Veteran Labour MP Denis MacShane had a good think, and decided that the way to fix all that ails Britain is to introduce a draconian new method of social engineering. The BBC reports:
Only people on the minimum wage should be allowed to stand for Parliament in 10% of seats to make politics more representative, a Labour MP has said.
Denis MacShane said the backgrounds of MPs from all the main parties at Westminster had become far too narrow.
The backgrounds of MPs had become far too narrow? Seriously? I agree that there is a long way to go until the membership of the House of Commons comes remotely close to mirroring the population at large (if indeed this is even a desirable goal, which is questionable), but to suggest that we are moving backwards is surely pure lunacy? Has there ever been a time (the Blair Boom of 1997 aside) when the Commons has been more representative? And yet MacShane tries to convince us that a decades-long trend is underway, filling the Commons with wealthy landowners at the expense of everyone else.
Now, the BBC’s poor journalism makes it hard to divine exactly what Denis MacShane means. The BBC headline refers to “working class shortlists”, but the article only quotes MacShane advocating the idea that 10% of Parliamentary seats be reserved for those on the minimum wage. Both ideas are dumb, but it would be helpful if the BBC quoted MacShane properly, or at least came clean about what he is actually in favour of.
If a person earns 1p/hour above the minimum wage, would this render them ineligible to run for Parliament in those constituencies with “poverty shortlists”?
How would the Electoral Authority decide which parliamentary constituencies should have the shortlist? Would you select the wealthiest areas of the country, to stick it to all the rich suburbanites in Surrey and Kent, or let the “working man” represent his “own kind” by having the shortlists in traditionally lower-income constituencies such as my hometown of Harlow, Essex?
And if Denis MacShane literally means that 10% of Commons seats should be reserved for people who fall under the nebulous definition of “working class”, how are we going to define that? People on the minimum wage? People who did not go to university? People whose parents did not attend university? People who live in council housing? Does it depend on your accent, perhaps? Would I, as someone who grew up in a single parent household reliant on government benefits, be eligible to run as a “working class” candidate, even though I now earn a good salary?
What a useless contribution to the public debate.
How often do we hear politicians bemoaning the fact that their profession is “unrepresentative”, and expressing the hope that at some point (always indeterminately in the future) less people “like them” will hold the reins of power? Well, MacShane gives it to us again today:
Mr MacShane, an Oxford university graduate who worked as a journalist before becoming MP for Rotherham in 1994, said there needed to be fewer candidates with his kind of background in the future.
Feel free to do your part by resigning now to make way for the pilot scheme.