Doing a straw poll of what we want from our politicians leads to many answers, almost universally at the moment, given the recent issues with expenses, the first answer is "honesty". It comes within a heartbeat, no thought necessary. The reputation of politicians has been so desperately tarnished by a few who genuinely intended to commit fraud, the many who were just following a system that was wrong in the first place and those who made promises they never imagined they would be called on to keep, that dishonesty has become synonymous with politics.
Some say politicians should "understand the lives of real-people", implying in some way that politicians are not real people, and there's the rub.
No one, when asked what qualities they expect in an MP, ever answers "perfection". Yet, increasingly, the press are convincing us, the political establishment, party PR and press officials and party leaders, that this is what we should have.
So, is it any wonder that we are breeding a political elite, using the well-trodden path from university, to intern/working for MP, to Special Advisor, to MP? The party leaderships are grateful to have someone who has not had chance of a real-life, with all the potential for mistakes, drunkenness and God-forbid, photographs of them looking a bit tipsy on Facebook. This means they love those few, often socially awkward types, who began nursery and immediately found someone to carry their bag for them. Those who wanted to be "in politics", almost from birth and have always lived (or not) their lives with that in mind.
Today, with the vast numbers of people using Social Media, those embarrassing photographs that would have been hidden at the back of the drawer in your Mother's side-board, are now online for everyone to see. Have a few drinks at a party, someone gets their phone out and everyone does daft things for the camera and suddenly there you are, twitpicced drinking from a bottle of Jack Daniels. A few retweets and kaboom, several thousand people see it, instead of just the six people you were larking about with.
Training for potential future parliamentary candidates includes telling hopefuls, that the public expect you to look like a politician, that you have to be aware of everything you do, so that there is no future potential for scandal, adding to the skeletons you may already have rattling around your closet. This means, because of the fear of what the press may do, if we want any chance of a political career, we must be aware of every minute detail of everything we do.
As I see it, there is no option but to create the MP4000, an android that always looks polished, will never get drunk, slip out a swear word, say what they really think, because obviously, we do not allow them to think, joke or sadly, make mistakes. Our politicians, cannot be "real-people" any more. The press won't allow it and the fear of the press in the corridors of Westminster, the offices of the party officials and leaders, means that yet again, the press set the agenda for the type of people we have representing us and too often, they are nothing like us.
Too many people who would be the best representatives of the public and the most formidable fighters for truth and justice, will not consider "entering the lion's den". Or worse, they do and are slapped down because they once did something they now regret - even if it was when they were sixteen. I tweeted a few weeks ago:
"At least all the embarrassing things I said when I was young, are lost in the shadows of time. #GladThereWasNoTwitterThen"
When I think what sixteen-to-twenty-year-old me would probably be saying on Twitter I cringe - there would be lots of embarrassing tweets about boys and dancing. There would also be lots of tweets about shoes and something about an undying love for George Michael... Oh, actually, I think I have probably tweeted something along the lines of those last two anyway, but never mind eh?
So, who do we want standing up for us, speaking out against those who would do us injustice, banging the drum for our families, our livelihoods and our futures? Me? I want someone I can relate to. I'm almost 40. I only became actively interested in politics when I was 27. I've made many mistakes in my life - because I've had one. So whoever represents me, I hope they have lived a little too, it would be so sad if they hadn't.
If we cannot have the real-people we actually need; understanding what it is like to look at price-tags before buying something, not just leaving that to the accountant at tax return time, who will we get? If we allow the press to convince us that perfection is a requirement for the politicos, then we shall always be under-represented, worse off and destined for failure. To quote Osgood Fielding III from my favourite film, 'Some Like It Hot': "Nobody's perfect!" and as Billy Bragg so perfectly put it, in 'Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards':
"In a perfect world we'd all sing in tune, but this is reality so give me some room"