How well would you expect a brain surgeon to be qualified? What about the engineer who designs the bridge you are about to cross – you hope rather better than just a pass (one statistic I found says less than 9% of Honours Degree students get more than 70%). So how about the people who are supposed to determine our national policies?
In teh great row over MP’s expenses, it has been suggested that the system was lax in order to bolster their actual pay, and some point to sums paid to managers in other disciplines as justification for much better renumeration.
There is no actual requirement for anyone putting themselves up for election to have a clue about what they are letting themselves in for or that they have any skills to actually deliver on the promises they make during the election process. Many just do not know where to start and spend weeks or months simply getting the ‘feel’ of the system.
Of course, that used to be the case in football coaching. Frequently it was ex players who fancied staying with the game after their days of athletic performance came to an end. Now the UK is catching up with the rest of Europe, by insisting that coaches have taken a course and achieved a formal qualification (though one or two clubs still try to get someone in who is still taking the course).
The point of this argument is not to restrict parliamentary entry to high performing individuals with degrees in politics. It is, however, to say that if you are going to drive something as significant as the economy, legislation and all the public services that are guided by the steering wheel of parliament then at least you should have passed a basic driving test.
It is not sufficient that many would be candidates have done ‘apprenticeships’ in local government or constituency politics. Not only is the scale different, but so are the systems and accountabilities.
The scary realisation is that within a governing party, individuals are chosen to be heads of major departments and even switched to other specialisations during a ‘reshuffle’ on some very dubious grounds. It cannot necessarily be proven absolutely but a dominant motive seems to be a pay-off for long term support or other policical favours.
Judging by the mess we are in as a country, we need a better quality of leadership, and that does not translate into one more changing the party in power and waiting the usual period for the next lot to mess it all up and make us want a change at the top.
Who would design such a qualification? Who would deliver the education? Who would mark the exams? Yes, there are interesting questions to pursue but isn’t it worth a good deal of national debate?