Minister takes swipe at growth of career politicians – and muck-raking bloggers
Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, said she wanted action to encourage the election of a new generation of working class MPs like Labour's Dennis Skinner and the Conservatives' David Davis.
Some colleagues live on "planet politics", she said, blaming their lack of real-life experience – as well as sections of the media and political bloggers – for leaving politics "in trouble".
"There is a trend towards politics being seen as a career move rather than call to public service," she told a Hansard Society conference on disengagement in London.
"Increasingly, we have seen a 'transmission belt' from university activist, MP's researcher, think-tank staffer, special adviser, to Member of Parliament and ultimately to the front bench.
"Now, there's nothing wrong with any of those jobs, but it is deeply unhealthy for our political class to be drawn from narrowing social base and range of experience.
"We need people from a range of backgrounds – business, the armed forces, scientists, teachers, the NHS, shopworkers – to make good laws.
And we need more MPs in parliament from a wider pool of backgrounds: people who know what it is to worry about the rent collector's knock, or the fear of lay-off, so that the decisions we take reflect the realities people face," Ms Blears went on.
She concluded: "In short, we need more Dennis Skinners, more David Davises, more David Blunketts in the front line of politics." She called on parties and trade unions to actively recruit them in the same way as they had already done with women and ethnic minorities.
Her Cabinet colleague James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is one of several young senior ministers to have followed such a political career path – including spells spent as a special adviser and working with a think tank.
Ms Blears, who had a career as a local government solicitor before becoming an elected politician, also complained about a "spreading corrosive cynicism" in political discussion. And she pointed the finger at political bloggers and their perceived role.
"The most popular blogs are right-wing, ranging from the considered Tory views of Iain Dale, to the vicious nihilism of Guido Fawkes," she said, although conceding the political balance could shift under a Conservative government.
"But mostly, political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy.
"Unless and until political blogging 'adds value' to our political culture, by allowing new and disparate voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and pessimism," she said.
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