It’s worth reading Iain Dale’s interview with Ann Widdecombe in the latest issue of Total Politics. Widdecombe is, of course, standing down at the next election, and much of the interview concerns her future plans: she wants to appear on Strictly Come Dancing, for instance, perhaps as the feminine answer to John Sergeant. But, naturally, the outspoken MP makes some forceful points about the current state of British politics. Her conclusion? That things are so bad she’s had enough. First, she attacks Cameron’s ‘A-list’ candidate selection policy:
‘We have gone for category rather than ability. We’re looking for more women. I’m all for more women, I’m all for more members of the ethnic communities, I’m all for more anythings as long as they get there on merit. I believe, as a woman, that every woman in Parliament should be able to look every man from the Prime Minister downwards in the eye and to think she got there on exactly the same basis that he got there. And if she can’t she’s a second class citizen. We’re going to have a Conservative Party full of second-class citizens.’
Her final statement is a little OTT, but the argument that candidates should be chosen by merit first, category second is unanswerable. The Tories should recognise that lessening the ministerial talent pool for the sake of a politically correct quota is counterintuitive – the ‘A-list’ won’t necessarily produce an A-team. Widdecombe then extends this argument to Parliament in general:
‘If we’re not careful, we are going to end up with a Parliament full of professional politicians, with precious little contact in a sensible way with the outside world. We’re going to end up with rules and targets and all the things that currently paralyse so much of British life. And it has no appeal at all. We’re moving away from a loose gathering of people from all professions who get together to make law and decisions of state. We’ve passed from that to becoming actual employees. Now that might suit some people. It doesn’t suit me. I do not believe that in the end, it’s going to suit the country. I think we’re going to have a thoroughly third-rate Parliament.’
Her disillusionment recalls that of Paul Goodman, and speaks volumes about the gradual decline of morale in Westminster. While the public’s faith in the political class is probably at an all time low, so is the political class’s faith in itself.