In Search of a Happy Juncture

In the moments after an election count, when the winning candidate is giddily bouncing on the balls of his or her feet, a look of chilly fear may sweep across their eyes.

It is possible they have remembered Enoch Powell’s adage that political lives “unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture end in failure”.

No political mammal wants to be remembered or (worse still) forgotten as a failure and being “cut off” does not sound very appealing.

Of the 60 Welsh AMs and 40 MPs, how many of them of them will suffer the ignominy of being ejected by their electors or eased out by a party irked that they have strayed onto the maverick side of an argument? Of those who do survive the periodic electoral culls, how many will reach an office of state which satisfies their ambition to bring a morsel of change to this wonky world?

MPs may be on the way to liberating circus animals, but politics remains a tiger-filled arena and how many will survive years of inter and inner-party battles with their idealism intact?

Britain has been able to provide ex-politicians with a soft landing thanks to the House of Lords but reforming zeal may remove this convenient and bouncy woolsack.

Politics does attract individuals of extraordinary self-belief who have a burning sense of vocation but is there a way to harness the talents of people who have brilliant skills and could make a fantastic contribution but do not want to devote the rest of their days to shouting from the green benches and stomping around Whitehall?

Former environment minister Jane Davidson had the idea of using some of the Assembly’s 20 regional list seats to bring in people with luminous talents so they could serve for a specific length of time without fighting a constituency. In a suction-packed 60-seat Assembly – where until recently one party leader himself had a top-up seat – this proposal was not going to catch fire.

However, it’s a notion whose time may come. Certainly, it was a glory of traditional Welsh rugby and golden era Olympics that the competitors had lives outside sport; the competition arguably glowed with more splendour when a jobbing engineer or doctor triumphed than when a professionally-tuned try-scoring machine achieves the same feat.

A political culture that welcomed the amateur might be a less cruel but more creative domain, and MPs who knew they had one term to make a difference might also enjoy a happier ending that would inspire others to compete for the chance to join the adventure of true public service.

A Thursday column

Blog Archive