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So I voted for an axe-murderer
January 2, 2013 8:05 PM   Subscribe

A new MP, Gloria De Piero was taken aback by how many people despised her because of her new profession. So she took to the streets to find out why.

Think it's just a UK problem? Think again. Congresspeople are rated lower for honesty and ethics than stockbrokers in the United States. In Australia, politicians only just beat out real estate agents.

And what did she find?
The consensus was that politicians came from different backgrounds, had more income and job security than was usual, and appeared – almost always on television – to spend their time bickering and avoiding difficult questions, rather than trying to find solutions to everyday problems.
Others suggest It's because negativity is more resilient than positivity, others that a historical context is vital.

US academic Ben Berger argues that democracy has always been "citizens struggling to pay attention and invest energy politically" and that we need to ask the question about what kind of energy and attention we want. But his view is dismissive to many modern civic engagement and consensus projects, including the growth of deliberative dialogues (pdf, two years old, still interesting).
posted by smoke (20 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe because she makes 68,000 GBP a year plus a living allowance for a place in central London, total value over 100,000 GBP per year, while the vast majority of persons in your riding have incomes nowhere near that.
posted by thewalrus at 8:53 PM on January 2, 2013


But thewalrus, people don't despite local doctors who earn that amount. I think there's more to it than money, as the piece, and all the other links allude to.
posted by smoke at 8:59 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


thewalrus, from the article it seems like she's actually trying to do a good job and bring more ordinary people into politics to remove the ineffectual effete assholes currently bickering with each other instead of working. You should give her a shot.
posted by tripping daisy at 9:00 PM on January 2, 2013


Maybe because she makes 68,000 GBP a year plus a living allowance for a place in central London, total value over 100,000 GBP per year, while the vast majority of persons in your riding have incomes nowhere near that.
posted by thewalrus at 8:53 PM on January 2 [+] [!]



I don't understand the argument that elected representatives in the national legislature should be paid mediocre salaries or the average national income etc. and shouldn't be helped with living expenses in the national capital. Surely this would reduce the talent pool for politicians - especially from lower income classes in society - and make major financial corruption of the legislature more common. (the UK MP expenses scandal was widespread but the amounts of money involved were small potatoes indeed)
posted by Bwithh at 9:13 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


But thewalrus, people don't spite local doctors who earn that amount. I think there's more to it than money, as the piece, and all the other links allude to.

Yes. People understand the value that doctors bring. Doctors make people well.

It's hard to see the value of MPs, especially when they appear to fail to have any (see the inane, childish yelling in Question Time), or actively steal from the public (see, for example, UK MP expenses scandal).

Or even the elitist nonsense that comes out of the mouths of some MPs, like George Osbourne demanding that he be allowed to remain in a first class train cabin without paying (MPs spend big on first class train travel, in the UK, even though they're not supposed to).

Given the recent antics of the UK Parliament, it strikes me as naive and obtuse to ask why people hate MPs. The UK is in a massive recession and people are hurting. They're don't feel like they're getting the help that they need. Meanwhile, MPs appear to be living high on the hog.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:34 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The fact that she needed to ask shows how out of touch they are.
posted by quarsan at 9:37 PM on January 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


In the U.S. at least, people tend to hate "Congress" but not their own representative, which I find interesting.
posted by naoko at 9:54 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, Naoko, that's mentioned in the original link as well:
Despite all this negativity one striking fact stood out: people generally liked their local MP, especially if they had met him or her, and this was regardless of party. It was "other" politicians they did not like or respect. "It leads you to the impression that something about the way they see us on TV [is the problem]," De Piero suggested."
They are rejecting a politicians as a profession, not as individuals.

In my own experience, I can certainly attest to the personal charm and charisma a great many MPs - of all parties - exhibit in person. It's uncanny, how good some of them are at being likeable.
posted by smoke at 10:14 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Politicians are the public face of a broken system, with nothing to hold up the facade with but their smiles and their posturing.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:02 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've had the same experiences meeting memebers of the Dutch parliament, people you really wouldn't know from news coverage, but who were so much better at being politicians than anybody else in the room: charming, charismatic, quickwitted, able to answer difficult questions well without giving away anything they didn't want to.

Surely this would reduce the talent pool for politicians

(to not renumerate them sufficiently, that is)

That's the traditional social democratic position, as argued at a time when being an mp was unpaid which of course did limit membership to those who had independent means of income.

But what MPs make now is quite a lot more than the median income in Britain and the arguments as to why that is still too low have never quite persuaded me, as it's the same as why all those bankers needed to be paid multimillion dollar salaries and bonuses and look how well that worked out. Do you really want the same sort of greedy fuckers who ruined the banks ruining parliament? (Well, too late, they're already there.)

If you're cynical btw, you should keep in mind that for quite a few politicans their political career is just an apprenticeship for their real career, being an ex-politican: look at how much Blair has raked in since he left politics.

My own party has always insisted its political representatives in the Dutch parliament and elsewhere should get a worker's wage, so those elected for it hand over most of their salary and benefit claims to the party. They've been doing this for decades now without getting noticably worse MPs than the other parties, though the occasional chancer does slip through the nets. It also provides a steady income to the party itself of course, giving it a leg up when it comes to financing elections. (It is in fact one of the richest parties in the Netherlands, which for a socialist party leads to the sort of Morisettian irony more dimwitted liberals like to point out again and again).
posted by MartinWisse at 11:16 PM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Tony Judt, Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012):
Democracies corrode quite fast; they corrode linguistically, or rhetorically, if you like -- that's the Orwellian point about language. They corrode because most people don't care very much about them.
posted by Catchfire at 11:29 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are good reasons why people don't trust politicians however, going beyond things like the expenses scandals, which is that in most if not all socalled democracies politicians live in a closed off bubble, be it in Westminster or inside the Beltway, where everybody not part of the bubble is largely ignored unless it's election time again.

Within the bubble only a limited range of debate is acceptable, with a great many policies entirely off the table from the start and large parts of the political spectrum ignored, with the big, respectable news media functioning as gatekeepers. You got the elite talking to itself all the time while the rest of us never get a word in.

The biggest example of which is of course the War on Iraq. Here you had an issue that had two million people marching in London, hundreds of thousands more elsewhere in the UK, something that was opposed by the majority of people, where all the arguments for pursuing the war did not make sense on the face of it, where it was clear from the start they were either false or irrelevant, but it didn't make a blind bit of difference. Blair got his war and to add insult to injury, many of the objections made by people like Scott Ritter, never even got an airing in the "debate" about the war as held in parliament and the Westminster media.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:30 PM on January 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

-Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
posted by fragmede at 11:57 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's an idea that talented and intelligent people - people with unusually broad knowledge, genuinely capable of processing vast amounts of information and finding solutions to difficult problems - won't be interested in going into politics (rather than business, science or engineering) unless they're paid what they'd be paid elsewhere for their skills.

But of course, it's not the pay that discourages top-notch people from going into politics. It's the stupidity, corruption and insincerity of the political process and the fact that every little detail of their personal history could end up under the spotlight of a perverted tabloid press.
posted by moorooka at 12:18 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

Which is why sortition was first suggested by the ancient Greeks as a more egalitarian, less corruptible and cheaper arrangement.
posted by rongorongo at 3:40 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


In party politics, members of parliament or congress tend to be more beholden to the party than to the constituents. I have recently begun an extensive search of Hansard to see how exactly my own nominal representative in the federal government sees fit to represent me. I have not completed all of it yet, but so far (except for one single mention and promotion of a local anti-drunk-driving measure), it seems my own MP has not spoken in the Commons in years save to vote 'yes' when the party leader says 'yes' and 'no' when the party leader says 'no.'

This is not so much representation as obedience.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:24 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

I really dislike this idea that anyone who wants to go into politics is a vicious, greedy, piece of shit. I think this perception also pushes out a lot of good people.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:11 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand the argument that elected representatives in the national legislature should be paid mediocre salaries or the average national income etc. and shouldn't be helped with living expenses in the national capital.

A lot of politicians don't do a very good job of communicating what it is they do all day.

I have one of those "TheyWorkForYou" e-mail alerts set up any time he speaks in parliament. He's spoken 13 times in the last year. I've written to him - and got a form letter from a staffer. I've asked him to vote - sorry, longstanding constituency commitments. I've asked him to sign early day motions - Sorry, he doesn't believe in it. Committees? One siting in 2008, before that, 2005. He consistently votes with his party, so I don't think he's spending lots of time worrying about how he's going go vote.

I'm mystified as to what this guy is doing all day.

The simplest thing to do, if you're an MP who wants your constituents to respect you, is to work hard to earn your salary and make sure your constituents know about it.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:29 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really dislike this idea that anyone who wants to go into politics is a vicious, greedy, piece of shit. I think this perception also pushes out a lot of good people.

Agreed. This seems like as good a time as any to post my favorite Vaclav Havel quotation again:

"Despite the political distress I face every day, I am still deeply convinced that politics is not essentially a disreputable business, and to the extent that it is, it is only disreputable people who make it so. I would concede that it can, more than other spheres of human activity, tempt one to disreputable practices, and that it therefore places higher demands on people. But it is simply not true that a politician must lie or intrigue. That is utter nonsense spread by people who -- for whatever reason -- wish to discourage others from taking an interest in political affairs."
posted by naoko at 4:38 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have recently begun an extensive search of Hansard to see how exactly my own nominal representative in the federal government sees fit to represent me.

Doesn't theyworkforyou not already do that?

I really dislike this idea that anyone who wants to go into politics is a vicious, greedy, piece of shit.

A lie that has been peddled by rightwing news media for decades now and is also a reason why people don't trust politicians: because they've been lied to about them for so long.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:44 AM on January 4, 2013


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