As a prominent local politician and senior figure in UKIP I am sometimes asked about a career in politics. Of course that is very strange because as far as a career is concerned I have done everything wrong.
Firstly I left it far too late to have any real chance. I was over 40 before politics even figured on my radar, prior to that I had a real life, working, bringing up a family, paying the mortgage. So if a 20 something asked my opinion on a career in politics I'd say they have left it a bit late (unless daddy has lots of money to burn or they are related to several prominent politicians, in which case why ask me). To have a chance now you need to be in Student Politics, active at
Secondly I didn’t choose the right Party. Does anyone really think Tony Blair joined the Labour party out of conviction? It was pure opportunism!
Look at the historical picture. A 30 something MP elected in 2005 for Labour has until 2010 to make it to the front bench and then the cabinet because after 2010 they will be looking at 10 to 15 years in opposition, by which time they will be 50 and the young Turks will be elbowing them aside. Any Labour MP over 40 in 2010 might as well resign if they are in it for power. Of course if they are in it for an easy life and a nice pension then stay in and take up golf. The 30 something Tory MP elected in 2005 has to face remaining in opposition till 2010 but will then have 10 to 15 years in power before the pendulum swings again.
So which Party to join is about timing not political conviction? The politically ambitious 20 year old should join the Labour Party. However, be prepared to work very, very hard, turn up at by-elections, deliver leaflets, get elected as a local councillor and never, ever go off message. Remember you are competing against people the same age as you with 10 years solid records in the Labour Party. The Holy Grail at this point is some sort of paid job with the Party, MP’s Researcher, Constituency Agent, bag carrier, anything that gets you “inside” Experience in the real world is not an advantage. If you can’t get a Party Job then something in the public sector is an acceptable alternative.
Get selected as a Candidate for the 2010 General election. Which constituency is less important than being on the ballot paper somewhere! If you can spot a safe seat where the incumbent is stepping down in 2015 then target an adjacent seat and get yourself known in the area. Move house if necessary. If you win a seat in 2010 then that’s great but your target is to be in the Commons by 2015 in your early 30's. Ten to fifteen years in opposition, then into government in 2025 in your 40’s as an experienced MP ready for High Office. If the same 20 year old joined the Tories and entered Parliament in 2015 then they would have 10 to 15 years in government but would be the new boy (or girl) and unless they attended Eton and were members of the right clubs and societies at Oxbridge then they are unlikely to reach high office (Of course attending the right schools and Oxbridge also helps tremendously if you want to be a Labour Party Politician). Tories then face 10 to 15 years in opposition from their 40's onwards and be well over 50 or close to 60 by the time the Tories got back in again. Too old by far.
So it’s about timing and picking the right horse for an ambitious political animal. It has nothing to do with convictions or beliefs. A professional politician will always choose career over anything else.