PUBLIC OFFICE

Kate Griffiths

Kate Griffiths

I recall when we were young; my brother was keen to stand for public office. He felt it would be an honour to serve his country. As he became aware of the lack of honest dealings in public office, he decided it was not for him which is a pity because he has a great mind that could have been of use in considering some of the major issues of the day.

The challenge today is that going into politics, one element of public office, is seen as a career. The difficulty is the change of focus that has wrought – the interests of the country become secondary to the individual’s survival and success within their particular party. Never was this more prevalent than in the Labour era of power. The majority in the party either declared support for Brown or Blair. Much has been written about that by others. The ramifications were huge and had a ripple effect that even had an impact on the recent leadership election. In discussions with friends, I declared my disappointment at David Milliband not being the new leader.

From my perspective, he seemed incredibly able, relatively young and dynamic something that is key to being strong whilst in opposition. By contrast his brother’s, Ed, deal with the Unions concerned me because it seemed to be signalling a return to the Labour party of the 1970s and 1980s in which the ideas of Michael Foot held sway. Ultimately a party of the far left is unelectable. Time will tell if my fears are justified or not. I enjoyed an interesting debate about on facebook during which a number of people explained why they were pleased with Ed’s narrow victory. There was a feeling that David was tainted because he had been a ‘Blair babe‘ and was implicated in the decision to invade Iraq. In other words Ed represents a new start for Labour. Only time will tell.

Another casualty of the Brown and Blair cabals was Oona King. I found out much more about her, not through her television appearances rather from reading her autobiography a couple of years back as part of Black History Month (BHM) – something I would recommend you to do this month of October which is BHM if you have not already read it. She is a woman with principles who is not afraid of standing by them whatever the cost. She paid dearly for them in politics because she did not join either the Brown or Blair camp and she was very vocal about any form of social injustice that she perceived whilst in office. It would appear that the leadership were a little wary of her because of her ‘outspokenness.‘

Like many I recently read about her plans to stand for mayor of London next time round. It would be fabulous to have a female mayor in the capital especially someone of such integrity however I think her chances of success are slim because she is not as well known as either Boris or Ken and I doubt has the same kind of networks as those two heavy weights.

As ever success in public office is not about what we know or even how we conduct ourselves, rather it is about who we know. In Oona’s case being black and female and being married to an Italian are all factors that will make it harder for her to succeed in the race to be mayor. Already she has had much less publicity than either Ken or Boris. It would be wonderful if those voting took the time to understand the difference between each candidate’s policies but the reality is that few spend much time considering the detail, they make a decision based on what they know about the individuals.

In summary there are some wonderful ideals around holding public office but the reality is often somewhat murkier: there is definitely a relationship between a desire for status even dare I say it power and holding public office. Where those kind of ambitions hold sway is it any wonder that there is so little fair play and so few women in senior positions?

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