I am possibly one of the worst people you could ever vote for.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be an MP.  Despite all the bad press of late, I still think it’s a cool job with a huge amount of kudos, deference from others, and absolutely fascinating to boot. However, as an MP, I’d be much more in the Alan B’Stard mould than Tony Benn.  In short, I’d be doing it for all the wrong reasons.  Just look at the terrible airbrushed photo above for proof, if you need it.

I know a few politicians, mainly at Local Councillor level, and can’t believe the amount of time, effort, and concern for their constituents they invest into the job.  Politics at that level appears to me to have all the disadvantages, and none of the perks.  Honestly, why do they even bother?  It’s a pretty thankless task, takes every waking hour to do it well, and even then barely anyone notices.

If I were a politician, I’d only be doing it for totally self-serving reasons.  In fact, the same self-serving reasons that most people employ as voters.  Let’s face it, most voters rarely exercise their franchise for the benefit of anyone other than themselves, and those close to them.  As voters, we want less tax for ourselves, and more for others, more money for our own local schools, hospitals, police and civic services.  Perhaps it’s only natural to think of ourselves before others, especially from the anonymity of the ballot box. Then again, maybe I’m being a bit harsh.  There may be an equally large proportion of people who cast their vote according to what they think is best for other people (whether they want it or not.  Whether it be reducing the welfare state, tax breaks for the wealthy, compulsory private health and education, or renationalisation of some institutions.

Chief amongst those policies are those that deal with the punishment of criminal offenders.  Society seems to be agreed that harder punishment equates to longer sentences, and politicians then vie to be seen as taking the hardest line.  If I was a politician, I’d look to get offenders out of jail as soon as possible, having squeezed more punishment into a shorter sentence, and thereby getting them back on the streets in a reformed state as soon as possible.  Surely it can’t be impossible to find quicker ways to enforce a sentence, and get better results?  If human-rights legislation dictates that they should have access to TV’s, can’t we restrict the channels to CBBC and the Discovery Channel.  I think a diet of Norm Abram’s New Yankee Workshop and Tellytubbies could work wonders.

OK, maybe I’ve not thought this through fully, but this is another example of why you should not vote for me.  My own MP is also a neighbour of mine, several doors down, and whilst I don’t vote for him, I firmly believe that he is a good man, and conscientiously applies himself to an extremely hard job with a dedication I could never muster.  Now I’m positive this can’t be said of all 4,000 odd candidates for the 650 available parliamentary seats, but I’m pretty sure the bad ones won’t attract too many votes.  There will of course be anomalies, certainly if the BNP prosper, but collectively I believe we get the MP’s we deserve.

It’s entirely understandable that so few of us are motivated sufficiently to enter public service.  It’s an enormous burden, and takes a peculiar combination of skills and motivations.  Whilst not exactly heroic, I think they deserve huge credit for what they do.  What the rest of us can do, at the very least, is to take a short walk on Thursday, make an X in the appropriate box of our choice, and take a little interest in the result.  Every vote counts.

PS. I’m not normally as handsome as this.  The heavily airbrushed pic of me above was done with free software here.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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