Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 20/12/21

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind...Out Of Touch?

Sorry chums, it's another politics post hard on the heels of the last one. I'll try to make this the last one for the year.

(Oh, and as I'm here today, happy birthday, Dad!)

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to read (or rather skim, as it was all very predictable) a piece in either the Gurniad or the inthebindependent, I don't remember which...

(It probably wasn't the windy, because their website is such a jumble that finding anything on it requires a team of bearers and half a dozen machetes.)

...in which someone from the ranks of the insufferably self-important (a large demographic in what passes for newspaper 'journalism' today) was complaining about how out of touch the denizens of the Malice of Wastewater appear to be vis-à-vis the 'ordinary people' of Greater Gammonia (with whom the scribe would be familiar as being those exotic creatures they bump into as they come out of Pretty Mangy, or whatever that overblown butty bar is called).

Well - as Mrs. Gamp would say - "Who deniges of it, Betsey?". It has become increasingly obvious over the last thirty years or so that - more, I would aver, than at any previous time, and certainly since the establishment of something roughly approximating to democracy on this island - that what is customarily termed 'politics' (a definition which seems to include politicians, panjandra and other whores but not 'ordinary people') has become the preserve of the professional classes and particularly of a species of obsessive with very narrow focus. Almost fanatics, in fact.

Knowing this in my bones, but wanting - out of a desire both to provide factual analysis and to cover my arse (in which second factor I am at least isomorphic with our self-described 'leaders'), I thought I'd do a bit of yer actual research before venturing onto the screen.

There were two aspects of this I wanted to address: the first being a long-standing bugbear of mine, namely how many (or few) MPs were born in the constituencies they now claim to represent; and secondly, how many of all 650 of them attained a university education. These are to my mind the key determinants in how connected an MP may be to his/her 'ordinary people'.

So I went to it over a period of a few days with my LibreOffice spreadsheet and Wikipedia to collate the necessary info.

(I think it only fair to disclaim a high degree of accuracy in what follows: the information on Wikipedia is not always comprehensive in either category of enquiry, so it's as much intuition as my famously off-beam election predictions. You Have Been Warned!)

The final scores indicated the following:

All in all, this is not remotely impressive, and these figures should be borne in mind whenever some politico-media arse opposes a fair voting system by claiming that it would "...break the historic link between an MP and his constituency". Such an assertion was always bollocks on a plinth, and the numbers more than bear that out.

On to the graduate class now, as I wanted to see whether the perception that most MPs have been to university had any grounding in fact.

It does. Hell on a stick, it most certainly does! To such a degree (ho, ho!) that the House of Commons should - in the name of accuracy - re-name itself the Junior Common Room.

Out of the 650 fellows of the College of Corporate Catamites, no fewer than 495 (a whopping 76.2%) have a university degree. In party terms (largest four parties only), they rank as follows:

Of the rest, Plaid Cymru (four out of four), Alliance (one out of one) and Green (ditto) match the LibDems in having a full house (probably of multiple occupation).

The second breakdown regards exactly which seats of higher learning were attended by all these people. The general perception is that most went to one of two or three universities, and guess which ones?

Well, I can confirm again that that image is correct. Of the 495, the top four are as follows:

In other words, over a quarter of all the graduate MPs emerged from that fabled Golden Triangle. Add in another thirteen from the likes of Brunel and Oxford Brookes, and that's over a third from within that gilded sector bounded by the sacred rivers of the Thames and the Cam.

There's one more sub-category which is even more significant than mere geographical spread, and that's one of which subjects most studied. Here, I have confined myself to stated first-degree subjects (as much as could be ascertained), and have had to be a little broad in my apportioning of those who took Joint Honours. The overall picture is still accurate enough for our purposes here.

So, what would you think are the four subject areas found most among our cohort?

Yes, you were right:

That's more than half of all of the total grads with degrees in just four subjects. And it is in this area that it becomes apparent how useless university is in preparing people for a productive and useful life thereafter. I mean, what does it say about the quantity and quality of a higher education in these four subject groups when its products:

Is it any wonder that we find ourselves where we are today, ruled by groups of people who have known little outside the bubbles of their own obsessive ideologies and interests and who have seldom if ever done what Big Graham In Your Local Bus Queue would describe as 'a proper job'?

There are ways to solve this, of course. But, as with the proposals for 'federalism' which I dealt with a few months ago, they will founder on the rock-strewn coast of Westminster's complete inability - due to inertia and entrenched privilege - even to countenance the possibility of meaningful reform.

But I'll give my solutions anyway. The effort must be made.

The first problem is quite easy to sort out; you make it unlawful for anyone to stand for election in a constituency unless they have lived in it for a minimum of five years prior to polling day as the location of their sole or primary residence. Whether a property is their primary residence would be determined on the same basis as residence in the so-called UK for tax purposes: a minimum of 182 days in each of the five years in question. And 'flipping' will not be allowed either before or - if elected - after election; the same limitation will apply to any subsequent re-election bid.

The second issue is, of course, a thornier matter to resolve. Clearly it would be neither practical nor equitable to set a quota of the maximum percentage of the House which could comprise graduates. One might be able to ameliorate the excesses of the university > political job > parliament pipeline by insisting that - again, for the five years prior to standing - potential candidates would have to work outside of politics and the politically-connected networks. So, for instance, the following jobs could be verboten:

The above list is by no means exhaustive (and 'being employed' would include being engaged as a self-employed consultant); you may well have categories of exclusion in mind for consideration. But even with a short selection, I think it could be said that it would force potential candidates to get a job outside of the circle-jerking clique currently in office whose political equivalent of incest would put the Tennessee mountains to shame. It might also open the doors for more people who had actually done a 'proper job' - as defined by Big Graham above -.to get into office and bring a greater degree of grounding in reality to the proceedings.

Nothing, of course, will actually change; the whole system is set up to obstruct even the most marginal of genuine improvements. But if we do not imagine better than we have - however futile those imaginings may be in terms of likelihood - then we will not only see no change of any sort short of an actual violent revolution, but we will deserve the stagnation and ossification which will be the inevitable consequences of that inaction.