Messages from voters are clear. Politicians are an alien species, going to the same universities, working for MPs, thinktanks or trade unions, living in London and using inside contacts to climb the greasy pole. The expenses scandal overlaid this separateness with greed: politicians are now not just a weird minority sect, but in it to feather their own nests rather than to change society. TV amplifies their yah-boo playground behaviour and their strangulated “hard-working families” jargon.
From this perspective recruiting more women, ethnic minorities, gay, disabled, young or working-class candidates goes only partway towards councils and parliaments which “look like us”, because they will be seen primarily as politicians. Their other characteristics are secondary.
So instead of trying to make politicians look like real people, should we start with real people and persuade them to become councillors and MPs? Should MPs first have worked in “normal jobs”, as cleaners, teachers, bankers, carers or volunteers? Should they have lived in their community before seeking selection? And how can Labour’s expanding membership, growing fastest in middle-class areas, rebuild links with neglected heartlands, make politics relevant to their lives, and choose their champions as our representatives?