If nothing else, Brexit has taught us how mediocre our politicians are
Earlier this year, the BBC Parliament channel briefly became more popular than MTV.
Perhaps not quite able to believe how on earth this was all going so badly, a few hundred thousand people tuned in to see what was happening on the green benches for themselves.
What they witnessed would have clarified things.
Posturing, grand-standing, analogies, hyperbole, yet more analogies – quite frankly, anything but the resemblance of sensible, grown-up debate to settle the most significant political issue of the twenty-first century.
Just as Taylor Swift fails to realise that perhaps she, rather than her ex boyfriends, are the primary reason for her many break-up songs, MPs appear to have not yet worked out that they are the main cause of this constitutional crisis – not us.
When Brexiteers lament “imagine if we had Margaret Thatcher leading these negotiations” and Remainers wish “if only we had Tony Blair as leader of the opposition”, what they really mean is “where has all the talent gone?”.
Parliaments of yesteryear featured such an abundance of heavy-hitters on either side of the house that it was verging on extravagance. The House of Commons was home to a wealth of rhetorical, strategic, and leadership talent, which it seems we didn’t fully appreciate until it was gone.
Party leaders then would be terrified of a slip-up as they could feel the breath of alternative leaders getting closer to their necks.
Today, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn must be utterly unable to believe their luck. Despite how bad they both are in their roles, both have, astonishingly, seen off leadership challenges to cement their positions as the cream of their respective parties.
If this sorry state of affairs ever concludes, this country needs to think long and hard about the quality of our representatives – and what we can do, as a society, to produce better politicians.
Perhaps a good starting point is to make the job more attractive.
Once revered, now ridiculed, MPs face a deluge of abuse and scrutiny that must be exhausting to deal with. Sure, celebrities put up with this level of intrusion – but only in exchange for seven-figure incomes predicated on their public image. MPs do it for barely double the average salary of a law graduate.
Yet the outrage over MPs being awarded a slight salary increase last month shows that public sentiment has a long way to go.
Had we the luxury of attracting business-like, experienced, competent, and morally-robust politicians to navigate this process, perhaps we would have saved ourselves the national embarrassment and division that have become the hallmarks of Brexit.
Whether it’s Leavers who are angry at parliament for taking control of the process and potentially paving the way for a softer Brexit, or Remainers who are furious that the government failed to engage with their concerns from the very beginning, at least we can all be united in our exasperation at the lack of quality shown by our pitiful politicians.
Whatever side of the Brexit debate you’re on, when it’s all over, we need to figure out how to get better MPs.