Whenever I come across Isabel Hardman on the television or radio I pay attention as she always seems to be sensible, well-informed and unbiased, so I was keen to read her book. And what a time for a book about politicians! They are consistently voted the least trusted professional group by the UK public, but in the last few weeks of the Brexit crisis they seem to have dropped even lower in public esteem.
The author does a good job of explaining the reasons why we have lost faith in our politicians. One problem is that parliament is full of career politicians and lacking people with experience in science, technology, retail and manual work. (Or even common sense, some might say.) She shows how difficult and expensive it is for ordinary people to get selected by parties and then elected and she highlights the difficulties for personal and family life, especially for women.
Some suggestions for improvement are made. Getting rid of the culture of sexism and making parliament more representative are obvious but not so easily achieved. Reforming selection processes so that candidates could take time off work to campaign might help as might shrinking the executive. This should lead to fewer yes-men, the ones who don’t question government policy so they are more likely to be promoted.
It is well written, a comprehensive survey of life in the Westminster bubble and full of good anecdotes. I suppose I would have liked more discussion of ways to change the system for the better, but perhaps that is too much to hope for in the present climate.
Berwyn Peet 4*
Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman
Atlantic Books 9781782399759 pbk Apr 2019