JUST HOW BRIGHT DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO BECOME A POLITICIAN?

The following is an excerpt from an opinion  piece by Bill Paterson in today’s issue of the highly respected Scottish Review.

All this is to ask the question of what type of individuals we want to represent us. That’s difficult to assess because, oddly, the task of being an MP or an MSP does not require a very deep intellect. In that role, you may be perfectly happy to deal with the basically routine everyday problems that your constituents raise and simply follow your leadership in voting in the House. Your speeches can be written for you and you can be rehearsed in the answers to any questions you are likely to be asked. Your fellow MPs may have a good idea of your limitations, but your constituents only see part of you, and that’s through the lens of your marketing machinery. In fact, most highly intelligent individuals appear more attracted to science, medicine and the creative arts − although they can be in all fields including politics (Theresa May was a bright person, for example).

Now, I am not saying that all MPs and MSPs are dumb. Far from it. Nor am I saying that a duller person cannot become such. I am asking the questions of whether it is better to have brighter people in the role and how we can determine those qualities necessary to tackle the task of being a people’s representative. These become even more pressing questions when we come to ministers of state.

Fortunately, today, thanks to advances in psychology, we have contrivances available that can highlight at least some part of an individual’s qualities – including that most important tool, the intelligence quotient test (the IQ test). Psychometric testing is standard for all civil servants (including IQ tests for higher ranking ones), but not so for politicians and aspiring politicians. The test tells something of their honesty, maturity, and general bearing.

Politicians fill this gap with tastefully decorated publications of their educational attainments, achievements in work and business, and other life skills and accomplishments. These can obfuscate as much as reveal, and it is hard to estimate an individual’s intelligence quotient from their everyday speech and appearance. Indeed, some well-educated persons may certainly appear more intelligent than they really are through these points – especially if they are getting their speeches written for them and checked prior to delivery.

BILL PATERSON

scottish review

You can read the whole of this article at http://www.scottishreview.net

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