So, you want to be a Politician?

Considering a career in politics? And why not? After all, what could be more fun than wielding a lot of power and shaping your country to your own vision. So, let’s briefly consider some of the core requirements.

Intellectual qualities

It’s often assumed you need great intelligence to become an MP. This is not the case, as is amply proved by many of our current parliamentarians. However, what is important is to appear clever. In George Bernard Shaw’s play, Major Barbara, a character observes of another character: He knows nothing, and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.” Shaw rightly observed it’s the misguided self-confidence that counts. But what if you’re not a natural born bluffer? A few simple tricks will help you disguise the fact. For example, never use any modifiers in your speech such as maybe, perhaps, I think, as these convey an air of uncertainty. Also, thumping a desk or lectern to give emphasis to your words can make it look as if you know what you’re talking about, although factual blunders (particularly with regard to numbers) have been known to give the game away. You can, however recover your dignity by claiming you misspoke while recovering from flu/mumps/chickenpox/a divorce (delete as appropriate.)

Physical Qualities

All manner of body types are acceptable and good looks aren’t a necessity. Paul Begala opined, “Politics is show business for ugly people,” which doesn’t mean of course, that all politicians are ugly, just that they form a larger cohort in this profession than any other. And as for dress sense, the more eccentric the better. Indeed, as the great Napoleon Bonaparte said, “In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.” (Absurdity is not confined to image either, and can include behaviour such as sliding down a zip wire, or eating a hamburger untidily.)

Moral CharacterUnfortunately politics has a bad reputation for attracting men and women of questionable morals, but be assured, no one pays much notice to a politician’s personal peccadillos, unless these turn out to be really serious, such as littering or killing. (You might query the latter by pointing to the slaughter produced in a war, but generally the public will forgive murder on an epic scale if the dead are labelled “the enemy.”)

There is one particular character trait, normally considered a negative, that is an absolute necessity in politics, and that is the ability to lie and evade difficult questions. As former UK PM Mrs Thatcher said, “You don’t tell deliberate lies, but sometimes you have to be evasive,” which in a way is still telling lies, but dressing them in their Sunday best clothes. And of course, when you lie , you must do so with utter conviction – make it a whopper. Amazingly this often works, although when it fails can have grim consequences as Tricky Dicky Nixon of the USA discovered when he faced impeachment over the Watergate scandal.

So, if you still fancy a career in politics, then good luck to you, or, to quote Mrs T, “If you want to cut your own throat, don’t come to me for a bandage.”