Why do Irish Politicians Not Write More Books

14th April, 2009

Reading ‘The Storm’ by Vince Cable MP, the Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson at the moment. It’s an excellent read, providing an overview of what caused the current economic crisis and what can be done to deal with it. I enjoy a lot of the policy work of the UK Liberal Democrats. Their Orange Books, which played an instrumental role in moving the Lib Dems back to their Liberal roots, are fine collections of policy suggestions.

Question that struck me is why we do not have Irish politicians producing books like these? After all, we are in similar circumstances to the UK and we have people like Richard Bruton and Joan Burton who play a similar role to Cable. Two things cause this.

Firstly, the multi seat nature of our constituencies is crucial. I lived in Twickenham for 5 years (an area which Cable represents). He is the only MP for that area. It means that he does not have the spend the same amount of time focusing on outworking other local MPs that Irish politicians do. This ‘outworking’ always means dealing with highly local issues and needs. I do think this creates a structural ability for single seat politicians to be more aware of the ‘bigger picture’ and engage in it. This is lacking in Ireland, with a few honourable exceptions.

Secondly, we have too many politicians from the same backgrounds in Ireland. Cable is the ex Chief Economist for Shell. He has (as Denis Healey would say) hinterland. Far too many Irish politicians have only done politics or a single profession. I have no doubt that I am a far better politician as a result of 10 years in the private sector. But, I am an exception to the Irish political norm. This again, weakens the ability for
the system to engage in the big picture.

Does any of this really matter? Of course it does. If more politicians had spent less time rushing from door to door, or from hair dresser openings to public functions we might have been more aware of where the country was heading. We can all see the price of that now.