Advice for "Labour's next generation"
There have been a few articles from Labour activists who have ambitions of becoming MPs, about how they would act differently if they were MPs. There's nothing particularly wrong with what they are saying, and some of them are people who I know, like and respect. But the idea that this is 'Labour's next generation' makes me profoundly uneasy.
For a start, I agree with Hopi when he writes that:
"when “Labour’s next generation” put themselves forwards as voices of their community, I’d like to hear more about what the community really wants and less about the views of the next generation."
But more than that, one big problem with the current Parliamentary Labour Party, and particularly the ministers, is that they are part of a separate political class, and hardly any of them have ever had a 'proper job'. So what of the Next Generation? One of their number, Will Straw, responded to this criticism by writing that:
"It is a fallacy to suggest that the only people intent on parliamentary careers are from the so-called "political class." To pick a few examples of up and coming politicians, Sadiq Khan MP, David Lammy MP, and Chuka Umunna (Labour PPC for Streatham) were all lawyers while Rachel Reeves (PPC Leeds West) worked for the Bank of England, and Stella Creasy (PPC Walthamstow) worked for a social enterprise."
Five examples, three lawyers, a banker and someone who worked for a think tank, all but one of whom worked in London. And these are the ones that apparently aren't from the "political class". Will is a bright guy, but this is a pretty feeble rebuttal. (To be fair, there are a few better examples of his point).
My advice, for what it's worth, to anyone who is currently on the career path of student politics->parliamentary researcher->think tank/NGO/equivalent and who is planning the next step of trying to become an MP on their way to the top is sort of Maoist.
They'll do a much better job for the Labour Party and be much more effective if they spend the next few years doing a job which doesn't involve living in London and mixing with the current and future elite. Quit the job at Progress or wherever, stop hanging out just with people who watch Prime Ministers' Questions every week and listen to the Today Programme and get a proper job somewhere outside of London.
It's well and good making pledges not to thieve from the public purse if elected, but if Labour's Next Generation of MPs suffers from the same narrow social mix, Group Think and limited experience of the world outside of London as the current one, it will be doomed to repeat many of the same mistakes.
David Miliband and Ed Balls are very bright and in many ways very effective. But they would be much better politicians and have more experience (and be less toe-curlingly awfully at communicating) if Miliband had spent a couple of years managing a Tesco's in South Shields or Balls working as a housing officer in West Yorkshire.
If that doesn't persuade the Next Generation, perhaps an appeal to self interest will. By doing this, they will get an advantage over those of their rivals who chose to stay members of the political class for their whole careers. After all, the reason why Alan Johnson is being touted as Labour's next leader is because he used to be a postman.
Or slightly further afield, they might like to consider the example of an ambitious young man chose to take a couple of years after university working out in the provinces with people who will never be part of the elite before going back to rejoin the political class. After all, he turned that experience into a major part of his successful campaign to become President of the United States of America.