I was thinking about more party reforms that Ed Miliband could pursue, and especially what kind of people we want to be Labour MPs.
There are well known barriers to becoming an MP for some groups and Labour has taken the most steps to address under-representation – most obviously through all women shortlists, which have resulted in Labour having more women MPs than all the other parties put together.
The Tories have tried, but with less success with their derided A-list of bright young things, who ‘get’ the Cameron project.
To become an MP requires in most instances years of steady hard work, dedicated campaigning, attempts at an unwinnable seat or two, a lot of time, supportive friends and family and much more. It’s unsurprising really that given these demands politics is becoming more professionalised. People who already work in politics-related jobs are most likely to understand the processes and are likely to have employers sympathetic to their ambitions and give them the time they need.
So do we need more people in Parliament who have done different things in life and perhaps have had a career in business, local government, the health service, housing associations and charities, before entering parliament? The truth is if you have a serious job in any of these fields, you’re going to find it hard to put in the time to devote yourself professionally to winning a seat. Some do, and great credit to them.
So could we have a Labour A-list that supports experienced people onto the Labour benches? People who know how to run things and led serious organisations and have not made professional party politics their lives.
Potentially this would add gravitas to the PLP, probably make for more independent-minded MPs, provide a greater pool of people who would make good ministers (they’ve run things) and widen the pool of talent and expertise from which we draw.
Not directly housing related I know – but I got started on this thinking about the people I know in the housing world. Many in local government, housing associations and housing charities were politically engaged on the left at some point, but chose to pursue their politics through a public service route, to the exclusion of elected politics. It would be good if it were easier for them to bring their skills and experience back into politics later in their careers, rather than being forced to make one choice at an early stage.