Labor MPs too like their voters?

One popular theme in current Australian political discourse is to assert the distance of Labor MPs from their constituents, many cite the dominance of the student politics-trade union-electorate officer-advisor-MP track. In fact Labor MPs are more like their affluent voters in aspects that really matter such as their reading. The professionalisation of politics mirrors the broader community, far more citizens in the past work their way up professional and bureaucratic hierarchies. Only a small minority of people can become MPs so only small portion of voters will be on the parliamentary career track but MPs, like doctors, dentists and lawyers share similar features. Perhaps¬† Andrew Leigh’s recent analysis of MP’s reading habits suggests this (detailed table here) when compared to past examinations of the reading habits of Labor MPs and activists from 1907 and 1978 as discussed by Leslie Crisp. Leigh’s article finds a relentlessly middle-brow taste by Labor MPs. There is much interest in political biography and autobiography, middle-brow writers such as Thomas Friedman (Julia Gillard’s favourite non-fiction) etc. Substantive works of social theory or Australian history are entirely absent. But this is what you would expect from middle-brow vaguely concerned professionals today, Crisp’s work found that in 1908 there was wider range and works such as Fabian Essays, Progress and Poverty and the Webb’s History of Trade Unionism were cited. In 1978 only one, Laurie Short, cited Orwell, but in 2010 he was very popular. Past Labor MPs and activists may have come from the factory floor or the shearing shed or the classroom but their reading tastes were probably more divergent from their constituency than are those of current Labor MPs.

One thought on “Labor MPs too like their voters?

  1. [...] largely representative of the upper rungs of the contemporary Australian workforce. Labor MPs are more representative of their electorate than ever before.  Gillard began her political career in the old patriarchal [...]

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