He and Miliband were supposed to be the new guys on the block, the ones who had shed the party of its New Labour wickedness. Again, in no other field would talking up your wealth of experience be considered such a negative.
In the end, I don’t blame the Speccie too much; they are only giving their audience what they think they want to hear. Yes, the politicians of today are mostly not great. But I don’t think it comes down to the fact that they didn’t spend enough time in an office dicking around with spreadsheets, or on a construction site prior to running for office. To think so is simply a projection of anti-politics: that somehow if the politicians were “more like me” they’d be better. But I don’t want politicians to be like everyone else, I just want them to know how to run the country properly. Some previous experience in that department sets my mind at ease – not the other way round.