30 May 2010

Thick Skin Bias

It's tough at the top. In national politics, you get all sorts flung at you. Whether it's Evan Harris smeared as Dr Death (a cheap nickname previously reserved for the likes of the serial killer Harold Shipman or Nazi concentration camp doctor Aribert Heim), Elwyn Watkins smeared as being in cahoots with Muslim extremists by the odious Phil Woolas (and he's rightly taking Woolas to court over it), or David Laws who was forced into revealing his sexuality because of an unfair expenses rule (and has felt forced to resign), you have to be prepared for this kind of personal rough and tumble if you want to participate at the top level of the UK's (pseudo-)democratic process.

I'm sure the perpetrators of these attacks feel fully justified in making these attacks. But all these kinds of incidents mean that the only people who will ever succeed in politics are those with thick skins. I'm not sure this is positive. I'm sure there are many potential politicians out there who would be dedicated, persuasive and highly intelligent contributors, but will never get seriously involved because of what they would personally have to put themselves through. Perhaps this will always be an inevitable consequence of having a competitive democracy, but I fear we are unnecessarily shrinking the political gene-pool by insisting our MPs have thick skins.

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