Saturday, 31 August 2013

Syria: A Crushing Defeat For The Political Class

The wonderful and unexpected news that the government was defeated over military action in Syria has yielded a number of fevered interpretations by the commentariat:

A victory for parliament!

A humiliation for David Cameron!
Yes, but not so grave as many think - whatever Cameron may be, he is capable of a certain class in the way he deports himself, and his courtesy in recalling parliament in the first place and subsequent graciousness in defeat commands some respect. What the defeat did indicate, however, was just how badly he has run down his own stock of political capital through dreadful mismanagement of his party.

A victory for Ed Miliband!

The End of The "Special Relationship"!
You can't destroy something that never existed. However, if it brings about the end of this pathetic delusion, then so much the better.

But long term, the biggest losers of all from the vote are the political class.

As we all know, in recent years ambitious men and women have increasingly used British politics not as a means of serving their country or even as a career on the national stage, but as a stepping stone for greater things. A number of ingenuous career paths have been mapped out:

  • The Warmongering Path (patent holder: Tony Blair).  Join an American-led war on the basis of lies and distortions and become a 'name' in that country as a result. Grow extremely rich on the back of exploiting your new-found international brand recognition.
  • The Corporate Path (patent holder: The Tory Party). The traditional way of acquiring riches post-politics for superannuated Tory politicians, this route long predates the rise of the political class and involves attaining a clutch of directorships on company boards from the personal network you built during your time in politics. However some of the abuses have grown ever more blatant in recent years.
  • The Soft Power Path (patent holder: D. Miliband). Be an ineffectual and bland office holder in a position like Foreign Secretary or foreign aid. Leave British politics for an international charity on a well-renumerated salary.
  • The Euro Path (patent holders: Roy Jenkins, Leon Brittan, Neil Kinnock, Chris Patten, Peter Mandelson). Another old favourite. After a spell in national politics go to the European Commission on a very fat salary and expense account. At one time this used to be regarded as a route for those who had failed at national politics but with the every growing power of the European Union it is increasingly regarded as a first-rank prize.  A variation of this route was piloted by one T. Blair who, after trying everything to get Britain to join the doomed Euro and dodge treaty referendums, fancied the job of President of Europe, mercifully without success.
  • The Spousal Path (patent holders: Tony and Cherie Blair). Marry a high-powered spouse and once in office enact legislation very helpful to their careers and therefore to family finances. The recent European imposition of gender quotas is actually designed with this in mind, but that is a story for another day.
The rejection of military action in Syria has effectively closed the warmongering career path to the political class. Sadly, as you can see above, many other highly lucrative routes still exist.

However, the political class route to fame and riches amongst the new international elite has one central point of weakness: namely, the tiresome necessity of first getting elected as an MP for a constituency you have little affinity or interest in but is a rock solid safe seat you can ignore for your entire parliamentary career.

The rise of UKIP is rapidly choking off this starting point to political careers, and this is by far the most significant event to effect the Political Class. As Donna Edmunds of this parish blogged yesterday, the concept of the safe seat is becoming a thing of the past. Sitting MPs are beginning to notice, and it would be very interesting to analyse how many Tory MPs representing East Anglian constituencies rebelled yesterday, where the UKIP threat is strongest. Ed Miliband's vacillation was similarly motivated by the piling up of UKIP votes in Labour constituencies where previously the vote for that party was weighed rather than counted.

It is not only sitting MPs who will be deeply concerned about the ominous trends: in party research departments somewhere in London, smooth young things will be noticing their careers prospects no longer seem quite so rosy. Whether or not UKIP does win any constituencies at the 2015 General Election really is a second order issue: far more significant will be the rapid decline in the number of 'red monkey' or 'blue poodle' constituencies, where quite literally you could put up a monkey or a dog up as a candidate and it would get elected as long as it was wearing the right coloured rosette. Because of this enormous shift, MP's will be absolutely forced to represent their constituents rather than their parties or careers. Politics will once again be a very risky career to enter into, increasingly left to those who really believe in public service and go into it with passion and conviction.  The hated Political Class looks to be entering decline.

It is tempting for us in UKIP to congratulate ourselves on our undoubtedly major contribution in bringing this about, but we should not so complacent. Up and down the land, those bright and calculating young things will also be noting UKIP's rise and wondering how best to hitch themselves to our wagon. Sooner or later, we will become infected by the chancers, carpet-baggers and unsavoury careerists that have collectively brought down the other parties. Indeed, the process has probably already begun.