Wednesday 26 November 2014

Are you sure you've made the right career choice?

If you really hate serving customers, maybe you should think twice about staying in shopkeeping as your line of business.

That was my thought as I was shepherded towards the loathsome self-service till when I went to buy a newspaper at the station for my journey to London on Monday.

The young woman in charge resolutely refused to soil her hands with my money. Her designated role was solely to advise people how to use the robot that is ultimately designed to put her out of a job altogether.

I tried hard to be as slow and stupid as possible, but still managed to complete the transaction eventually. Only to remember, when I boarded my train, that its operator hands out free copies of my newspaper of choice anyway.

I recognise that I am on shaky ground in criticising people for pursuing trades that don’t match their personalities and capabilities. I am one of the few tongue-tied misanthropes ever to have made a moderately successful career out of public relations.

Rarer than hen's teeth: a picture of me smiling, courtesy of the BBC

I have been helped by the advance of technology, which means that most enquiries these day arrive by e-mail, so I can be reasonably articulate (and faux polite) when writing my responses, instead of über-grumpy on the telephone.

But what possesses people to go into politics when they hate voters? Labour before Tony Blair always hated toffs and the sharp-elbowed middle class, and never seemed particularly fond of those members of the working class who sought to better their lot by, for example, buying their council houses or getting their children into grammar school.

After all, where might that lead but to those offspring joining middle class professions and voting Tory?

Last week, thanks to Lady Nugee (a.k.a. Emily Thornberry), we received proof positive that Labour also despises that large chunk of the white working class who drive white vans and take pride in their flag.

This should have been no great surprise. It’s pretty much de rigueur among our metropolitan elite to loathe the closet racists and would-be clock-turner-backers who think that they and their forebears fought two world wars to keep Britain independent, and might feel minded to support a party with that as its top line objective.

White Van Dan’s subsequent tabloid interviews suggested that he might indeed have some sympathy with such quaint old notions.

I know I’m biased, but I have never felt that the Tories are in quite the same league as Labour when it comes to hating. Some of us may be a bit suspicious of foreigners and new-fangled ideas, and impatient with those we traditionally described as feckless.

But the drivers of the sort of Conservatism with which I identify were always a strong commitment to personal freedom, and an arguably patronising desire to help those who wished to advance themselves to get a foot on the social mobility ladder.

I understood it when people became Labour MPs through their work in the trade union movement, driven by a desire to help their own communities. For Tories, there was often a sense of noblesse oblige. Getting their ample behinds on the green benches of the Commons was what landed gentry did for their county if they did not qualify for the red benches next door.

Now most of our would-be leaders seem to be making a career choice of politics before they leave school, following a pre-ordained path through special adviserships to Parliament and, with astonishing speed, ministerial office.

I still find it amazing that David Cameron’s principal rival for the Prime Ministership entered the Commons only in 2005. Might it not have been a good idea to work through some sort of apprenticeship in good governance?

Spot the potential Prime Minister

It does not matter what party badge these people wear. They are clones, living in the same parts of London, paying homage to the same principles of political correctness and enjoying little real connection with their constituencies.

I wish we could break the mould and tempt some older, wiser, more experienced and genuinely rooted individuals into front line politics. And I don’t mean Nigel Farage.

Failing that, we might consider following the managerial example of our best-known news retailer, and have them all replaced with robots.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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