Business losing out by not enlisting skills of former politicians

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Businesses and other organisations are missing out by failing to recognise the skills of former members of parliament and council leaders, according to unique research from Open University Business School (OUBS).

The study of existing and ex-politicians Losing Political Office, unveiled at the House of Commons yesterday, finds the transition from political office to other employment is not easy. This is the despite the valuable skills parliamentarians could bring to organisations.

“A number [of politicians interviewed] struggled to find employment,” said OUBS visiting fellow and report author Jane Roberts. “Yet they are skilled in wrestling with complex and difficult issues, and understanding the compromises that are needed to deal with these issues.” These are qualities that businesses need, she added.

MPs’ responsibilities are not well understood, while those of council leaders are even less so. Yet council leaders have intimate local knowledge, are responsible for large budgets, and commission and provide hundreds of varied functions, the report says. They also have to forge relationships with a myriad of different individuals, groups and institutions and come to decisions, balancing the interests of many.

“Shouldn’t these types of skills be given some currency?” asked Tessa Jowell, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, who is standing down after 23 years in politics. “Why shouldn’t what you learn be used to enrich business and other organisations?”

With just three months until the general election, the report is timely. It examines the effect of losing office on individuals and their partners, and what steps can be introduced to help the transition.

“These are roles that are all-consuming, that are connected with identity,” said Roberts. “Then it all goes – it’s like cold turkey. There is a profound sense of personal failure, a crushing loss of confidence and lack of support.”

The report is based on interviews with 10 former MPs and council leaders who chose to stand down from political office, 10 who had been defeated electorally and 10 current politicians.

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