Age and the Politics of Envy

(Can’t find a direct link to the source of this missive, sorry! It’s to The Independent)


Michael Brown, as is appropriate for someone of his advanced age, misses out several vital points in his vigorous support of older political leaders. Firstly, he assumes that with age comes wisdom. This is demonstrably untrue as shown by Heath, Thatcher, Foot, Brown and many other elder statesmen who went further and further off the rails the older they got. Secondly, he assumes that age is a mechanism whereby ability finally outstrips ambition. Given the long string of mostly incompetent older ex-party leaders and current MPs, this is also demonstrably untrue. Finally, he forgets that by-and-large all three leaders have been chosen by ordinary party members and unionists rather than their blinkered peers in the Commons, and the public mood is for a clear-out of dried-up deadwood.

Politics these days, unlike the civil service, is a meritocracy based on competence and electability, not a polite queue where chaps get promoted based on years of service and being “sound”. As a result, for the first time in a long time, politics is interesting and this has to be a good thing.

Paul Harper (aged 50)

It got published as: