Sunday, 24 February 2008

Hereditary Politics

I have a client on Humberside who I visit regularly. Quite often the conversation turns to Politics and last week the subject of Members of Parliament came up. As most people will know Hull has that giant of the British Political Scene, Mr John Prescott, as its MP. Mr Prescott is reportedly stepping down at the next General Election, maybe to spend more time playing Croquet? It can't be to spend more time with his family as his son is apparently expected to take his dad's seat in the House of Commons.

This got me wondering how many MP's were in fact the sons, daughters, nieces, nephews or other relatives of former MP's. Peter Mandelson was I think a third generation politico. I believe that Hilary Armstrong the Durham MP took her fathers seat. Another Hilary, Hillary Benn, had a famous MP father, and Tony Benn's granddaughter is being tipped to become an MP at the next General Election. She hit the headlines when the election was rumoured to be in October when she asked Gordon not to rush to the Polls as although she had been selected to be a Candidate she would still be too young (minimum age to be an MP is 18) too be allowed to stand in October.

Hereditary politics in America has its Bushes and its Kennedy’s and possibly the Clinton's but her hopes appear to be fading. America however does not come close to matching Japanese politics where their parliament has more than 30% of elected members from all parties that are second-, third-, fourth- or even fifth-generation politicians. The fourth generation of one family even boasts two brothers who hold senior positions but in rival parties.

At one point Cherie Blair was said to be considering a safe Labour Seat in Liverpool and the Blair Children are well connected into the political elite of the world. Hereditary politics provides candidates with the three things they need to get elected. Insider access to the party machine at a top level, access to money and backers, and instant name recognition with the media and the voters. A fourth possible advantage could be that Daddy (or Mummy) would know where the party's "bodies are burried" and would give the next generation considerable leverage in getting what they want. Keeping these things in mind any bets on when a new “Blair MP” will grace the green benches?

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