Brian Jenner runs a blog on the subject of speechwriting.
Nietzsche said, "Insanity in individuals is something rare — but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule." As usual he was on to something. Why, in recent British history, have political parties lost the plot to such a degree after electoral defeat that it takes them nearly a decade to marshal collective wisdom and get the show back on the road?
Maybe parties need some collective psychotherapy. Lefties love their counselling, Tories don’t think they need it. Examining your own personal weaknesses and vulnerabilities is very un-Conservative. Isn’t it about time that changed? Do you want to pursue a career in politics? Examine your motivations. Here are some reasons why it might not be a good idea.
1) Because My Relationship Isn’t Working Out
C Northcote Parkinson said, "Men enter local politics solely as a result of being unhappily married." He could have added women, gays and people with no relationship at all do it for similar reasons. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just be aware of it as a phenomenon.
2) As A Source Of Income
If you have an income and you want to diversify your activities, that’s fine. But if politics is likely to be your only source of income, what’s to stop you becoming a complete sycophant? Holding political office is likely to diminish your employability, not enhance it.
3) To Please My Mum
Thomas Szasz says, "As a parent, perhaps the most important message
you must convey to your daughter or son is: ‘Listen to your inner voice
and trust it. Listen to and learn from others but never let them
undermine your confidence in your own judgement".It’s far more important to consult with your partner before embarking on a political career.
4) To Save The Nation/The World
Misunderstood by your peers? Are you a prophet in the wilderness? Do
you love quoting that story when Winston was going to the Palace – "My
whole life has prepared me for this moment…". Tony Blair has got this
problem. Politics is a job. After five years in public office, people
get sick of you and you lose sight of the reasons why you were elected
in the first place. You are replaceable and you are fallible. Keep that
in mind and you will always be sane and worthy of respect.
5) To Change The World
This is subtly different to the ‘save’ the world syndrome. You can
change the world in infinitesimal ways. To believe you can become a
transformational character is dangerous. There are many ways to be
influential in politics without being an MP or a local councillor. If
you are angry, if your utterances peppered with ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’,
if you have apocalyptic fears – beware – you’re the one falling to bits
– the world is getting along just fine.
6) Public Service…Duty
This is the favourite of public schoolboys, Oxbridge types and
people who write for the Daily Telegraph. It’s often utter humbug,
masking romantic megalomania or snobbery. Politics is a well-paid job
with status. Being paid a fortune in the private sector doesn’t provide
half the ego delights. If you’re successful, carry on being successful
– creating jobs and paying your taxes is a great way to serve society.
You don’t need to step into the quagmire that is public office.
7) Because I Am A Fraudster/Fantasist/Criminal
Why are dishonest people attracted to politics? Can election wipe
away the stain? Or does it provide the rollercoaster of excitement as
you risk being found out? The healthy way to deal with this problem is
to be open about your fraud/fantasy/crime before you stand for office.
8) Because It Will Raise The Profile Of My Business
This motivation is sure to create conflicts of interest. In politics
you have to do a load of boring, token things that reassure people and
achieve nothing. Why bother?
9) Because I’ve Got A Burning Single Issue
Let’s say you are passionately opposed to the welfare state and find
yourself fulminating and intellectualizing about it to anyone who will
listen. That’s fine. But if you don’t have a job and enjoy a fine
lifestyle thanks to a rich partner, maybe it’s not society. Maybe it’s
you. Your ‘single issue’ is just a manifestation of your own
10) To Solve People’s Problems
Tony Banks said, "I went into politics to solve problems, but then
you realise after 22 years that you can’t bloody solve them". New
solutions breed new problems. Mrs Thatcher’s decisive interventions
seemed like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect, maybe the
changes would have happened anyway. It’s unhelpful to look up to
There is hope. In the Psychology of Military Intelligence, Norman
Dixon lists the characteristics of outstanding individuals who are
motivated towards professional excellence. One trait is, "A greater
readiness to volunteer for psychological experiments". Another is:
"Greater activity in the institution or community of which they are a
member". It’s a sign of psychological health and intelligence.