Harriet Walker: What's so great about 'proper jobs'? And do they even exist?

Notebook

Share

Politicians are more like us than we ever knew: according to recent research, one in seven of them has never had a proper job. Well, hands up, neither have I – as commenters on this newspaper's august website frequently like to remind me.

The rise of the "professional politician" is an ongoing storm in a hand-painted teacup that spills over every so often, mainly when we feel those representing us in Westminster have lost touch with reality. Those who move upward from the bowels of political parties as assistants and special advisers are deemed never to have experienced the pressing crush of career in the same way that other people have. Having tasted only the backstabbing, stress and RSI of working in or around Parliament all their adult lives, goes the argument, they can't possibly know of the struggles encountered by the rest of the country.

But what qualifies as a "real job" any more? Working among ministers and civil servants from an early point in one's career strikes me as singularly visceral – if anything, it stands one in good stead to deal with them from a higher vantage point later. Most of us complain about "office politics" in our own chosen paths; what is that in Westminster but the same issues writ large?

Union men like John Prescott and Dennis Skinner brought a certain knowledge to their posts. As society has evolved, the modern intake have a viable alternative: MPs like Stella Creasy, who has a doctorate in social psychology, began as a youth worker and sat on the local council before claiming her seat in 2010, and David Lammy, who started out as a barrister before sitting on the London Assembly and making it to the Commons.

These are our "professional politicians", surely – people who have been involved with the cause of social justice before making it their main focus. But the criticism more widely levelled at those in the House who haven't had "real jobs" pertains to a perception that, unless you have worked in the private sector, you are unfit to direct so much as an am-dram end of season panto.

What about David Cameron, who used to work as Director of Corporate Affairs at Carlton television? If anything, his time working in the "real world" has left him significantly less qualified to run the country than if he had been in a think-tank or behind the scenes in Westminster during those years. Pressing media palms will get you into office but it won't expand your political literacy or give you the view from the ground.

And that's before you even consider that very few of us even do a "proper job" now anyway. Working in an office, a call centre, uploading data or selling people things they don't need? "Proper" implies we're all out there getting our hands dirty, while jobs become more abstract than ever and figures state our collars are now more white than they are blue anyway.

It's a fake argument created to fudge the fact that it's not our politicians who are ill-equipped to know what's best for the country, it's us.

Creepy-crawling all over me...

If the world is going to end in 2012, perhaps the current plague of creepy-crawlies is our first warning. I've had flies the size of jumbo raisins hurling themselves against my windows, moths feasting on everything I hold dear, and brazen snails who scale the walls and try to come in the window to watch telly with me.

I had to scoop one off the lintel with a Kettle Chip in the end, feeling blessed that I had not, as my friend recently did, discovered him and his sluggy mates nestling in the kitchen sink. But I was even chased down the street by a bumble bee as big as a rolled pair of socks last night.

Where have they all come from? And when will they all go away? Never mind the Olympic hordes, I'm being crowded out of my own flat.

twitter.com/@harrywalker1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
One 200ml bottle of codeine linctus contains three times the equivalent level of morphine you'd get in casualty if you broke your wrist  

The ‘war on drugs’ consistently ignores its greatest enemy: over-the-counter painkillers

Janet Street-Porter
The author contemplating what could have been  

I was a timid, kind, gentle-natured child, later to be spurned and humiliated – in short, the perfect terrorist-in-waiting

Howard Jacobson
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable