Our politicians often become the brunt of criticism and sometimes have abuse hurled their way. We all like to stick the knife in as they continually make us grind our teeth and shout at the television. Still, there are always people who aspire to these lofty heights, so if you have ever thought about becoming a politician I have some advice for you. It is, to be sure, a fine and worthwhile career choice; however, before you leap into the quagmire of politics you should ask yourself some very serious questions. Think carefully about the environment into which you are heading and the likelihood that you will chewed up and spat out very quickly. I know that you will be feeling a fair degree of uncertainty and so I have devised a few questions that will help you decide whether you are made of the Right Stuff for politics.
Q1 – Have you ever made a mistake?
It is a well-known fact that very few politicians have ever made a mistake, so if you believe you have made a mistake, no matter how trivial, you are clearly unsuitable for a political career. If you have never made a mistake, ever, then you have the right mental make-up to start thinking about standing at the next election.
Q2 – Have you lost your grip on reality?
Being remote from reality is essential for a politician – it makes decisions far easier to reach. There is no chance of becoming lost in the myriad of opinions and inconveniences that is the everyday life of the common person. If you know what the average weekly wage is, the cost of a loaf of bread, or how many people are currently suffering from mortgage stress (and what that actually means), then you are already filling your mind with too much information about the real world. You will most likely to reach a state of mental paralysis. How can you possibly come to a decision if you are trying to balance out the needs of all the community? It is far better to choose a small but influential group of stakeholders and concentrate on keeping them happy. Once you have done this you can make quick and un-researched statements to the media whenever required. If you are a Minister, you may also be able to make quick and un-researched policy decisions. Surrounding yourself with staff similarly removed from the demands of the real world will help, as they will support you by not asking difficult questions.
Q3 – Do you lack moral and ethical substance as a person but have the hide of rhino?
A good set of morals and ethics are a hindrance for politics as they may cause you to have sleepless nights and start to believe that you need a better grip on reality. You may even begin to think that you need to know more about the underprivileged and the challenges that they face. If you believe that this may occur then do not, I repeat, do not enter politics under any circumstances – you will very quickly be reduced to a burbling and rambling idiot when confronted by skilled politicians. I suggest you go and hug a tree instead – at least the tree will not stab you in the back at the first opportunity.
Q4 – Do you have some skeletons in the closet?
No self-respecting politician is without a past that involved something dodgy. If you haven’t been shagging prostitutes, defrauding business partners, assaulting people after a few drinks too many, had, or still have, an addiction of some sort, or been a member of a political organisation that skated on the limits of legality, then you will need to remedy this. You have two options – you can either delay your entry into politics until you have achieved some of the aforementioned, or you can work on them during your first few years in the job.
Q5 – Can you make bad decisions in the face of overwhelming evidence and common sense?
This is a core capability for all politicians, but becomes more important as you rise through the ranks. The ability to ignore all evidence and fly in the face of common-sense when called upon to make a decision is a valued skill in Parliament. I have included a chapter on this later in the book.
Q6 – Do you have nagging inner voice telling you that you are destined for greater things
If you do, you are probably in the early stages of narcissism and have begun to believe that people actually do want to listen to you when you speak. You may even believe that people value your judgement on current events. If this is the case, then being a politician will provide you with the opportunity to test out this theory. You could have an audience of millions of people to talk to and, if you are smart you will surround yourself with numerous spin doctors and assistants who will convince you that the reaction of the masses to your ill-thought-out drivel is positive, no matter what they actually think. When this happens you will no doubt become convinced that your true greatness has finally come to the fore.
If you find that that you have answered yes to the all questions above, then I am pleased to tell you that may well have a long and successful political career ahead of you.
This is an extract from my book More Gravy Please! – a politicians manual.