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'Want to change politics? Send MPs to college'

Sick of MPs' evasive answers over Brexit? There's nothing a course in basic politics couldn't fix, says Roshan Doug

Politicians should serve the electorate says Roshan Doug

Sick of MPs' evasive answers over Brexit? There's nothing a course in basic politics couldn't fix, says Roshan Doug

I've learned a lot about the nature of our politicians from the current Brexit fiasco. I’ve gleaned that politicians are – whether intentionally or unintentionally – keeping us in the dark through confusion and ambiguity, and they are insulting our intelligence.

Should we, therefore, insist that our policymakers display an understanding of their contract with the electorate?

I, for one, think we should. One way of doing this would be to request examining bodies to design a politics course for anyone thinking of going into politics. After all, we have courses for estate agents, accountants, even schools' crossing attendants. Surely training in politics for those we put in charge of our democracy is just as important?


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Politicians' obligations and duties

The course would teach practical skills, remind prospective politicians of their obligation and duty to the citizens and teach them the importance of respect for the truth, facts, experts and the public. It wouldn’t just be about gloss or the colour of their tie, but real substance.

Such a course could be modularised and focus on plain language, public speaking, conflict management, the value of truth and listening to the people. It could be set at level 3 or level 4, and offered by training providers and FE colleges. I reckon it could be a success, since there are so many youngsters who are showing a healthy interest in our political arena and the system that fuels the machinery.

But surely, I hear you ask, politicians know what politics is and what their job entails? Well, I'm not so sure.

End ambiguity and obfuscation

It seems to me that the notion of speaking plainly is alien to many politicians. They love ambiguity and obfuscation. They memorise snippets of "facts" presented to them by their party HQ. What they say often sounds rehearsed and robotic and thus lacks all sincerity and conviction. Think of some of the phrases beloved of our prime minister, Theresa May, such as “strong and stable government” or “let me be absolutely clear”.

And what’s more, as journalists like John Humphrys and Jeremy Paxman know only too well, when they interview politicians, there's never a straight answer. Clarity and a depth of knowledge seem of little importance. Instead, it’s about ambiguity, machination and, more importantly, climbing the greasy pole.

This shoddiness permeates in their handling of national affairs. For instance, we know that the EU referendum and its build-up consisted of lies and scaremongering on both sides. It’s no wonder that the electorate considers politicians as untrustworthy, duplicitous and oily. To politicians, it's all about winning votes and getting into office.

It is for these reasons that they need to be reminded that they are servants of the people, not our masters. A decent course in politics could sort all that out within nine months.

Dr Roshan Doug is a visiting professor, strategist and educational consultant at the University of Birmingham

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