Recent discussions have caused me to think about what I consider to be the job of an elected Member of Parliament.
I should preface my remarks by saying I have never been a member of a political party. I was a union member when a government employee. Perhaps those things are relevant, perhaps not.
Wikipedia describes politics as the practice and theory of influencing other people, hierarchical control over a human community, the distribution of power and resources within a given community.
It goes on to describe the variety of methods employed in politics, which include promoting one’s own political views among people, negotiation with other political subjects, making laws, and exercising force, including warfare against adversaries.
Perhaps that is the real definition of politics – influence, control and power.
Googling “politician job description” led me to a job site which talked about why you might choose politics as a career.
Many high-ranking politicians also find lucrative consultancy roles once they’ve left the world of politics.
Plenty of perks in this job; good pay, varied days, plenty of career prospects and a long summer break.
Many politicians have been actively involved from a young age so it’s never too early to start.
Routes into politics include:
Working as a political researcher
Working as a politician’s assistant
Working as a trade union activist
Politicians are an eclectic bunch and this career attracts folk from every walk of life. However, to survive the choppy waters of politics you’ll need:
Bags of determination
Plenty of self-belief
A passion for current affairs (if you don’t watch the news this isn’t the career for you)
The ability to stay calm under pressure
Top-notch communication skills
and you’ll also need to be a confident public speaker so there’s no time to be a wallflower.
By this time I was getting a rather sour taste in my mouth for “politics” and decided to move on to Parliament.
On a government page called “About the House of Representatives” it said:
Each Member represents an electoral division.
I think that is important. Every person sitting in that chamber was elected by the people whose area they represent presumably because of the belief that they can best represent their interests. Whether they be local, national, or global interests, the majority of the electorate chose that person to represent their vote.
The House’s central function and the one which takes up most of its time is the consideration and passing of new laws and amendments or changes to existing laws. Any Member can introduce a proposed law (bill).
Any member, of either house, may introduce a bill. I know that to get anything passed it has to be passed by a majority in both houses but members are elected to represent their constituents, not their parties, and they should always vote in their electorate’s best interests. Sharman Stone’s vociferous support for SPC Ardmona was an admirable example of someone fighting for her constituents rather than parroting the party line. Every vote should be a conscience vote rather than a direction of how to vote from a factional leader.
Represents the people—Members may present petitions from citizens and raise citizens’ concerns and grievances in debate. Members also raise issues of concern with Ministers and government departments.
Watching Question Time gives a very poor representation of what Parliament is about but a very good one of what politics is all about. Sharman Stone dismissively described it on Q&A as “a stage for the men to perform their theatrics”. Committees are much more interesting and you even sometimes find things out there as opposed to someone trying to make the nightly news with a one-liner. Televising them rather than QT would be a much better way of informing the public of both sides of a debate.
My personal view is that every elected Member of Parliament should spend their term in office listening, learning, questioning, and then, on the basis of the expert advice available to them, proposing solutions to the problems facing our nation and voting to steer us in the right direction.
But unfortunately, our Members of Parliament see themselves as politicians rather than public servants and are more concerned with their career path than the path of our country. It’s all about the next election.