Why We Get the Wrong Politicians | Isabel Hardman

Summary of: Why We Get the Wrong Politicians
By: Isabel Hardman


In ‘Why We Get the Wrong Politicians’, Isabel Hardman explores the United Kingdom’s flawed political system and how it contributes to the dissatisfaction citizens feel towards their elected representatives. By examining the undemocratic process of selecting MP candidates, the high costs of running for election, and the difficulties faced by newly elected MPs, this book seeks to shed light on the factors that lead to underqualified or disinterested politicians. Furthermore, it highlights how the political culture and the confusing lawmaking process in the UK often result in inadequate laws and unaccountable politicians. This summary will provide an overview of these challenges and the potential reforms needed to create a more effective and fair political system.

Flaws in the UK Political System

The way political parties select their MP candidates in the UK is completely undemocratic and flawed. The process is controlled by a small selection panel, which is usually unrepresentative and deters many talented, less well-off individuals from entering government. Even if selected, candidates must bear the prohibitively expensive cost of running for an election, which is not subsidised by their party. This flawed system needs to be transformed to make the UK political system more accessible and representative.

Mental Health and Politics

The Palace of Westminster, where Parliament is situated, is a difficult work environment for politicians, with no induction training programmes. This environment exacerbates mental illness to the point that medical teams in the Palace of Westminster are now funded to administer psychiatric treatments. In addition, politicians have to endure internet trolling. Mental health issues in politicians are significant as they could hinder their ability to work competently, and in turn, discourage talented people from taking up politics as a career choice.

The Reality of an MP’s Job

Most people have a limited understanding of what politicians do. Contrary to popular belief, an MP’s primary responsibility isn’t just creating and analyzing laws; it’s representing the interests of their constituency. Holding surgeries in the local area, where constituents can meet their MP, discussing local issues and asking for assistance in solving problems, is considered a crucial component in an MP’s job. In fact, the majority of an MP’s time is spent interacting with their constituents. While this work is considered an essential part of an MP’s job by voters, it’s often ignored by the media. However, many MPs find the work rewarding, recognizing the positive impact it has on people’s lives. Yet, we must consider if this is the best use of an MP’s time, given their skillset and responsibility in making and scrutinizing the country’s laws. It’s also worth asking why the country’s social safety net is so weak that it requires intervention from MPs to solve personal crises caused by bad legislation.

UK Lawmaking: A Game of Partisan Politics

The UK lawmaking process is complicated, long-winded and inefficient, and the parliamentary whipping system is a major culprit. While the process offers plenty of opportunities for debate and scrutiny, party whips manipulate the system to prioritize loyalty over expertise, turning lawmakers into partisan puppets. This summary walks through the passage of a bill in the UK, highlighting the various stages and the role of MPs in scrutinizing legislation, while also exposing how the process is hijacked by partisan interests to the detriment of objective lawmaking.

The Power of Select Committees

The UK Parliament’s select committees, made up of Members of Parliament (MPs) from different parties, have become a force for good. Unlike other areas of Parliament, select committees have the power to examine departmental spending, question high-ranking ministers on policies, and order inquiries into issues with bills before they are voted on. MPs on select committees act as serious legislators and are encouraged to ask tough questions, making party loyalty disapproved of in this setting. However, select committees cannot prevent all governmental blunders, as was seen in the case of George Osborne’s “Omnishambles Budget.” The problem lies in a toxic culture in Parliament where politicians are out of touch with ordinary people. Financial barriers prevent many aspiring politicians from running as MPs, but Osborne failed to seek different perspectives and consult with ordinary citizens when making policies. The power lies in select committees and their ability to provide a different and valuable perspective to policymaking.

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