Middle-aged, white man belongs to a privileged elite of British society, he studied in prestigious colleges (possibly Eton) and can afford to spend tens of thousands of pounds out of his own pocket for the election campaign. Most often he had a dysfunctional education.
Usually it is a person not suitable to fill the role entrusted to him, because selected by a party committee that blindly executes the directives imposed from above, without verifying the real capabilities of the subject. The female presence in parliament is still very low, women are certainly disadvantaged, if they have families they are looked at badly, if they are single they are looked at with suspicion.
How to become a member of parliament
The first step is to join a political party and actively engage in participating in events, conferences and banquets. Then you must be chosen by a special committee as a local candidate for your party and finally be voted on and win the seat of your constituency.
You don’t necessarily have to be rich to get into politics, but it certainly helps. Candidacy for parliament involves a huge expenditure of time, money, energy. Even at a personal and family level, the cost is high: many times the price to pay is the loss of the partner.
In the selection interviews, questions are asked to understand how the candidate intends to carry out the election campaign, not to verify if he can be a good legislator and if he will be able to manage the amount of work once he has entered parliament.
A candidate’s job is to make sure that as many people as possible know his name and party; parties set targets in terms of voters to contact and number of passages in the local media.
Working in Westminster
Westminster Bubble is the term that defines the isolation of the British political world and its lack of understanding of the needs of the electorate. A new member who enters this bubble is shocked by multiple factors:
- the vastness of Westminster: inside there is literally everything;
- months may pass before having a private office to work in;
- there is no formal documentation explaining how to carry out the various activities;
- parliament is a dysfunctional place: you can spend hours and hours arguing about nothing and appear very busy without concluding anything;
- the sudden and continuous media exposure;
- the language of the House of Commons, difficult for a newly elected to understand. You can grimace, make the most varied sounds, wave sheets, but you cannot applaud as a sign of approval: it is considered offensive;
- the general atmosphere of the chamber during the Prime Minister Questions, when the Prime Minister answers questions from parliament every Wednesday. Screams, gestacci and such a confusion that unsettles and annoys anyone.
Get out of the bubble
MEPs are engaged on two fronts: legislation and service in the places where they were elected. They spend most of their time listening to and solving the problems of ordinary people within their constituency during the weekly reception hours.
Being able to meet people and help them is a source of great satisfaction for many of them, even if it is an activity scarcely considered and advertised in the media.
A question arises: wouldn’t it be better if these politicians spent more time on legislative activity, guaranteeing the country good laws that can improve people’s lives? Would there not therefore be less problems to be solved locally and therefore less time to devote to the circumscriptions? Wouldn’t it all go smoother?
A member of parliament cannot be a good legislator
Four days a week members of parliament are in Westminster with the aim of carefully examining the laws that are being proposed. In reality they do nothing but obey the directives of the party group leaders on the positions to be held.
A well-concerted theater, in which there are those who take the opportunity to write greeting cards and reply to emails, rather than paying attention and participating in the debate. Very often, MPs don’t even know the content of the laws they’re voting for. They must not be excellent legislators, but knowing how to keep themselves out of trouble: better to attract the public’s attention by participating in meaningless parliamentary activities, than to scrupulously examine the laws.
It is very difficult for a parliamentarian to change a bill once it is presented in parliament, because the ego of the government comes into play, which cannot admit that it was wrong, even in the face of a bad law. Usually, voting against the government means voting against your professional growth prospects.
The real goal
There is no culture in parliament that rewards good lawmakers. Farsighted parliamentarians aim to be part of the executive, while serious ones who scrutinize the laws are seen as eccentric.
Those in politics want to become ministers as soon as possible and this for various reasons, such as greater attention from the media and the sector of competence, more staff at their service, a higher salary and more career prospects outside the government. For particularly ambitious MPs, the first step towards the executive is to become a minister’s private secretary, you are not paid, but if you are lucky, you can better understand ministerial work.
Once they become ministers, politicians are often disappointed. Removed the initial excitement, as in all jobs, the harsh reality arrives, which entails another office to manage, many more commitments and little more prestige than before. The most important thing for a minister is to always be in the spotlight, to make noise, to work well is not enough: we need to let everyone know, always show busy and full of commitments to be credible.
Obviously, if you are a woman, the public will scrutinize you with more attention and suspicion, perhaps looking for signs of incompetence or inadequacy in your gaze.
The private life of an MP is at risk
According to most divorced MPs, the reason for their separation is attributable to the work they do. A sure way to make a marriage fail is to enter parliament.
There are those who decide to move the family to the constituency of reference, to keep loved ones away from the chaos of London and to demonstrate to the electorate the sense of belonging towards their community. This juggling between different and perhaps distant places can transform stable and happy marriages into something terribly tiring to carry on.
The parliamentarian’s job involves many hours spent in solitude until late in the evening, waiting for the votes. Often, to deceive the wait, we meet for an aperitif, and on these occasions many extramarital relationships are born. Parliament is known for its sexual scandals, particularly that of 2017, when an exorbitant number of politicians were charged with abuse and harassment.
All this is not only a consequence of the endless hours spent in the bubble , but also of the availability of bright, attractive, often adoring young collaborators who work in the same office as the parliamentarian, always available and sensitive to the charm of power.
Numerous scandals have revealed a lack of human resources in parliament: the victims do not know where to turn, they have no one to ask for advice. The negative impact of parliamentary life also sometimes affects children, who can suffer comments from classmates and teachers at school about the most despised working class in the country.
A stressful job that facilitates alcoholism and mental disorders
One type of relationship that is strengthened once you enter Westminster is certainly the one with the bottle and few seem immune from this vice. Although steps have been taken to stem this problem (cameras, family friendly working hours , closing of some bars in Westminster), there is still a long way to go.
We drink in the evening to deceive the wait for the vote, we drink at lunch while chatting with a colleague. Alcohol is often a remedy for curing stress and discomfort.
The continued exposure that politicians have to criticism, threats and harassment makes them particularly vulnerable, especially those who are honest and try to do their job well. They are people constantly seeking public approval, often suffering from mental disorders. Yet those who represent the population in parliament must be perfectly lucid and enjoy good physical and mental health.
For this there is a team of doctors and nurses to whom the parliamentarians can refer for treatment and advice; mindfulness courses and behavior therapy sessions are organized .
What happens when you exit the bubble
The life of the MP is not easy, it is a job that is better to do at the end of an interesting career or as an intermediate experience in one’s professional life to move towards more rewarding and fulfilling realities.