Out of government in to government

18/06/2010

Kiwiblog has a pie chart from Senate Communications’ breakdown of the primary occupations of MPs before they entered parliament.

Agriculture: National 12% Labour 0

Business :National 27% Labour 7%

Education: National 5% Labour 16%

Government::  National 19% Labour 28%

Health:  National 9% Labour 7%

Law:  National 16% Labour 7%

Other:  National 12% Labour 16%

Unions: National 0 Labour 19%

Not every MP will fit comfortably into a single box, for example lawyers and health professionals might also be considered business people; and someone who came from local government may well have had experience in the real world before or as well as being on a council.

Also I’m not sure what Damion O’Conner did immediately before he entered politics but I think he was a dairy farmer at one time.

However, those provisos aside, it’s very easy to see from this why Labour appears to have so little appreciation of business in general and agriculture in particular.

It also shows why too many have a cavalier regard for other people’s money.

Bryce Edward’s comment (@11 22) sums that  up:

This information shows how today’s MPs are increasingly “professional politicians” and are therefore more inclined to be interested in the personal remuneration and perks that come from what they regard as a “career” rather than a “duty”. Previously, MPs virtually all came from backgrounds where they had been in “proper/real” occupations and careers – Labour MPs were often wage workers, and National MPs were very frequently farmers, lawyers and in other middle-income professions. This situation has shifted enormously, and now there is – as we see in this report – a much greater likelihood of MPs coming into parliament at an earlier age and only having experience in “the political world” of lobbying, local government, PR, parliamentary research jobs, etc. So they regard their time as MPs as being part of a career path in which you try to maximise your remuneration and take advantage of the perquisites of what you regard as a “job” even though the public still consider you to be in service of the “public life” and hence don’t particularly like it when they grasp all the material comforts that they can get. So this partly explains the increased propensity for what is often called “troughing”.

Commenting on the findings Senate Communications says:

The survey by government relations specialists Senate Communications shows that almost a quarter of MPs have worked primarily in government or local government roles before entering Parliament. This has jumped from 15 percent in a similar survey six years ago.

What’s more, one third of MPs have worked in a political or bureaucratic role at some time in their lives.

Senate’s Government Relations Partner, Mark Blackham, says the result shows that for an increasing number of MPs, the world of government is their main life experience.

“The days are virtually over where people enter politics to fix things they find wrong in ordinary life. Now, they are more likely to enter government or party politics at a young age as a career move.

“The growth of bureaucracy and political interest groups allows many more people to find long term employment inside the world of national politics.

“MMP has strengthened the ability of political parties to keep their preferred MPs in Parliament – so MPs can choose to make politics a lifetime career.

“This means that the rarefied environment of politics is the main experience they draw on when making decisions,” Mr Blackham said.

That isn’t healthy for good governance or democracy.

Countering the trend toward more professionals soaked in government experience, is a parallel growth in „jacks-of-all-trades‟. Sixteen percent of MPs have had such a wide variety of jobs that is hard to categorise them as having one dominant career. This number has almost doubled over the past two elections. The span of work is often surprising – from stable hands to television presenters.

“These MPs are more likely to have had a wider experience of lifestyles and people, and are more likely to be innovators and self-starters,” Mr Blackham said.

“Innovators in Parliament have a fight on their hands against a trend that is turning Western politics into a kind of nation management-by-numbers,” he said.

The trouble is that so many of the people with skills which are needed in parliament are too busy applying them in other endeavours where they get better financial returns and don’t have to put up with the many downsides of political life.


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