Exclusive: Nearly a quarter of people would be interested or enthusiastic about becoming an MP

5th January, 2013 4:43 pm

Given that trust in politics and politicians is at an all time low, how many people do you think would be interested in standing for Parliament? 1 in 100, 1 in 10? In exclusive polling carried out for me by Yougov it’s nearly 1 in 4. Higher than I could have imagined.

Here’s the question posed by Yougov:

Imagine you were in your thirties or forties, and friends of yours suggested you should stand for election to become an MP. What do you think your reaction would be?

Enthusiatic: I’d definitely consider standing – 6%

Interested: I might consider standing – 18%

Total enthusiastic/interested – 24 %

So nearly 1 in 4 would be interested – higher than I’d have ever predicted but it does confirm what I’ve been hearing in my groups on my why do people hate me tour. In 5 out of 6 of my groups at least one person said they’d be interested in representing their community.

Naturally there are regional and class differences but they are nowhere near as significant as the gender divisions. Men are almost twice as likely to be interested or enthusiastic about standing as women (31% to 18%) which shows how much progress we still have to make here.

26% of Abc1’s would be interested or enthusiastic about standing while 20% of C2DE’s say the same.

There are some differences across the regions – the region with the highest percentage of those interested or enthusiastic is the north of england with 28%. Scotland and the south of england (excluding London) are the least enthusiastic – the figure was 21%. 18 – 24 year olds are just as enthusiastic as those who are 60+ but there’s not a huge amount of difference across all age brackets.

The full breakdown of results can be found on the Yougov website from Monday.

By far the most depressing response when I carried out my own unscientific research in my why do people hate me groups were the responses to my first question – what did people think when I said the word politician. Here’s a taste of some of the responses:

“not a lot really”, “You don’t tell the truth a lot of the time”, “Them and us”, “an old man”, “upper class and not working class”, “When you see politicians on TV they are completely different from us”, “Liars”, “selfish”, “self seeking”, “privileged and arrogant”, “spiv”, “talk jargon”, “never answer the question properly”, “don’t live in the real world”.

Who do they work for I asked?

“Themselves” was the reply that came from most people

Now admittedly 69 % of those polled by Yougov said they would probably or definitely NOT consider standing for Parliament so Yougov asked this group a further question:

Here are some reasons why some peole reject the idea of standing for Parliament. Again, supposing you were in your thirties or forties, which two or three of these do you think would most apply to you?:

I don’t like politicians and the way politics works – 41 %

I couldn’t afford to give up my job to campaign for election – 31%

I wouldn’t want the press crawling over my private life and my past – 31%

I’d be terrified of having to speak at public meetings and the House of Commons – 27%

I wouldn’t want to spend half my life working in Westminster – 25%

Being an MP isn’t for people like me – 21%

I wouldn’t know how to put myself forward as a candidate – 19%

None of the main political parties reflect my views – 16%

Being an MP is a waste of time – they don’t make any difference – 12%

Women are far more likely (35% compared to 25% of men) to be put off by the press going through their private life and past but there are some big class differences too – the biggest is “I wouldn’t know how to put myself forward as a candidate” with nearly half as many from abc1 (14 %) compared with 25% from c2de.

What can we do about this? On my why do people hate me tour 24 year old Liam Jones who worked as a derbyshire warehouse delivery driver said:

“It’s not in the Job Centre or anything like that is it. It’s not though so how do you know where to start?”

Sharon, in her 50s packed boxes at the same warehouse said:

“It’s not advertised is it? You don’t pick a paper up and it says one politician wanted, come for this interview do you?”

Do Sharon and Liam have a fair point? Could we imagine a situation where there was an advert in the local paper which might look something like this?

Do you have experience of representing people through something like a parents and teachers association, neighbourhood watch group or by being a workplace rep? Maybe you have a good business head and would like to use your skills and knowledge to give something back to your community? If you share the Labour Party’s values of fairness and opportunity for all you could have a go at being selected as a Labour Party candidate for the Council elections in XXXXXX. Candidates will be interviewed by fellow local Labour members and must be a Labour Party member for 12 months before they are eligible to stand. Half of all the chosen candidates will be women. Allowances are Xk a year.

What do you think? Are there other ways we could get more people interested? I’d love to hear your views.

To end on a positive note – the good news for the Labour Party is that of those that voted for the Labour Party at the 2010 election, Labour voters were most likely to be enthusiastic or interested in standing for election and we were least likely to say ‘I don’t like politicians and the way politics works’ though these figures did change when Yougov asked about future voting intention with more Lib dems saying they would want to stand. But I think there’s all to play for the People’s Party in working to create a One Nation Parliament which looks and sounds like Britain.

Gloria de Piero is the Labour MP for Ashfield

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  • Monkey_Bach

    A large number of young people have stated that they aspire to appear on and win a reality TV show like Big Brother or The X Factor. Apparently a majority of youngsters believe that exposure like this has the power to catapult them from the pavement to a stellar life of fame and fortune without requiring much intelligence, experience, ability, talent, effort, honesty, honour, compassion, conscientiousness or common sense on their part. All that would be needed to gain and maintain such a happy and rewarding life is a copious tonnage of bullshit and enough votes from the public: as long as the manure and the votes were forthcoming these punters would remain as secure and happy as a scarab beetle in a midden.


    Personally I’ve always thought that youngsters coveting such an idle existence would be much better off standing to become Members of Parliament than judged and scrutinised as contestants on random telly programmes. For the successful the end result is similar and based on what I’ve just read in this article it seems that many older humans agree with me!

    If you want a “something for nothing” lifestyle don’t be on benefits be an MP!

    (Or member of the Royal Family.)

    You know it makes sense!


  • Hamish Dewar

    Let’s have true democracy then, not this ersatz representative democracy known as parliament
    It’s encouraging that so many are prepared to engage in politics, so let’s harness them all.

  • “Are there other ways we could get more people interested?”

    You could try opposing the government with a set of non-Tory policies.

  • Daniel Speight

    Dear Gloria maybe you should explain to that quarter of the population that candidate selection doesn’t work that way. Just use your own case as an example. Tell them it helps to have friends in high places in the leadership of the party to get on the short list for a safe seat. If you happen to be particularly friendly with the big leaders, either current or ex, that would go a long way too.

    After having told them what’s needed it may be a good time to tell them about the downsides. For example you could tell them that the shine of celebrity soon starts to dim once you get elected. Better warn them that you may end making a fairly wasted tour of the country asking people why they hate our political class.

    Of course you can shortcut even this selection process by being the son or daughter of a party leader. So if you don’t have a surname like Blair, Straw, Gould or Dromey you might want to see if you can get adopted by one who has.

    • AlanGiles

      It also helps to be called “Tristram” and have been on TV so a Lord can swoon at you and take up your case, so you get a nomination with no questions asked.

      Quite frankly I would only want to be an Independent MP – who would want to consort with, or pretend to have respect for the the vacuous Duncan-Smith or the dissembling and equally vacuous Liam Byrne, or to have to try to find excuses for dishonest “expenses” swindlers, or wet behind the ears ministers who have known nothing except Oxbridge and Westminster.

      Given the low opinion the public hold of politicians of all parties these days,rightly so, in part thanks to their own hypocrisy and dishonesty, who, in their right mind, would wish to enter the cesspit of Westminster?.

      Anyway, I am too old, and probably the wrong sex, dare I say it: even if I had been a woman, I would have no desire to join the “Division Belles” with the Ms Flint and Blears and tap my way to my expenses and “food allowance”. I have always paddled my own canoe in life, and I don’t believe in fiddling or pulling my punches.

      • aracataca

        Nothing nicer than to wake up on Sunday morning to a dollop of sexism and misogyny.

        • aracataca

          Disappointed with my negatives for this. I was of course referring
          (ironically) to AG’s early Sunday Morning sexist rant.

  • Amber_Star

    Imagine you were in your thirties or forties, and friends of yours suggested you should stand for election to become an MP. What do you think your reaction would be?
    My reaction would be: I’m 50. Given you’d like me to imagine I’m a different age, obviously you aren’t taking age discrimination seriously enough!

    • aracataca

      Fair point Amber. I had missed the implicit ageism there.

    • While I’m in my forties, I still think that I’m too old to start the process of getting selected as a candidate in a winnable seat….

    • Daniel Speight

      And is sixty something too old ha-ha? I suspect older people bring more to the table than twenty-one year olds straight out of an Oxbridge with a PPE. Also with older people a safe Labour seat for life doesn’t seem such a long time.

  • Amber_Star

    Do you have a Politics qualification from one of the UK’s top universities? Is a member of your family a Labour Party ‘name’? Have you done an unpaid internship for an MP & gone on to become a SpAd? Have you done some journalism or networking with the press pack? If you can answer ‘yes’ to all these questions, you will be given the opportunity to become an MP or MEP. No need to apply, one of the Labour Party ‘in crowd’ will tell you when & where to show up to have your candidacy rubber-stamped.
    Labour Party candidate selection is the one thing about which I feel very cynical despite being incredibly enthusiastic about the Party as a whole! I’m very open to being persuaded that I’m wrong.

    • aracataca

      That does happen but like most things is not universally the case. For example I don’t think you could accuse Steve Reed recently selected and victorious in Croydon North of being one of these types of people. He just got selected because he was a decent leader of Lambeth Council and spoke well at selection defeating the favourite Val Shawcross. In fact in this case VS, while not really being like the person you describe above, was closer to it than Steve Reed.

  • MonkeyBot5000

    “Could we imagine a situation where there was an advert in the local paper which might look something like this?”

    There was an idea in Yes, Prime Minister which went something like this;

    You have a local group made up of a few hundred homes. Small enough that they can all gather in one room and debate things. Each of these groups chooses someone to act as their representative. Those representatives are members of a group made up of a few hundred local representatives who can also gather to debate issues.

    You repeat this until you reach a group large enough to represent the country. Obviously, you can vary the number of people in a group at each level to get the balance right. The beauty of it is you wouldn’t even need to advertise the position in the newspaper.

    Unfortunately, it would also make political parties obsolete. Needless to say, it didn’t get much traction.

    To understand why more people are interested in being an MP than you expected, you should ask people how many would want to be an independent and how many would want to be a party candidate.

    That’s the difference people see between being an MP and being a politician. One represents their area, the other represents their party.

  • Alexwilliamz

    Possibly the barrier is not the thought of standing to be an MP but the need to join a party to have any real hope of succeeding? In my experience that is the turn off. Even many within political parties cannot stomach those who run their party and the way in which they would have to tow the line that these characters put down.

  • Here’s a very basic suggestion. If Labour cannot manage to inform its own members about the basics of selection, then what hope is there to improve things outside the party? And here’s a piece I wrote for LabourList this week to explain exactly where the problem is.

  • franwhi

    Imagine if there was positive discrimination in favour of those who were NOT the sons and daughters of existing politicians – that would be novel .

  • Any data on how many people say they don’t trust politicians but they’re local MP who they know about is OK.


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