Given the new revelations about the Red Rag website over the weekend, and various other scandals over the past few weeks and months regarding MPs expenses and so on, it's no wonder people are disillusioned with politics. I think this is what prompted my friend Paddy to ask me during a conversation over the weekend - why would anyone want to be a politician? And in light of how things are at the moment, I must admit that unless you're Barack Obama and the whole world seems to love you, it's a good question...
Now, Paddy himself isn't a stranger to politics. He was elected as a Student Union officer for four years. He'd be a fantastic politician if he decided to go into politics - a genuine guy who just gets things done. By asking the killer question, he has really made me think why it's something I want to get into. After all, how much can you actually hope to achieve as a politician? Political parties on the whole can be more obsessed with petty point scoring and winning election after election rather than focusing on the bigger picture or promoting long term change. You are under constant scrutiny, every opposing party will try to destroy you and your family life is totally disrupted. Hardly a case of 'living the dream' when you think about it in those terms!
Perhaps this will sound idealistic, but my main reason for wanting to be involved is that I'm genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about issues and would like to be part of changing and developing Wales for the better. If someone from another political party has a good idea, then I don't see the point of opposing it just for the hell of it. And I won't agree with Plaid Cymru if they come up with something I totallly disagree with either. Surely, it would make sense for politicians to all work together on coming up with implementable and even quite radical long term solutions rather than be obsessed with bashing each other all the time. Indeed, I'm amazed by how petty things have gotten recently. Political strategists and journalists are over-analyzing every twitter and facebook post, opponents are googling each other and trying to create a scandal over a nothing story. How is that productive and of any benefit to the people living in Wales?
Yes, it is right that politicians are questioned, challenged and have to operate in a transparent manner. And they should be slammed if they do something damaging, misleading or corrupt. That is a given. But why be so focused on trying to bring about their downfall if they are actually doing a good job? Surely it would be better to let them get on with it, rather than wasting their time forcing them to fight lies and smears. The same goes for young politicians. Why do people seem set on destroying careers before they even start rather than being delighted that someone actually wants to get involved? It doesn't make sense to me.
Maybe that's why so many good people decide that there are better ways to make a difference than by becoming a politician. Why subject yourself to that when you can be far more influential behind the scenes? But, how will politics ever change for the better if people like Paddy decide there's no point in running for office. We're lucky in Plaid Cymru that there are so many young people involved in the party at the moment, and experienced politicians are helping and encouraging us. Our fantastic spring conference was testament to that (yes, I'm still buzzing from it!) and I hope from the bottom of my heart that for the sake of Wales many of those present will be elected in the future. I also read reports that there were a number of young people at the Lib Dems conference at the weekend. That's also encouraging, and gives hope to the future of politics in Wales.
I don't want to give the impression that I'm totally naive either, and I know that there are some things you have to do if you are ever to get elected. Readers of this blog will know that I have, on more than one occasion, questioned some of Lembit Opik's actions, as I don't think he's been serving the best interests of his electorate. I've also questioned why Glyn Davies (a supporter of devolution) hasn't been more outspoken about David Cameron and the Conservative party when they've been dithering over devolution. These I'd regard as fair questions or comments, and I'd expect the same level of questioning myself. I won't, however, criticize my opponents unless I think it's justified. And I think that's a rule all politicians, their staff and political parties on the whole should adhere to. To be fair, many do but there is a small core that don't and they're the ones doing the damage to politics.